Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition
Wii U Download | WayForward | 1 Player | Out Now | $9.99 / £8.99
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad, Wii U Pro Controller, Classic Controller
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28th January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
Planet Land has been experiencing an increase in crime as of late, ever since the prime miscreants, the Hooligan Sisters, took advantage of an early prison sentence. Worse yet, their mischief has resulted in chemical spills that have triggered the advent of various mutants. Patricia Wagon, a member of an interplanetary police force, is called in to help. One thing's for sure: These villains aren't the most intelligent, for they chose to wreak whatever havoc they could without first addressing the lingering problem of the cuffs and chains that bind them. In each level, there are five criminals strategically placed in areas that will require some careful jumps, timed button presses, and occasionally a bit of forethought to reach. There's an ideal path to follow in the interest of achieving the best time, but there are cases where you can indeed (to follow Patricia's own motto) switch things up by going in a different order than what the general layout suggests. Once these threats have been reclaimed, Patricia must make her way over to her robotic friend, who signifies serves as Patricia's getaway vehicle of sorts.
Alongside the run-and-jump method of traversal, players will be exposed to the main shtick of the game -- that of swapping between visible and invisible blocks. Besides simply functioning as platforms to stand on, sometimes blocks are used as barricades in the game design, and players can also squish enemies that unsuspectingly find themselves within a block's bounding box. There are also launcher blocks governed by the same on-and-off principle, as well as special sets of red and blue switch blocks. The latter variety are always found side-by-side or on top of one another, in a default position where one set remains active while the other hides in the background. So in the case of a vertical drop covered with them, the only way past is to position yourself atop the uppermost row in the series and then activate the switch move so both sets will be active at the same time. As you jump off, you can then trigger the switch move once more to cause both to disappear and smoothly make your rapid descent. There are cases where this strategy won't be possible with what's presented in front of you, like when the series is arranged across a horizontal plane. In such an instance, you'll need to find another solitary entity or accessible grouping in the area to accomplish the same effect.
This simple yet necessary design principle infuses the game with the puzzle orientation to leverage its platforming to a level of clever design, whereby these elements are made use of in conjunction or in an alternating fashion to encourage quick timing and test player reflexes. Not to be forgotten, too, is the role enemies play in all of this. The objective behind luring an enemy over to an invisible block for a surprise switch isn't simply for survival. In some cases, that's the only way to advance. As a specific example, some stages have a device planted in the ground that constantly regenerates purple bomb bandits. These are not present for the sake of challenging your method of navigating the space. Rather, it is always the case where these must be manipulated to your own ends to get past stone blocks that can only be destroyed by the explosions these enemies trigger. It's intriguing when players have to sit still for a second or two and essentially treat bombs like they were temporary companions or wind-up toys in need of direction. Such is but a sample of the joys to be extracted from the game's entertaining level design.
On the whole, Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition displays a very keen understanding of balance whilst still maintaining a very jolly spirit. Platforming challenges may not be intensive, but there are some clever maze-like creations that surface over the course of the experience that never verge on being too complicated for the game's own good. Further, scenarios that call for a puzzler mindset are carefully dispersed across the field, done in such a way that their worth is never negated by being overwhelming, nor do they ever overstay their welcome. Always well-designed and at times urging a hint of thinking pattern, the game's execution demonstrates a sharp lack of clutter, and in this regard, the bridled execution serves to amplify what may appear ordinary on the surface so that it takes on welcome depth. None of these factors are to suggest that the game loses its grip in the way of difficulty, because while some may find the presence of health pick-ups to be a tad generous, there are plenty of situations that call for more meticulous behaviour without demanding a sort of patience that would produce an imbalance against the fast pace. And it's great to see the game doesn't confuse accessibility with deteriorated principles or absent surface tension.
How Mighty Switch Force groups itself in with other, versatile puzzle-platformers and where it excels far beyond their make is through its presentation. WayForward has so brilliantly created a world that players can be drawn into and feel invested in, as though they too were standing alongside Patricia during her ongoing investigation. An animated, futuristic citadel serves as the backdrop for the entire experience, with an enticing colour scheme that signifies as such, even transforming the landscape to acquire an apocalyptic overtone as the experience winds down. In the foreground are pristine models full of personality and feedback that is top-notch in quality. Even if you decide to play exclusively on the GamePad minus the TV, the game still looks fabulous, with no drops in the way of resolution, fluidity, or anything else of that sort. And when you're playing on the TV, the GamePad will act as your radar, indicating the general direction of your next target.
Deserving special mention is the incredible chiptune soundtrack, carrying such an unforgettably fresh flair that can always be trusted to lift your mood even outside the game. As this isn't my first time playing the game, the soundtrack truly still stands as one of my favourites in recent memory, as it does a marvelous job of not only bringing the game to life but also establishing immersion so naturally establishing. How the soundtrack benefits Hyper Drive Edition in particular is that we now get to hear it in its full capacity. Some of the remixes that were only on the official album have now been incorporated, and to hear them play in stages incites both forcefulness and feelings of great nostalgia. Some of these are in tune with compositions hailing from the Genesis era of games, among others. The only minor squabble I could have is with the loud volume, even when on a low remote setting. Everything else about the game's presentation is perfection.
While the meat of the game is comprised of 16 Incidents (with the last being a memorable twist), there are five additional Bonus stages, and these weren't initially made available on the 3DS version until a later date. These bonus stages feature switch puzzles that are a little more complex, such as blocks arranged in checkered patterns or in a back-to-back fashion in the air. Exclusive to this version, however, are the Hyper stages that follow the batch just described. These are slight variations of the preceding 21 stages, with identical layout templates but slightly different block arrangements. Some, like myself, may find this to be a tad disappointing that they're not 100% new, but for those who, after completing the game, long for more levels to complete, this is a serviceable strategy. Dedicated completionists will derive much satisfaction and enjoyment from going after Par Times -- timed conditions that seem crazy the first go-round, but are definitely attainable as you explore time-saving techniques with a set strategy in mind. The unlockable that's made available after Incident 16 certainly aids in such ends, but as someone on Miiverse pointed out, it would've meant more if records made using this feature were separated from the standard process. I was also a bit surprised about the lack of direct score-sharing potential, but I don't think most will get too fussy about that.
Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition shines through the flavourful approach attached to its gameplay mechanics and through presentation that catapults the entire creation to a space where those who engage with it can readily detect a commitment to immersion. Blending rich visuals with uncluttered and cohesive design, it performs effortlessly with sound delivery. If you found yourself captivated the first time around, it's definitely time to reload and begin the process anew. And for anyone who has yet to experience the game's bolstered energy, Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition is an experience that cannot be passed up.
28/30 - Excellent
Gameplay 9/10 - Main mechanic is explored with discipline, very balanced with some clever level designs, entertaining segments with moments of depth
Presentation 10/10 - Stands out in every way, stellar animations, engaging backgrounds, still retains its quality on the GamePad, amazing soundtrack
Enjoyment 5/5 - Has an excellent spirit that changes your mood for the better, not overbearing, strong sense of immersion, some challenge to be had
Extra Content 4/5 - Enjoyable bonus stages, Hyper stages are mild variations on existing levels, players will see value in aiming for Par Times
Equivalent to a score of 93% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System