If there is something the 3DS lacks at the moment, it’s a solid 2D game built from the ground up for stereoscopic 3D. Enter Wayforward’s eShop title, Mighty Switch Force, the latest in their “Mighty” line of download games.
Seeing a game with such fantastic pixel art and classic parallax scrolling backgrounds in 3D is a visual feast. The retro game player in me can’t help but love the mix of classic game art meeting contemporary technology. On top of that, there is some really nice sprite animation throughout the game as well. The game just looks great all around.
The core game itself is an action/puzzle hybrid with running and gunning not far removed from Mega Man. The twist is the puzzle element in which the player has the ability to “switch” blocks on and off. Switching blocks on and off is kind of like having control over those annoying block puzzles from the Mega Man games, only in Switch Force’s case it’s fun. Aside from blocks simply acting as stepping stones, other block types are introduced gradually, like the blasting blocks which remind me of barrel blasts from Donkey Kong Country.
Wayforward makes the most out of these block types and just when the player really has a grasp on how everything works, the game is over. I blew through all 16 stages in an hour and half, which I assume is probably the average play time for most players, give or take a half hour.
This is around the time I realized Mighty Switch Force is a secret speed run game in disguise. Each stage has a “Par” time that it wants the player to try and beat. Racing against the clock and beating the par earns the player a star next to the stage in the menu, and that’s about it. Another two hours later, I’d gotten stars on every stage and there was no reward in sight other than the pleasure of knowing I beat all of the time challenges. I don’t want to downplay the speed runs too much. I had almost zero intentions of bothering with them, but I found myself becoming addicted to finding the quickest and most effective way to track down the criminals in each stage. Because of the somewhat nonlinear stages, there are plenty of ways to come up with the best method of perfecting a run. I’m positive there will be a dedicated fan base out there swapping videos of their impressive speed runs.
Beating the game the first time unlocks an additional almost game breaking gun. There are a handful of stages that involve getting a bad guy through certain obstacles in order to kill him so that a door can open. Since this gun has the ability to kill those characters, those stages are actually easier than they were the first time around. I honestly felt like I was cheating. At the same time, this gun almost feels unnecessary for certain stages in order to get that perfect time down.
Another letdown are the cute criminal characters the player must track down in order to clear each maze-like stage. The game begins with these prisoners breaking out of jail, so one would think they’d be up to no good during stages. Nope, they’re nothing more than collectible items that add nothing to the game other than said cute factor. Seems like a wasted opportunity to me. It would have been fun to chase them down or at least fight them before being able to arrest them.
As one of the 3DS’s premier eShop exclusives, Mighty Switch Force looks and sounds the part. As stated earlier, the graphics are great, and Jake Kaufman’s chip-funk music is probably my favorite part of the entire experience (go check out the OST at Bandcamp if you don’t believe me). However, the game itself is over much too quickly, and many ideas, like the criminals and running and gunning, seem undeveloped and underutilized. I happen to think it’s a well made game and I enjoyed my time with it but everyone other than people into speed runs and retro games may want to look elsewhere for their eShop fix.
Editor’s Note: I found it hard to score this game based on the “Buy It” “Rent It” “Don’t Bother” scale. I wanted to pick both “Buy it” and “Don’t Bother” but that seems contradictory. Just use your own judgment.
Name: Mighty Switch Force
Available on: Nintendo 3DS
Developed by: WayForward
Published by: WayForward
Release date: December 2011