Mighty Switch Force! 2
3DS Download | WayForward | 1 Player | Coming Soon (North America) | $5.99
If you're all caught up, you'll know Mighty Switch Force! 2 to be the latest offering, succeeding Mighty Flip Champs, Mighty Milky Way, and the original Mighty Switch Force!. The new sequel shares the underpinnings manifested by the other offerings and doesn't lose sight of the delicate discipline governing these frameworks. With that in place, Mighty Switch Force! 2 sees to expand upon its predecessor by solidifying its clever approach and having it take on new contexts, both design-wise and conceptually. The result is another rousing hit from the ever-refreshing studio.
Law enforcer Patricia Wagon is called upon to set matters straight when Planet Land again finds itself in a topsy-turvy state. Equipped with the Infinity Dousing Apparatus (a fancy name for a souped-up hose), Patricia sets out to re-capture the Hooligan Sisters, affecting the environment using her Police Beacon and also dousing flames in what turns out to be an imagined firefighting escapade.
Controls remain the same as before, this time using the Y Button to activate and extend the reach of your cannon, thankfully never having to aim in a stationary sense. Many of the design elements have made a return also, albeit with slight changes applied in support of the revised theme. Your life-saving checkpoint companion, the U.T.D (Ugly Twitching Dog), now occupies fire hydrants, marking your position in the event that you land on spikes or get crushed by an ill-timed switch. Standard Switch Blocks are joined by Launch Blocks, as well as Lock Blocks where its alternating state of visibility versus invisibility can be altered by standing on them as you make a switch.
These elements work harmoniously to translate the game's vision into terms that are cohesive and also progressive. And interestingly enough, the broader contributions this level-headed progression has in shaping both the design and player thought patterns is all the more tangible this time. Much of this can be chalked up to the intelligence of the improved level design. As before, layouts toy with both side-scrolling and vertical contexts, with the stages that read from left to right branching off into two sub-sets: those that play out in a linear capacity with little-to-no backtracking, and those that are arranged in a more interconnected, roundabout fashion to encourage exploration. Like in the original's case, this once again proves to be a strong aid to the formula, not only in its style of variation, but also in the way it leads to very capable transitions. On a deeper level, though, it's the expanded design elements themselves that bring it to life.
Switch puzzles are naturally omnipresent, with you bouncing between two active states to clear the way or suddenly create a platform to land on whilst in the middle of a jump. Going further than just straightforward platforming, those that involve the use of Lock Blocks (particularly when three sets are present) continue to demonstrate a sly genius on the game's part, often demanding more abstract thinking and contemplation over how to, for example, cancel out just one block in an active two-block stack to create stairs.
Another example of the demands this places upon you is in Incident 13, where you'll find a line of red blocks as a bridge, but to the right of these are two rows of green blocks resting atop a row of blue blocks. Locked out from advancing, you must work out how to eliminate the wall that bars you while keeping active the bridges you can use to get across.
It is within this same level that you'll encounter a trick where the immediate temptation is to activate a switch as you leap from your active platform to an inactive block set. But doing so will bring another set into the foreground, crushing poor Ms. Wagon; the alternative will also result in your path being blocked as you lose your only footing. This methodology of manipulation, combined with the need for decisive or all-angles thinking, is core to the game's design, increasing in force as more elements have to be considered within a small space. And really the lack of rigidity in this regard helps the game maintain a fair sense of creativity, even while the mechanics themselves may not be overly so.
New design elements Force Field Blocks and Pipe Blocks serve as the sequel's main way of amplifying this dynamic cross-breed between puzzle and action. Force Field Blocks have given birth to flaming rock enemies that can burn these upon contact, with baddies being treated very much in the same way that you would assume certain guidance roles with Bomb Bandits in the original. However, launchers cause these nimble creatures to explode after colliding with a wall, so to prevent this, you must drench them with water, having the flame effect return a short time afterward so the Force Field Blocks can then be disposed of.
Pipe Blocks, on the other hand, lend to more complex solutions that are a direct off-shoot from how Lock Blocks are used. Oftentimes, you must load up one set with a trail of water to flow through, then switch form once more to alternate the pathways. And this doesn't necessarily dictate that the exact opposite switch take place, instead requiring that a combination of Pipe Blocks be active. As Standard Switch Blocks aim to block the water flow and pathways become more segmented, you're bound to be stumped along the way. But it's by no means arresting, once again having you think in terms beyond the run-and-gun mechanics.
