Platform: 3DS (eShop, £5)
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Mighty Switch Force! was one of the first truly great 3DS eShop titles. In a sea of limp NES and DSiWare releases, WayForward's colourful platformer stood out as a tough, challenging and thoroughly worthwhile experience that used the 3DS' stereoscopic depth to full advantage. Platforms could be moved in and out of the foreground at the touch of a button, leading to unique new gameplay opportunities that fit perfectly with the authentically retro platforming action.
WayForward have been busy of late with the likes of Double Dragon Neon, Silent Hill: Book Of Memories and the upcoming DuckTales remake, but they've managed to find the time to bring Patricia Wagon back for another rip-roaring adventure. The scantily-clad cybernetic supercop may have traded her badge and gun for a new gig as a firefighter, but if you're a fan of the original, you can expect another platforming masterclass with a watery new twist.
The core gameplay experience is much the same as the original. Thrown into some tough and lengthy sidescrolling levels, Patricia is tasked with rescuing a set number of helpless women (who are once again just about on the cutesy side of full-blown Ecchi, though there's not much in it) and making her way to the exit in as fast a time as possible. In fine retro style, you'll leap over spiked pits and enemies, taking advantage of platforms that can be slid in and out of the background with a single tap of the trigger. Knowing exactly when to trigger the dimensional switch makes the difference between an otherwise impossible jump and being splattered into the screen, while the stages quickly throw in various puzzle elements that require split-second timing and logical deduction to utilise. Halfway between twitchy platformer and cerebral puzzler, Mighty Switch Force! 2 perfectly balances fast fingers with brainpower.
However, as a firefighter, Patricia's career move lends itself to some new gameplay mechanics. Critically, she sports a powerful backpack hose that can be used to put out fires in your way, destroy enemies or push them around, melt dirt blocks and fill up pipes to unlock new areas. These new elements and r fit perfectly into the existing framework, while also challenging you to think about some of the enemies in different ways. Keeping flaming foes drenched before allowing them to explode, for example, is just one of the simplest challenges you'll need to overcome.
There's a case to be made that Mighty Switch Force! 2 doesn't quite go far enough when it comes to adding new mechanics. It's odd that fluid modelling doesn't play a role in proceedings like the magnificent Vessel, perhaps allowing us to totally fill areas with water and float objects around, while fire never appears to spread. Franchise fans may find themselves experiencing deja vu from time to time, though there's just enough new content to warrant a sequel without losing the spirit of the original.
Mighty Switch Force! 2 will last you for a fair few hours (between 5-8 depending on your skill and lust for crushing par times), not least because it's properly retro-tough. WayForward never mess about when it comes to difficulty, presenting us with an incredibly punishing mid-to-late game that's fraught with embarrassing failure. Thankfully, its internal logic and rules are consistent enough to always feel fair, meaning that you'll only ever blame yourself for yet another checkpoint restart. You'll probably reach for the off switch a fair few times, but your lust to finally kick will stay your hand. Should you crave an even tougher challenge, each stage also contains a baby stashed in an exceptionally difficult position, often making you choose between finishing a level or risking your remaining life on a death or glory suicide run.
As always, WayForward's eye for presentation is top-notch. The sumptuously detailed sprite art brims over with personality, both for Patricia, rescue targets, enemies and backdrops, and becomes doubly impressive when you flick up the depth slider. Mighty Switch Force! 2 is absolutely one of the few games that should be played in 3D for the duration, as it allows you to better judge the dimension shifting while picking out important foreground elements. Plus, it looks utterly gorgeous. Factor in yet another exceptional soundtrack and you've got a platformer that looks and sounds as great as it plays.
Oh, and it costs a fiver. Sold.
- Tight and satisfying platforming gameplay
- Cerebral puzzles and dimension-shifting mechanics
- Sumptuous sprite art and outstanding soundtrack
- Perhaps a little light on new gameplay systems
- Very difficult in parts (though that's arguably the point!)
The Short Version: Mighty Switch Force! 2 is another exquisite downloadable platformer offering tight controls, nuanced gameplay and a satisfying challenge. For £5, it's impossible not to recommend.