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It seems us 3DS owners are in luck these holidays. Not only did we get a lengthy, meaty puzzler platformer in Pushmo two weeks ago, but this past Thursday we just got the brand new Mighty Switch Force from the well-regarded studio WayForward Technologies (A Boy and His Blob, Contra 4), while next Thursday we will get a port of celebrated indie platformer VVVVVV.
Like its predecessor Mighty Flip Champs, Mighty Switch Force is a short but charming puzzle platformer with simple yet deep mechanics. Your goal is to capture the 5 sexy escaped convicts that have gone to hide in clever, hard-to-reach places. You do this by moving around, jumping across platforms, shooting a few baddies, and using the game’s switch mechanic, which consists of switching colored blocks between the foreground and the background. When these blocks are in the foreground, they can obstruct the player’s movement or be used as platforms to reach higher places, and when they are in the background, they simply cannot be interacted with. Furthermore, when some blocks are in the foreground, others are in the background. Later in the game, a new type of colored block is introduced that can be “locked” in the foreground if the player is on top of them when they press the “switch” button, which allows the player to manipulate the blocks to be alternating or switching simultaneously as the puzzles demand. There are also blocks that can be destroyed by shooting walking bombs when they are next to them. All these elements come together to create the game’s many puzzle obstacles standing between the player and the convicts.
Mighty Switch Force’s length is actually somewhat disappointing, with only 16 levels to be beaten, each level taking anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. You can get a star marker for each stage by beating them under a certain amount of time, but as far as I know there is no reward for doing this, even after getting every single one of them. There’s also seemingly no integrated leaderboards for those that want to push their time records further, which is a shame because the game even gives you a new weapon after you finish the story that helps you clear the stages in much better times.
The soundtrack is quite fantastic, with most songs being a mix of upbeat, complex melodies with electro house and dubstep rhythm hooks as well as influences from several other electronic music movements. It’s really charismatic and lends a lot to the time race nature of the game, and it’s a real shame it is so short, as I would have loved to see Jake Kaufman exercise his talent more freely and extensively. I’m seriously looking forward to his work in the future, hopefully in much bigger games. In the meantime, you can download the soundtrack for free through bandcamp, but of course you are encouraged to donate what you can given the quality of the OST (and the spirit of the holidays!).
Visually, Mighty Switch Force is quite a charmer with environments being well-detailed, animations being highly fluid and expressive, and the characters in general being playfully sexy (erring on the side of decency of course). It looks more than aptly nice for a light-hearted platformer. As a side note, there is practically zero story, but of course this doesn’t matter for a game like this.
In the end, Mighty Switch Force is a very fun little pick for the holidays and one we encourage fans of platformers to pick it up. On the other hand, those whose wallets are thin right now might want to save their $6 (the price of Mighty Switch Force) for VVVVVV, which hits next week at the price of $8 (at least in North America).
UPDATE: As of May 24, 2012, there is a free DLC pack for the game including 5 new levels and improved stereoscopic visuals, which definitely makes the value of the game more appealing than originally.