Given its evident appreciation of its HD 2D game design, WayForward’s moniker often seems a little ironic. Yet this talented developer has a knack for making retrograde standards seem almost radical. Mighty Switch Force has a story – embow Patricia Wagon must bring a cabal of bikini-clad criminals to justice – but it’s tucked away in the e-manual, while tutorials are conspicuously absent. Here, learning on the job is part of the fun, with fresh ideas introduced every other level before WayForward begins to fuse them in increasingly intricate ways. In a medium often prone to patronizing the player, the opportunity to figure things out at your own pace is refreshing.
Five of the skimpily-attired Hooligan Sisters are secreted within each of the game’s 16 stages; reaching them and returning to your robotic assistant for extraction requires a combination of brainpower and twitch reflexes. The platforming systems are rudimentary, but the hazardous environments can only be traversed by switching blocks, often while airborne: a single button press solidifies translucent tiles and locks others into position. Should Patricia be positioned over a boost block, switching will propel her across spike pits, just as it will launch combustible enemies into obstacles unaffected by the her pellet shooter. Sharp presentation complements the often ingenious stage design, and this 2D-loving developer has embraced the 3DS’ added depth with a sense of humor, often asking players to defeat enemies by propelling them against the screen, their demise accompanied by an amusingly startled expression and a cracked-glass effect.
Though later stages offer a more significant challenge, most players will reach the end within two hours, a brief runtime even by downloadable standards. Par times for each course ostensibly add replay value, but their presence on the first run diminishes the sense of achievement for those uninterested in speed running, while their strictness can prove discouraging. Here, the limitations of the controls – fine for a slower-paced puzzler – are more keenly felt, with Patricia trundling along like her vehicular namesake, while the lack of an instant restart is equally problematic. Pinballing between boost blocks on the shorter stages is an undoubted thrill, but when a single, late mistake on the lengthier levels proves decisive, the less patient among us will likely find that an old-fashioned punishment too far.
Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Edition is available on Wii U and Steam for $9.99.Steam