Platform: Wii U (eShop)
Developer: WayForward Technologies
WayForward Technologies have established themselves as one of go-to developers when it comes to 2D side-scrollers. Platformers, shooters, brawlers... so long as it scrolls sideways and packs plenty of nostalgic old-school flavour, they'll usually deliver an absolute corker. Case in point: the magnificent Mighty Switch Force, which delighted 3DS owners with its carefully-crafted retro gameplay brought up to date with clever puzzles and a nifty dimension-shifting mechanic.
So I'm delighted to report that the Hyper Drive (HD, geddit?) Edition works just as brilliantly on the Wii U, but ups the ante with a complete graphical overhaul, a new art style and twice as much content.
Seeing as Mighty Switch Force is technically an HD remake of the original game, the premise remains the same. You step into the armoured one-piece of robotic supercop Patricia Wagon, an agile enforcer who's hot on the trail of the five fugitive Hooligan Sisters. Tracking down the escapees throughout 21 lengthy levels requires you to make plenty of precision jumps, blast a menagerie of bizarre robotic creatures and generally engage in the tight yet slightly heavy platforming we were used to from back in the day.
However, each stage introduces a selection of increasingly taxing puzzles based around a simple ye incredibly effective game mechanic: the ability to move certain blocks between the foreground and background with a simple tap of the trigger. This ability will predominantly be used to change the placement of platforms in the early game, but soon shows profound hidden depths. Enemies can be splattered into the glass of your TV screen. Boost blocks propel Patricia (or unwary foes) if yanked into the foreground at the right time. Every new level adds a new gameplay element to explore or uses a familiar one in an entirely new way, and ferocious par times drive you to replay them until you manage to beat WayForward's sadistic benchmarks.
Careful planning, leaps of logic and good old fashioned reflexes are equally important, making Mighty Switch Force a thoroughly satisfying proposition from a gameplay standpoint.
WayForward decided that the original 16-Bit graphical style wouldn't suit the Wii U early in the development cycle. Whereas some developers would have simply ported it over and called it a day, the Californian studio went back to the drawing board to completely update the entire art style; starting from scratch with pin-sharp new sprites, detailed backgrounds and silky smooth animations. Whether played on an HDTV or seamlessly on the Gamepad (with a simple jab of an on-screen icon), it's probably one of the most attractive 2D platformers on the market.
I was impressed by how little the lack of stereoscopic 3D affects the gameplay experience, since the whole concept of pushing blocks in and out of the screen was originally designed to take advantage of the 3DS' major gimmick. Thanks to the new visuals, you'll never feel the need to reach for the slider.
Once you've completed all 21 levels, an entirely new range of Hyper Drive Remix stages become available to play. Though they're based on the original levels, they pack different visuals, entirely new music and a range of tweaks that completely change they way you approach them. You're basically getting twice as much game for your money, not to mention a tough new challenge.
Mighty Switch Force HD's few sins are definitely of the omission variety. The lack of global leaderboards and unlockables (except a slightly pervy alternate title screen) means that beating par times is an exercise in willpower rather than genuine competition, while existing Mighty Switch Force owners will balk at having to complete all 21 levels before getting access to the Hyper Drive remixes. What about a two-player head to head mode, asymmetrical multiplayer, race or hotseat tournaments? There was an opportunity to fully flesh out Mighty Switch Force as a top-flight game, one that fully embraces the Wii U hardware, but the bare-bones GUI and lack of extras beyond the remixed levels make it feel just a little skinny.
But despite all that, WayForward have still managed to give Nintendo's console one of its best launch games and a near-essential purchase for platforming fans.
- Puzzle-platform gameplay is both slick and cerebral
- Eyecatching new art style, excellent new music
- Hyper Drive remix levels make for decent value, even if you own the 3DS original
- Lack of global leaderboards and regular unlockables makes replaying levels unsatisfying
- No extras beyond remixed content
- Remixed levels can't be accessed until beating the entire campaign
The Short Version: Alongside Trine 2's Director's Cut, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is a textbook example of how to bring games from other platforms to the Wii U. The exquisite new art style, double helping of content and compelling core gameplay makes WayForward's platformer one of the leading lights of the eShop, and one of the best games on the console.