The game commits itself to this even in lighter ways, using mud-covered blocks, small pocket fires, and even steel BBQ ovens to, when coupled with Standard Switch Blocks, encourage forethought over your jumps, making you less rash without the player ever feeling that they're being slowed-down. All considered, Mighty Switch Force! 2 really sets a fine example in its design, through close moderation that has led to a very coordinated environment. Some of its design techniques will be familiar, such as when a series of blocks are arranged in successive stacks where what follows has one block more than the last. Yet, the game is more adept in the way players are led to engage with it, which is most definitely a reflection of stronger design, as is the carefree joy that's detected throughout the campaign.
Retaining its futuristic vibes, Mighty Switch Force! 2 continues its presentation of a welcoming citadel with modern and sprinkled organic features, though its world is experiencing less upheaval than the last time. The familiar crimson skies make up most of the backgrounds, but a fair share also portray peaceful conditions, both being decorated with a colour scheme that pops as it accompanies the finer environment details.
Great depth perception is another means of consistency with the first game, but where the sequel differs to some degree is by having dotted embers flutter upwards on the 3D Screen, furthering the immersive effect 3D has on the environment. As always, lovely sprite work is in healthy supply, with very fluid motions and a few new enemy designs that share the responsiveness of those introduced in the original. The Hooligan Sisters in particular have more personality now, each donning new outfits and mild behaviours in line with the steamy environment.
The exceptional audio work, however, is what really brings out the best in the game. The highly energetic chiptune soundtrack played such an indispensable role in the original thriving, and the same is true of Mighty Switch Force! 2: The music is as infectious and pulsating as ever. One track puts you in the crowd of a club open only to robots; another carries a thin 80s vibe while being set to a "hyperized" dial; and yet others sound extremely familiar and rooted in the 16-bit era but can nonetheless easily be identified with. Following after Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition, dubstep once again plays a part in some compositions, but it's always done with relative restraint, care and taste, never becoming overbearing. I strongly advise you to plug in a set of headphones while playing, for then you will really appreciate the rich bass at the heart of these irresistible tracks.
Not to be overlooked are the sound effects, which are very well done on their own, and there's a better circulation with Patty's voice clips. Prior to a recent patch, the audio in Hyper Drive Edition needed re-balancing, and while the sound effects here at times collide with the music for superiority, I wouldn't go so far as to say corrective measures are necessary for Mighty Switch Force! 2.
What deserves special mention is the game's incredibly spunky theme song, executed internally and rendered as a full-blown vocal arrangement. It's a real treat and it's something listeners will immediately adore, with the backup vocals really helping it come alive. With lines like "Rescue Girl, yeah you are the world to me / And I promise I'll be there for you forever" and "Set the world aflame / Life just ain't the same," the devotion is nothing short of heartwarming. Really in all these ways, WayForward has performed more than responsibly, with the soundtrack really completing the package as the pivotal component that it is.
As far as content, Mighty Switch Force! 2 abides by the same rules of the original with a cap of 16 stages, the lack of bonus stages likely making room for an inevitable, upscaled version on Wii U. Some levels take more time to figure out and experiment with than others, but you should spend no more than 15 minutes determining a solution. Ugly Secret Babies (that's what they're called!) further encourage re-exploration of completed levels, with a new player option becoming unlocked once all have been collected. But principally the replay value is elevated through Par Times (that's P.A.R), which have you shooting for as low as 30-second and as high as six-minute conditions to harden the game's high-score appeal. As before, some targets may seem impossible, but that attitude changes when the Mighty Hose becomes unlocked, which acts almost like a snowball cannon in its area of effect.
Admittedly, some may find enough leeway to say leaderboards should've been implemented to share stats with registered friends. Me, I'd rather hold out for separate leaderboards for times made without the Mighty Hose, as I later longed for with Hyper Drive Edition. All told, you can hope to find at least three hours of content in this bite-sized offering. More time was spent on my part retrieving all the babies and beating every last par time, so my playtime was closer between eight and ten hours, but that includes moments when I stopped playing mid-game just to soak in (no pun intended) the gorgeous soundtrack.
WayForward has truly done it again and is to be commended for giving life to another home run. Short though some may perceive it to be, Mighty Switch Force! 2 is a delightful puzzle-platforming experience, with clever and more involving design that grows yet still keeps a tight grip on the disciplined approach that governed the original. It's such a joy to play, and it is in large part because the entire package is unified, everything from a head-spinning soundtrack to challenging and satisfying level design that's flawless for what it is. Love it love it love...you will.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 10/10 - Advances beyond its strong mechanics to encourage thought, very clever design and challenging puzzles, cohesive in all facets
Presentation 10/10 - Irresistible soundtrack complete with a stand-out theme, lovely art style supported with fluid animations and worthwhile 3D
Enjoyment 5/5 - An entirely joyful experience, sets an example of discipline, elements come together flawlessly, production values aid in the immersion
Extra Content 3/5 - Short but very rich, high-score appeal brought to the fore through strict par times, length further extended through USBs
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System