Man, the 3DS got good out of nowhere, didn’t it?
In the span of about two months, we’ve had one of the best 3D Mario adventures yet made, some fantastic remakes of classic games, and now the 3DS is starting to make in-roads as a terrific downloadable/indie hotbed of activity. Wayforward’s Mighty Switch Force (part of the “Mighty Blank Blank” series as it’s often referred to) continues this stretch with an outwardly simple game that very well could be seen as something important or influential later on in the 3DS’s lifespan.
First, let’s give credit where credit is due: Wayforward have quietly established themselves as one of the hardest-working and most dependable Western development studios working today. Their work rarely makes your hair stand on end with crazy ideas or insane production values, but over the last few years they’ve created a veritable pantheon of completely solid (and often, way better than they need to be) games. From their work on the DS with the only good version of Thor to one of the best games of 2009, A Boy and His Blob, Wayforward has quickly become synonymous with exceptionally well-crafted gameplay - and Mighty Switch Force absolutely deserves to stand in that same company.
The Mighty Blank Blank series (which has included games like Mighty Milky Way and Mighty Flip Champs on DSiWare) might not be tied together by a line of similar gameplay styles, but besides some aesthetic similarities, they are tied together by their commitment to fun, challenging gameplay. As their first 3DS eShop game, Mighty Switch Force is actually an interesting experiment, as it’s (to my knowledge, anyways) the first original (i.e., non-3D Classics) game with entirely two-dimensional art assets placed into a 3D context. That means that each asset is on its own layer of parallax while still maintaining their 2D-ness, which produces a rather interesting effect. Basically, imagine Mega Man X as a hand-drawn game with 3D effects and you get close to the look of it.
Such a look could have came off as contrived or unnecessary (A Boy and His Blob, for instance, was just as beautiful in a fully two-dimensional context), but Mighty Switch Force actually utilizes its 3D for a purpose, so much so that playing without it begins to feel just a little bit weird. Basically, the setup for the game is that as a kind of intergalactic police officer, you have to recover lost prisoners from a prisoner transfer vehicle that gets blown up early in the game. Your avatar basically has four moves: running, jumping, shooting a laser pistol, and (with a press of the L or R button) moving platforms either into the foreground or the background of the screen.
Basically, then, the game is a sort of hybrid of Mega Man-esque platforming (although your character is just a little heavier on her feet) and puzzle-solving. Some platforms might shoot your character or enemies into the sky, or another might only switch over when you’re not standing on them. The puzzles are never overly complex, but since they’re to be accomplished in an extremely action-y setting, they can get a little bit nerve-wracking.
The game only has sixteen levels, but that fact is offset by a couple of factors. First off, it is a downloadable title, and for the price you pay, the value is absolutely there. And as a downloadable title, Mighty Switch Force is miles ahead of anything on DSiWare, and even in a lot of cases iPhone games, in terms of the production quality. This is a game that absolutely oozes craftmanship, from the beautifully detailed sprites to the absolutely outrageously awesome soundtrack (side note: I can’t really stand this whole dubstep craze and a few songs on the soundtrack do slide into dubstep territory, but ultimately the soundtrack ends up sounding like an NES soundtrack as reimagined by Daft Punk, which I can absolutely get behind), things that you just don’t often get in handheld downloadable games.
For the more masochistic out there, the game does encourage multiple playthroughs by suggesting a “par” time for each of the levels. I didn’t even come close to par on any of the levels, though, and since I’m not really the type to obsess over much of anything, that aspect of the game didn’t really grab me. Obviously, your mileage may vary.
The only thing dragging the game down are a really bizarre decision to objectify the female characters of the game (it’s far more playful than a lot of instances of this kind of trope, but it is present nonetheless) and some really bad and unnecessary voice acting at times. The line “justice served!” is likely going to be burned in my brain forever. Ultimately, though, these issues are pretty minor in the scheme of things. With Pushmo, VVVVVV and on-the-horizon games like Dillon’s Rolling Western - damn, son, the eShop might be where it’s at.