Estiman is unabashedly simple. To be clear, this is not a negative, in fact, the overt simplicity of the title is probably its greatest strength and the source of its vibrant charm. To put it briefly, Estiman is a stripped back arcade game in which the player is tested on their ability to read signs and images at speed in order to retain an ever-building combo meter. Pretty simple stuff right?
If this was all there were to the game then I admit, it probably wouldn’t be worth your time, however there are a couple of key factors which make the game a pretty nifty companion for the Switch, namely: the extent to which Estiman nails the experience with very little visual or auditory stimuli as well as the price at which it is being sold.
But before we get to that, the basic premise of Estiman is this, in descending order you must select from the most populous shapes on the screen to the least. These shapes can be altered from the main menu and include options such as colored microbes (easy), numbers (hard) and love hearts (naww).
As well as this, you can alter the background upon which your game is framed – which in some cases actually helps you to differentiate between shapes more easily. Players also have the option to use a temporary time stop and the ability to delete the next tier of shapes. These gameplay boosters are useful tools as you’re getting used to the game but skilled players will slowly begin to wean themselves away from this safety net in pursuit of higher combos.
Initially, each round is pretty easy work, but as time goes on you must pick from a range of colors and shapes and you quickly find your brain barraged by a horde of conflicting information, all whilst the timer ticks down. It’s satisfying stuff and due to both the obviousness of the rules as well as your ability to quickly restart – or buy yourself back in – its never frustrating and you’re always a couple of good choices away from another high-score. The game also features an adaptive difficulty setting which means that no run is ever the same, lending the game a feeling not dissimilar to the Brain Training series on the DS.
Another plus point for the title is its size. Weighing in at a total of 140.8 MB, Estiman leaves plenty of space on your switch for other titles so you needn’t worry about deleting anything substantial in order to make room for it. This has been an increasing problem for the console in the wake of its rising popularity and continued support from AAA studios and larger gameplay experiences, so its refreshing that it’s not something I have to think about when booting it up.
Something that Switch players might also find surprising when comparing Estiman to its contemporaries – and one of the greatest strengths of the game as a whole, is its price point. For just £1.79, this small title is great value for money. It has a simple pick up and play aesthetic which makes it ideal for small 20 minute bouts with the ruthless Artificial Intelligence, it also features a combo system that supports skilled players and controls which utilize the steering potential afforded by the Nintendo Switch which will help players to make quick and precise decisions to maximize their combo potential.
The thing that I think is most effective about Estiman however, is the clarity of its audio-visual experience. The game is just enjoyable to look at – whether it is the simplistic neon shapes which slowly float away from one another as if suspended in space or the minimal User Interface and prompts – it just sucks you in.
This imagery goes hand-in-hand with the ethereal looping soundtrack. Present throughout the game, this ambient sequence calls to the listener and pulls them further into the minimalist world of Estiman until you realize that an hour has passed and you’ve stacked up a fairly sizeable fortune in coins.
This is unfortunately where the game’s faults become apparent. In terms of replay value, the game features a fairly limited economy, one in which you earn coins during gameplay to purchase gameplay variants from a storefront off of the main menu, these variants being the aforementioned shape changes and background variants. For example, you can change from matching small microbes on a plain black screen to matching number groups on a Matrix-styled falling code background.
However, players shouldn’t expect anything substantial from these purchases as the options here are limited. With only 27 background variants and 7 gameplay changes, the options here are pretty meager (the background changes, in particular, are pretty inconsequential). However, at this price point, it’s not realistic to expect much more than this. Players can also use some of the cash they’ve earned to purchase some of the gameplay boosters mentioned above, but again, once you become attuned to the rhythm of the game, these aren’t really necessary.
Another small problem that I discovered as I was playing was the game’s desire to auto-target the wrong shape during moments on high stress, a desire which led to a few premature deaths that I would have preferred to avoid. The game can also be quite unforgiving, with just one wrong move annihilating a fairly successful run.
Broadly though, Estiman is a cheap and inoffensive addition to any Switch collection. It combines simple and intuitive puzzle concepts with simple and readily understandable premise and design. It’s a title perfect for a short commute or whilst waiting for a friend and at a price point so negligible you might as well pick this one up if you’re really itching for something new to play. The game is let down slightly by a lack of replay value and there may not be as many options for play as you might hope for, but for a game that is so easy to pick up and play, Estiman really is worth a look.