3DS Review – Mighty Switch Force!

Should you choose to accept the position, you will become a member of the Mighty Switch Force, apprehending criminals who just happen to be cute, female and have long-term employment as car washers. WayForward Technologies is once again pushing a somewhat original IP out the door and onto the digital landscape, and really, you do have to give them credit for avoiding the old, stale genre pitfalls that they could be wallowing in. So, let’s all take a look at this latest creation from the house that built Contra 4, A Boy and His Blob (Wii), Mighty Milky Way, LIT and many others.

So, what’s it about?
Mighty Switch Force! is one of those newer breeds of video games that takes a few genres and swirls them together, creating something that gives us glimmers of recognition of what ingredients are in the brew. The two main ingredients, in this case, are platforming and action-puzzle (a sub-genre itself). Players will take control of the protagonist, Patricia Wagon, a cybernetic peace officer who jumps around levels recapturing hooligans. These hooligans just happen to be cute female convicts who, instead of being forced to break rocks like we’ve all seen in the movies, are forced to do car washes (simply dreadful).

You can see that there are standard moveable blocks in the foreground and background. You'll have to alternate them as you go to get around.

Jumping trickery
The primary gameplay mechanic that distinguishes this game from others comes in the form of Patricia’s siren helmet. With it, she can cause certain blocks (we’ll just call them moveable blocks) to alternate from being in the foreground to the background, and the background to the foreground. The game eases players in very slowly. As an example, let’s say that a player is standing on a moveable block that’s in the foreground, and just ahead of them is a moveable block that’s in the background. What to do? Jump, press the button to shift the blocks while in mid-air, and land on that second block that just came into the foreground. It’s a lot simpler in action than my long-winded explanatory sentence makes it seem. There are various sections strewn throughout the game that will require players to deftly perform a jump and block shift in mid-air with great precision.

After hitting the wall, you'll have to quickly press the block-switch button when Patricia is right in front of the arrow block below to avoid the spikes.

Precision button pressing
Another block-type has an arrow on it. If either an enemy or the player are standing in front of this block when it’s moved from the background to the foreground, they will be shot out across the screen in the direction of the arrow, flying until they hit something. Often, there are multiple arrow blocks that require very precise timing, as players will have to use several of them in succession to get to their destination. It’s these sections that almost make you feel like you’re, for a very short moment, playing some type of rhythm game. Some levels are filled with these arrow blocks, and players must fly around trying to discover which arrow block leads to where, and then execute their plan with the timing of a concert solo cellist. If you mess up, you just have to find that first arrow block and make another attempt.

Pushing a block from the background to the foreground may result in an enemy smashing painfully against your 3DS screen.

Puzzling platforms
A third block-type comes in the form of two differently colored blocks: red and green. They can alternate between the foreground and background just like the generic moveable blocks, except that if players stand on them, they will stay in the foreground. What’s the significance? Well, let’s say you’re standing on a red block and you press the block-shift button. The red blocks will stay where they are, and all other blocks will change their position. This puzzle piece is used to great effect, making you think about which blocks to stand on and how to proceed from moment to moment.

While Patricia does have a gun, it isn’t used in quite the way we’re all used to. Yes, she does use it to do some standard elimination, but it’s mainly used to push enemies around, and to detonate bomb enemies at just the right moment to blow something up.

Did you like it?
I’ve done enough explaining about what Mighty Switch Force is, so maybe now’s the time to tell you what I actually thought about my time with it. Really, my least favorite aspect of the game had to be the sections that focused on launching enemies around with the arrow blocks. Why? Well, I suppose it’s because the gameplay involved with them was rarely exciting. For example, in one part there’s an enemy and about eight arrow blocks. What had to be done was obvious: launch the enemy through the eight arrow blocks. The problem with this is that all it takes is some good timing, and there is literally nothing else to it. It would be the equivalent of the gameplay of the Rhythm Heaven series but taking away the integration of the music with the gameplay and the interesting visuals that accompany the specific actions the player is doing. What do you have left? Just timing. And that’s where my major gripes stop with this game.

I really enjoyed trying to figure out my next set of jumps – jumping, shifting the blocks, and doing it all over again. The configurations of blocks are always new, so I was kept on my toes until the very end. There are simple block shifts, and then there are the more devious ones that have you dealing with regular blocks, red ones, green ones, and sometimes even arrow blocks, all at the same time. There are many times when the platforming and puzzle elements slide together and create some really enjoyable moments.

Although I wasn’t a fan of shooting enemies around with the arrow blocks, there were some arrow block sections that I enjoyed. Levels that require the player to launch his/herself around and explore were a lot more interesting. In addition to the challenge of figuring out the system of arrows, these sections felt almost like they were inspired by Sonic games. There’s a lot of anticipation between arrow blocks, and a bit of exhilaration as you blast from place to place, knowing that one misstep could bring a minor punishment.

Patricia is flying upward with neat swirly clouds in the background.

2D glee and music jubilee
Especially considering that this is a download title, the presentation has got to be one of the strongest in DSiWare and 3DSWare history. Even comparing the 2D graphics to systems like Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, DS, and others, I would place Mighty Switch Force’s graphics towards the top of the list. There is great detail in the decimated, technologically advanced society that Patricia inhabits. From the debris of destroyed robot mounds in the foreground to the multitude of swirly clouds in the background, it is obvious that much time was taken to beautify Mighty Switch Force. While the graphics are 2D-based, Mighty Switch Force! does take advantage of the 3DS’ 3D capabilities to make the visuals pop out.

On top of that, the soundtrack is a blast. The tracks all have an electronica feel to them, but they range from a mid-tempo catchy pop sound to adrenaline-boosting thumpers to casually cool head-rockers that perhaps would feel right at home in The Matrix. There’s nothing worse than a game with terrible music to accompany you on your journey, and thankfully this isn’t one of them.

The end of the chase
Mighty Switch Force! isn’t a terribly long game. I would guess that most players will complete it in 2-3 hours. However, there are special times set for players to beat, adding a bit of replay value. It will mostly challenge your platforming skills and your timing, but every once in awhile some small puzzles make themselves known as well. It probably won’t blow you away, but the energetic music, appealing graphics and decent gameplay are sure to keep you glued to your 3DS while it lasts.

Grade: B+

Release Date: December 22nd, 2011
Publisher/Developer: WayForward Technologies
Price: $5.99
Available On: 3DS Nintendo eShop
Players: 1

For more information, please visit the official sites of either Nintendo, or WayForward Technologies.

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