Review – Beautiful Desolation (Switch)

Beautifully desolate is the latest game from the makers of the critically acclaimed title, The Unfinished Swan . The game was released in March of this year and offers an interesting twist on the traditional platforming genre. Instead of traditional 2D platforming, the player controls a watercolor painting in a 3D environment, which they will explore in order to find a way to reunite with their lover.

Beautiful Desolation is a gorgeous game, which is an interesting take on the isometric RPG. The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is challenging, and there is plenty to do. I would have given it a perfect score, but the game is far too short.

Back when I was a child, I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. I would lie in bed for hours fighting my fears that something terrible would happen, and eventually I would drift off.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Beautiful Desolation, a point-and-click adventure game that came out on PC early last year. It came out shortly after I played Disco Elysium, another game with similar gameplay and mechanics. For reasons I don’t understand, I didn’t play it at the time, even though it had an interesting Afrofuturistic aesthetic, great graphics and, most importantly, a soundtrack written by a legendary man, the one and only Mick Gordon, composer of Doom, Wolfenstein and many other iconic soundtracks. word-image-500 Beautiful Desolation is very buggy, but it’s a damn good game, especially in portable mode. It took the developers just over a year to bring Beautiful Desolation to consoles, including the Switch. I knew the game would be a bit difficult on PC due to its intricate and detailed graphics, but I was hoping the system’s touchscreen support would make it feel like a real PC adventure on the go. I have to say that I was impressed with some elements of this port, but overall Beautiful Desolation proved to be a nice disappointment on Nintendo’s handheld. word-image-501 I love inserting random words into Afrikaans when Mark or his brother are speaking. The original intent of Beautiful Desolation reminded me a bit of Destiny and District 9. The game begins with the arrival of a mysterious alien from nowhere in 1970s South Africa, leading to a rapid technological boom in the country, similar to Destiny’s Traveler. Main character Mark Leslie, a man who suffered a tragic accident during the first appearance of this entity, enlists the help of his brother to unravel secrets about the government’s plans with this alien technology. Until they end up in another dimension, after they get involved in something they’re not supposed to. The idea of the game is simple: Explore this brand new world, find your missing brother and find a way back to South Africa. The game has an exciting story with very interesting characters. Mark is an ordinary man who, for personal reasons, decides to find out what this giant monolith is. The game does its best to keep you interested in him and his family. The same can’t be said for some of the secondary characters you meet along the way, but they all have decent voice acting and interesting dialogue, so there’s not much to complain about in terms of Beautiful Desolation’s plot. This is the main reason why I wanted to continue playing the game, because the gameplay didn’t suit me at all. word-image-502 Can you identify Mark? While Beautiful Desolation’s pre-rendered backgrounds look just as good on the Switch’s small screen as they do on the PC, the annoying controls make this game difficult to play. It’s a standard point-and-click adventure game with items to collect and puzzles to solve, but it lacks support for touchscreens or some sort of cursor to make navigation and scrolling through menus less cumbersome. Unfortunately, it forces you to move your character with the analog stick and access various menus and actions with the other buttons on your face. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem, but controlling the entire map is easier said than done. You can’t control his running speed very well, so he randomly decides to run like a cheetah or walk slowly like a sloth. Each map is also filled with invisible walls, meaning you’ll never be able to correctly determine where you can and cannot pass without a slow and painful dose of trial and error. I can only assume that in the PC version you only had to indicate where you wanted to go, and the main character would then find a way to get there without running into walls like the biggest idiot. On top of that, the game takes a long time to load in Beautiful Desolation, not only when switching between maps, but even when talking to an NPC. The game features Fallout-style dialogue boxes with CGI portraits of every character you encounter, and even these small gameplay elements take much longer to load than they should. The end result is that everything about this particular port is slow and clunky. word-image-503 At first I thought those red spots were blood. It’s not, but I still don’t know what it is. I had high hopes for Beautiful Desolation, but this Switch version just doesn’t work that well. The game is beautiful to look at, especially on the small screen, and the story is really engaging, but I felt like I struggled with the controls and the obvious load times during my play time. But I can see there’s a good game here. This port to Switch makes me think about a much more intuitive PC version.

Beautiful Desolation’s pre-rendered backgrounds look great, especially in portable mode. The frame rate is slightly lower, but given the slow pace of the game, that’s not a deciding factor. This game is designed to be played with a mouse. The analogue stick moves jerky and the button layout is confusing.
Mick Gordon’s soundtrack is decent, but not nearly as iconic as his other work. The actors’ performances are generally mediocre. None of the characters stand out, but none of them look terrible. There’s an interesting story here, but the confusing controls, long load times, and lack of touchscreen support make the Switch version of Beautiful Desolation a solid disappointment.
Final decision: 6.5

Beautiful Desolation is already available on PS4, PC and Switch. Check the switch. A copy of Beautiful Desolation was provided by the publisher.

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