Pendula Swing Switch Review: Small Circular Motions

Join the hero Brialynne as she seeks out her stolen axe, but ends up finding... love? Pendula Swing out now on the Switch. Here are some words.

Pendula Swing threw me in many ways. First of all, it didn’t project the tone anticipated, nor was it the point and click adventure I was expecting. It’s a nice looking game, but the controls often got the better of me. Let’s get to it.

Going with the 1920s influence, an animated intro introduces our hero, Brialynne, who saves the day and gets the girl. They live happily ever after until the latter passes. 350 years of marriage ain’t all that bad though. I’ve been married 15 years and feel like I’ve made a return trip to Mordor. She won’t read this, plus the shoe is on the other foot.

Though ‘alone’, Brialynne is upbeat and gets on with her life, but she awakes to a burglary one day. Her legendary axe has been stolen, but the open treasure chest remains, the gold untouched. This was a targeted job. She asks the locals around her island if they’ve seen anything, which prompts a trip into the city.

Pendula Swing coming to Switch
Source: RedDeerGames

In a way, the stolen axe is irrelevant and just the catalyst for Brialynne to get out of the house and experience life. Pendula Swing is an alternative universe set in the 1920s where science has replaced magic, and everyone is getting along. Mostly. There are no longer as many beefs between elves and dwarves, goblins roam relatively free, and humans have grown in number.

I wouldn’t say that Pendula Swing tries too hard, but Valiant Game Studio goes all out with the LGBTQ+ cast. Same-sex relationships, interracial connections and those with disabilities are all at the forefront. It’s a normal way of life, as it should be. Without ‘going off on one’, I found this approach refreshing. Characters don’t have any entitlement – everyone treats each other respectively without holding hands and speaking of world peace. Ahhh…

But as a game, Pendula Swing has some shortcomings. First and foremost, the interaction can be atrocious. In almost all situations where there was more than one object/person to interact with, I’d have to walk to them, then walk in a circle until it could be interacted with. If there are NPCs nearby, notably your followers, forget about talking to anyone else. It was so bad that I sent all my followers home.

Pressing the ‘-‘ key will highlight all hotspots, and the trick is to focus on said hotspot and adjust Brialynne until she lines up with the on-screen indicator. Unfortunately, she’ll walk through objects and teleport a few frames. In almost every single scene this happened, and to tell the truth, it tested my patience to the point of exiting multiple times. Other than running, accessing inventory, and a journal, there are no other options. 

Pendula Swing Switch Review - Dress up
Dress up. Source: RedDeer Games

The other surprise about Pendula Swing was the point and click element. As a big point and click fan, I’m not too keen on playing the genre on console as moving a cursor can be sluggish. Sam & Max fixed this, as did the recent Unforeseen Incidents – providing several options such as touchscreen. Pendula Swing doesn’t have touchscreen capability, but there isn’t a cursor, making it flow so much better (ignoring those repeat movements to interact with).

Inventory management isn’t the conventional type. Instead, you’ll stockpile your gear, and it’ll automatically be used as and when you need it. It doesn’t sound great, but the dialogue is often well written. Conversations and characters aren’t stereotypical, and the dialogue tree is intelligent and allows for some freedom with your choices. There isn’t one set narrative path to the game, and as stated in the frequent, but swift, loading screens – you can’t 100% the game in one playthrough. Be mindful that the game is built around side quests rather than a main quest.

What’s also refreshing is the humour. It’s not cliche, in your face, nor regurgitating what other point and clicks have done before it. I wouldn’t include this as a typical representation of the genre. Visually it’s very good – presented in an isometric viewpoint, it looks great on the Switch. I was disappointed with the soundtrack as expecting lots of jazz, but the opening score was bland. However, once you reach the big city (within 10-15 minutes), the game livens up, and the music follows suit.

Pendula Swing works great on the Switch, and technically, it’s perfectly suited. My biggest criticism is that interactive element as it genuinely caused far too much frustration. Adding keybinding to scroll through interactive items, or at least having Brialynne face the direction you point to without walking in a circle would be the perfect fix. The writing is a highlight, as is the variety of characters, but that interaction accuracy just rubbed me up the wrong way, and I’d assume that the PC version might be a bit more reliable.