Sea King – Nintendo Switch – $4.99/£4.49 – Available Now (Digital Download)

With the Switch, Nintendo have a console that has incredibly healthy indie support; though there’s definitely some terribly cynical cash grabs for sale on the eShop, there’s also a huge volume of great games there – the difficulty now is finding them, because there’s so many games released, on a constant, daily basis.

Sea King feels like a game that could easily – and undeservedly – go under the radar due to this very issue. It’s a couch multiplayer, single screen shooter that wouldn’t necessarily have been out of place on the Wii or even the Wii U, albeit likely as a downloadable title (as it is here, too). It’s likely to be another game that’s easy to scroll past in the bustling, packed eShop, where too often a low price can be indicative of a game’s overall quality.

What it does have, however, is a huge chunk of charm – it’s a very nicely designed collection of arena battles, all themed around cartoony naval combat on the open seas. It’s a single screen, couch multiplayer game that is easy to learn and an absolute blast to play.

Built using Unreal Engine, it’s beautifully colourful and nicely playable; even though the tutorial can become somewhat chaotic (there’s a bit of an oversight here – I managed to sink another player’s ship in the tutorial, ensuring that we had to quit, rather than complete it), it’s pretty straightforward to get into – left stick steers your ship and the JoyCon buttons fire in one of four directions from your ship: X fires from the front, B from the bottom, Y from the left and A from the right – or, of course, if you’re on a left JoyCon it’s just the arrow directions you’ll be using to fire in the respective direction. Complications come not from the controls, then, but in the form of which variant of battle you choose to play.

Alongside the basic Deathmatch option, there are a number of variations to play, with either three other players or AI to make up the numbers, if you choose to. Naturally, four human players is where the most fun can be found. All of the included variations are a blast, though some work a lot better than others – the only one my group found a little frustrating was the variant in which a shark roams the arena, choosing to eat a player. If that player can shoot the shark in time, it’ll choose another player to eat. Last player left standing wins. Sounds straightforward? It is, but in practice the arena is so small – and the shark often so close to your ship – that you’ll struggle to get it to change course once its decided to eat you, making this particular game one that feels more random than skill based.

Likewise for the variant in which you’re tasked with picking up a randomly appearing pearl and getting it to safety at a port on the side of the screen. Due to the randomness of where the pearl can appear, it can end up being more difficult than it should be for this game to reach a conclusion. It’s still fun; just less so than many of the other variants on offer. Admittedly, this is one variant that does benefit from less players being involved; four is perhaps a little too chaotic for this mode.

Though those two modes could benefit from a larger play area, the single screen setting works really well for the majority of variants, which generally offer inventive uses of the seafaring setting, with the aforementioned shark and pearls joining modes that see you offering your ship as a resting point for an exhausted seagull, or in the ever-tightening grasp of a giant cephalopod, to name two examples. Swirling-vortex-avoidance, capture the flag, catching fish and avoiding the irresistible call of sirens also show up as further variants to the standard deathmatch gameplay, amongst others.

Though it’s not the biggest suite of competitive multiplayer options you’ll come across, there’s still a nice amount of variations – and the gentle learning curve and fast-paced gameplay ensures that everyone playing will have an absolutely blast with Sea King. Player ships are responsive and easy to control, plus each round you play, no matter the variant, will inevitably be frantic, fun and laughter-filled affairs; Sea King also has that crucial, almost indefinable one-more-go feel that characterises the best competitive local multiplayer games. It’s a really impressive effort from Interactive Stone, a three person development team based in Romania.

At such a low price ($4.99/£4.49), it’s hard to argue with the value here, really. The bright and colourful graphics, along with the simple, pick-up-and-play style and variety of gameplay variants means that Sea King is highly recommended for gamers of any age, though one caveat I will state is that the game is definitely subject to ‘the more the merrier’ – your level of enjoyment will be highest with four players involved, for most of the modes on offer at least. In the absence of a ‘proper’ Bomberman (Bomberman R doesn’t quite scratch the itch as well as classic Bomberman does) on Switch, Sea King is a great alternative for four player, arena-based fun. If you do regularly get together with three competitive friends – or family members – and you’re looking for a short, sharp burst of something between Mario Kart sessions, you could certainly do a lot worse than Sea King.

Thank you to Interactive Stone for providing the review key for Sea King.

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