Game Review

Mighty Switch Force Review

WayForward's weirdos are at it again. These demented minds have already unleashed downloadable madness upon Nintendo fans thrice before &#x2013; with the adventures of a belly-dancing half-genie, a dimension-flipping wizard and a planet-smashing alien girl &#x2013; and DSi owners have loved every minute of each one. Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Mighty Flip Champs and Mighty Milky Way set the high bar for quality on DSiWare, and in so doing also set players' expectations high for what the company's artists would accomplish with their first 3DS-exclusive download. <br/><br/>Now, that follow-up has arrived &#x2013; but Mighty Switch Force doesn't quite hit the heights of its predecessors. The game is still a great one, and well worth the investment of the six dollars the eShop asks of you to make it your own. But there's just something a little off about Switch Force &#x2013; something that will make established WayForward fans look back and honestly realize what tough acts this game had to follow. A lessened feeling of accomplishment.<br/><br/>Mighty Switch Force casts you as Officer Patricia Wagon, a cybernetic super cop working to bring five escaped criminals to justice. She does this by running, jumping and blasting her way through 16 different stages &#x2013; but don't get the idea that this is an action game. Though screenshots make it seem so, this design is actually much more puzzler than it is platformer.<br/><br/><img src="" /><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>Patty's running, jumping and blasting only facilitate her traveling from one puzzle situation to the next, as each level presents you with arrays of blocks to navigate around, across and through. This is where the "Switch" part comes in, as the final action at your command is the ability to trigger a position swap of these blocks at any time &#x2013; which means any blocks sitting in the background will zip forward into the foreground, and any other blocks already there will do the reverse. <br/><br/>The puzzles involve properly timing your switches of these big blocks, causing them to rush out of the background to become platforms when Patricia needs a surface to stand on. Or creating bridges for explosive enemies to walk across so they might reach a bombable wall on the far side of a gap. Or just phasing barriers out of your way so that you can get a clean shot at a flying foe or other obstacle in your way. <br/><br/>The reward for successfully solving the puzzles placed before you is most often a clear path to make your way further forward through the level, usually to reach a position where one of the five runaway Hooligan Sisters is waiting to be re-arrested and sent back to space jail. The level then ends altogether after you've apprehended all five and made your way to the exit point, where Corporal Gendarmor (a fellow police officer/mobile mech suit) waits to extract you and stop the clock.<br/><br/>Yes, the clock. This is where Switch Force first begins to lose some appeal, because its presence creates an unnecessary sense of urgency. As each level begins, the clock starts instantly ticking away &#x2013; and accompanying your running total of minutes and seconds is a "Par" time that is impossible to overcome in any initial attempt of any stage. Inevitably, then, every first-time player will complete the level at a much slower pace than the "average" that the game puts forward &#x2013; which drains away part of the pride and sense of accomplishment that are so critical an aspect of video game enjoyment. <br/><br/>Sure, I solved all those tough puzzles and successfully recaptured the Hooligans &#x2013; but I must have actually failed, because the game immediately says I was two minutes too slow.<br/><br/>The Par times are meant to encourage the practice of replaying the same levels over and over again, going for faster and faster times. Speedrunning. I understand that. But I think it was a bad call to present the Pars up front. Simply having them turned off for the first runthrough of a stage would have been perfect &#x2013; players could have felt more comfortable completing the puzzles at their own pace, and then on a second attempt later on the game could have presented a message like "Great job! Now see if you can beat this time:" Just an example.<br/><br/><img src="" /><br/><br/><br/><br/><br/>I'll be criticized for making that criticism, I know, but it's a valid one given that this game's immediate predecessor &#x2013; Mighty Milky Way &#x2013; did exactly that. Each of that adventure's stages was presented clockless until you beat the game, and then the more challenging and clock-equipped Time Bomb Mode was activated. Mighty Switch Force could have done the same, but instead it feels like the time bomb's ticking right from the start &#x2013; when there's no in-game reason to rush. Officer Wagon's robot batteries don't run out if you take too long. Corporal Gendarmor doesn't get tired of waiting for you. The Hooligan Sisters don't get away if you're not fast enough &#x2013; they just sit in the same spots, twiddling their thumbs until you grab them.<br/><br/>Presenting Par runs as a separate mode after game completion could have extended the length of this police quest too &#x2013; as it is, the 16 levels fly by far too quickly. (And if you add up those Par times, the developers say the whole game should be completed in less than 27 minutes.)<br/><br/>But aside from the clock critique, Mighty Switch Force is superb. The levels are deviously designed and take considerable thought to overcome, especially after other block types are introduced &#x2013; some blocks launch you and enemies across the stage like Donkey Kong Country's classic blasting barrels, and other "lockable" blocks can be changed to phase in and out at different rates if you stand on top of them. The mixtures of these different varieties can give you a true mental challenge, and quick reflexes are frequently needed too &#x2013; especially when blasting Patricia from one launcher to the next, in rapid succession, with walls of spikes just waiting for an errant shot to send her back to headquarters in pieces.<br/><br/>The visuals and audio presentation are also top-notch. WayForward's long been known for excellent 2D art, and Switch Force brings us some of the best and most fluidly animated characters we've seen from them yet &#x2013; while the stereoscopic effect of the 3DS adds brilliant depth, particularly in the meticulously detailed backgrounds. The music is remarkable, with original themes mixed together with elements of tracks first heard back in Flip Champs (keeping the "Mighty" connection strong.)<br/><br/>And you've just got to love Officer Wagon's faithful canine companion, the Ugly, Twitching Checkpoint Dog. Only WayForward would be so weird as to make something so mundane as a respawn point be marked off by a neurotic, convulsing, possibly terminally ill puppy.<br/><br/><!-- Start IGN Funny promo --><LINK REL="stylesheet" HREF="" TYPE="text/css"><DIV CLASS="IGNE_funny_box"><DIV CLASS="IGNE_funny_header">WayForward's Other 'Wares</DIV><TABLE WIDTH="100%" CELLSPACING="0" CELLPADDING="0" BORDER="0" CLASS="IGNE_funny_table"><TR><TD WIDTH="33%" ALIGN="left" VALIGN="top" STYLE="position:relative; padding-right:9px; border-right:1px solid #eaeaea;"><a target="_blank" HREF=""><img src="" /><br/><br/><br/></A><a target="_blank" HREF="" CLASS="IGNE_funny_link">Shantae: Risky's Revenge Review</A></TD><TD WIDTH="33%" ALIGN="left" VALIGN="top" STYLE="position:relative; padding-left:8px; padding-right:8px;"><a target="_blank" HREF=""><image/></A><a target="_blank" HREF="" CLASS="IGNE_funny_link">Mighty Flip Champs! Review</A></TD><TD WIDTH="33%" ALIGN="left" VALIGN="top" STYLE="position:relative; padding-left:9px; border-left:1px solid #eaeaea;"><a target="_blank" HREF=""><image/></A><a target="_blank" HREF="" CLASS="IGNE_funny_link">Mighty Milky Way Review</A></TD></TR></TABLE></DIV><!-- End IGN Funny promo --><br/><br/>&#169;2011-12-23, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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