Review by MTLH
"A fun puzzler that is over just a bit too soon."
Mighty Switch Force! was released in 2011 for the 3DS by WayForward Technologies. Their catalogue is a curious mix of licensed fare (Spongebob Squarepants), sequels in already established series (A Boy and his Blob) and the occasional original title (Shantae). Mighty Switch Force! is a good example of the later category. The game has garnered a lot of praise and found a good deal of success while a version also has been announced for the Wii U.
Mighty Switch Force! looks very pretty and makes good use of the handheld's 3D capability. The main character is detailed and animated very well, moving smoothly across the platforms. The other characters and enemies have to make do with less animation but that isn't really a problem. The backdrop depicts a futuristic cityscape which doesn't change over the course of the game except for it's colour. This also isn't a problem, taking into account the game's length and the way the colour gives the sensation of time passing by. The visuals really come to life with the 3D enabled, giving the different layers onscreen some breathing room. It is obvious that Mighty Switch Force! didn't have the greatest of budgets but WayForward really made the most of it and then some.
The only real issue I had with the visuals is the rather cheesy style, mixing Saturday morning cartoons with a more risque look. That is more a personal observation though that won't cost the game any points.
The techno soundtrack is just great and suits the action perfectly. The sound effects are spot on, providing the necessary feedback with flair. Patricia utters several phrases in a gratingly upbeat tone of voice but it somehow works.
Mighty Switch Force! revolves around Patricia Wagon, a so-called cybernetic peace officer, who must apprehend the Hooligan Sisters who managed to escape from custody. That's about it for the plot but then again, a game like this doesn't really need one anyway.
The game mixes platforming with puzzling and places the emphasis on the latter. Patricia can run, jump and shoot but also has the ability to manipulate her surroundings. She can transfer blocks from the background to the playing field and vice versa. This way Patricia can create platforms and get rid of obstacles. The blocks start out as simple cubes but eventually the game adds more different types such as ones that can launch Patricia and blocks that can be locked into place thus altering their position relative to other blocks.
Besides this whole transfer system, Mighty Switch Force! also has some other tricks up it's sleeve. These range from the need to defeat a certain enemy to open a door to having the game automatically switch the blocks every few seconds. These mechanisms are drip fed over the course of the game, just as the different transfer blocks are. All these elements eventually intertwine, adding a lot of depth to the gameplay.
The aim of the game is to catch each of the five escaped Hooligan Sisters before returning to the retrieval robot. The escaped convicts can usually be found at out of reach places and are sometimes even hidden behind destructible scenery or in strongboxes. Reaching them is the puzzle at the core of Mighty Switch Force! Although platforming features heavily during the game's first half, eventually the puzzling part takes precedence. A typical situation sees Patricia switching blocks around to use as platforms, all the while avoiding being crushed, while also aligning certain blocks together so they can be moved as a whole. Add some enemies into the mix and it becomes clear that the game can become a bit hectic on occasion.
The controls are simple yet effective. There are buttons for jumping, switching and shooting and that's it. They are responsive enough in general although there are a few slightly twitchy situations where they could have been just a bit sharper. Still, this is nothing game breaking.
Mighty Switch Force! initially offered sixteen levels and since then WayForward has generously added five more. Twenty-one levels is a decent number but the game can still be finished in a short time. The game's structure is quite gradual, steadily adding more features while also mixing them with the ones already in place. That is in itself commendable and a sign of clever design but it also hurts the game's difficulty curve. The later levels can be a pain but more than half of what is on offer here is simple and easy to complete. Luckily the levels are short and enjoyable enough to occasionally have another go, even after seeing the end credits. There is also the option to do speed runs, for those that like that sort of thing, something Mighty Switch Force! actually encourages. So in summary, this game isn't that long but it will last for quite a while.
Mighty Switch Force! is a clever game. The block switching mechanism at it's heart, moving objects back and forth into the scenery, works perfectly with the 3DS' main attraction. The addition of 3D doesn't really alter the gameplay as such but it does wonders for the game's overall look. The considered way the different mechanisms are introduced while letting the player get familiar with them is also a sign of how Way Forward knew what they where doing.
The few issues Mighty Switch Force! has are minor ones. The controls could have been a bit tighter perhaps, the visual's style is a bit cheesy for my tastes and the finale is reached just a bit too soon. Still, these points don't hurt the game too much. This is a polished and highly enjoyable gem that I would recommend to anyone who is still complaining about the 3DS' apparent lack of good games.
OVERAL: a 8,5.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 08/13/12
Game Release: Mighty Switch Force! (EU, 12/22/11)
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