Game Name: Mighty Switch Force! Academy
Publisher(s): Wayforward Technologies
Developer(s): Wayforward Technologies
Release Date: 8/25/2015 (Early Access) / TBA (full release)
At times, I feel that Wayforward should re-brand itself as Wayback; their library is full of games that are so simple yet are strangely fulfilling, like a top-shelf Gameboy Advance game on steroids. Do not misunderstand, this is not a bad image; sure, nobody expects triple A releases from them, but they have proven time and time again that they can make more with less. Enter Mighty Switch Force!, a simple game among simple games.
In MSF, the player controls cleverly named police officer Patricia Wagon through 2D maze-like levels to catch escaped criminals known as The Hooligan sisters. Sounds simple enough, but the clincher is that this must be achieved by utilizing two groups of platforms, with only one group actually being interactable at any given time; it is the player’s job to choose when to switch the platforms that can currently be utilized so that they can advance through the levels and catch all the Hooligan Sisters.
By now, I’m sure you have noticed that this is just a rundown of the original Mighty Switch Force! and nothing thus far has been said about Mighty Switch Force! Academy specifically; this is for a good reason: as it stands currently, they are essentially the same game. Mighty Switch Force! Academy plays exactly like the original, but with multiplayer functionality. Now, certain design choices could have made the game stand out more, but at the moment the game feels somewhere between a tech demo and an unofficial mod to the original Mighty Switch Force!.
As of the time of this review, only the “Main Game” mode is available to play. This mode consists of 16 levels (five taken directly from the original MSF!), each taking two/three minutes to beat the first time; this leaves something to be desired considering that there are no significant new mechanics this time around. It feels as though the game is leaning on its multiplayer functionality to stand out, but the implementation seems to be rather shallow. The multiplayer is currently local only, which is a bit of a downer in this age of social long-distance gaming. Moreover, when in multiplayer, all players have equal control over switching active platforms, meaning that if players split up to capture different Hooligan Sisters(which one would assume is the entire draw of allowing multiple people to play at once), there will be constant issues with players switching off platforms that another player needs, or materializing a block in a space another player is occupying(killing the player in question).
Simply put, the direction Wayforward chose to take this game seems misguided at best and lazy or poorly thought out at worst. As it stands, even when working together, players are a threat to each other. There is a versus mode in the works, but it is described as being the same as the main game, but with the players’ amount of captured Hooligan Sisters being used as score and adding the ability to shoot other players. Now, I am not a published game designer, but it does not take too much to see that there were other options that could have been worked with. For example: each player could be color coded to a specific handful of blocks, requiring the players to all help each other to platform to their goals; or the game could have been made into an arena shooter in the vein of Samurai Gunn or Towerfall, with switching used for stage hazards or risky movement options. Instead, the game simply feels frustrating unless played alone, which more or less defeats the purpose of this game in general.
Aesthetically, the game feels like the original MSF!: with cute characters that look like hand-drawn representations of 16-bit sprites, jammin’ retro tunes, and simple but effective level design. However, due to the multiplayer format of the game, all of the maps are zoomed out; meaning that the sprites are much smaller and harder to appreciate, and the levels can be planned out instead of explored, making the game less of an adventure and making it so that in levels where bombs and cannon blocks are used for puzzles, the player can just sit in place while solving.
Even though the game is currently early access, I do not have much faith in it making a sudden turn for the better in a meaningful way.
** review copy of Mighty Switch Force! Academy was provided by Wayforward Technologies.
Talk to me when you graduate
Though Mighty Switch Force! seems that it would lend itself well to multiplayer, the implementation is under-cooked, even with the prospect of versus mode in the future. For the same price; you could buy Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition and receive a better, more engaging experience on all fronts.
- Same fun and simple gameplay as ever
- Zoomed-out perspective makes more puzzle options possible
- Zoomed-out perspective detracts from character and level designs
- One third of the levels are recycled without needing to have been
- Multiplayer is often infuriating and counter-intuitive
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