I really like the occasional 2D platformer, especially these days. It seems like in a world full of huge AAA games, a lot of clever innovations wind up taking the backseat in smaller titles, and this is very apparent in the platforming genre. The kind of clever level design in such games is more easily apparent, giving you moments where you just have to sit back and admire the ingenuity on display. A little bit of that exact kind of mechanical mastery is exactly what’s on display here in Mighty Switch Force 2.
WayForward has a very specific visual charm to their games, and every bit of that is on display here. The game’s visual style is something like a saturday morning cartoon with a dash of anime, full of color and action. The 3DS’ capabilities are used in a way that’s both minimal and effective, and can actually be helpful to the gameplay.
Mighty Switch Force 2 follows the missions of the same character from the first game, Patricia Wagon, then a cop, now a firefighter. Some career change, lady. Tangent City finds itself ablaze, and duty calls. You’ll find yourself making your way through an interesting variety of vertical, horizontal and open-spaced levels as you rescue survivors amidst the blaze. Each level has five helpless damsels in distress to save, plus an optional “star coin”-type victim, a crying baby. (and I don’t care how sadistic I sound, that thing is hilarious)
The main mechanic behind both Mighty Switch Force games is the ability to switch objects between the foreground and background of each level. With the click of a trigger, you can shift normal platforming blocks, blocks that will not shift if you’re standing on them, and blocks that will rocket you in any given direction if you’re standing in front of one when you shift it into the foreground. The 3D actually adds a useful dimension of depth to this. It’s easy to tell when a block is or isn’t in the foreground regardless of 3D, but the added depth can make the process a bit more intuitive.
In the first game, Paddy was a cop, equipped with a standard police-issued lazer gun. This time around, her new firefighting gig gives her a Super Mario Sunshine-style fire hose. One of the few shortcomings of the first Mighty Switch Force was the fact that pretty much all the puzzles in the game operated around the single gimmick of the switch mechanic, but the addition of the fire hose adds a lot to the experience. The weapon still damages enemies like the gun in the first game, but is also used for clearing obstacles, putting out fires, and more. These two mechanics are integrated very closely intelligently. You will find pipe puzzles wherein different colored pipes correspond to different colored lockable blocks, leaving you to find the right combinations to send your water stream where it needs to go.
The game is also benefited by an exquisite soundtrack. I listen to a lot of electronic music, (currently blasting Anamanaguchi’s “Endless Fantasy” as I write this) and the composition by Jake Kaufman is something I can give an absolute recommendation on its own, which is not very common for me with video game music. The combination of electro-pop and even dubstep adds energy and pops with excitement, guaranteeing you bop your head along as you save the helpless citizens of Tangent City.
Another thing worth noting is the improved philosophy of structure compared to that of the first game. What the hell does that mean? Well essentially, the first game’s later levels had a tendency towards level design that may have been intended to be impressive, but really were just badly laid-out. Here, the game’s accumulation of vertical, horizontal, and open levels all have a much more logical and intuitive flow to them. There’s no sense of hesitation, wondering if you’re going the right way at all. Each level is vibrant, fun, and well-directed, mixing mechanics differently each time.
The only real complaint to be found with the game at all comes with its brevity. As with the first Mighty Switch Force, 16 levels is a fun afternoon, but will leave you hungry for more. The game has some replay value, beating the pre-programmed par times and finding the baby in each level, but more unlockables post-completion would have been very nice. It’s not that the game feels incomplete though, ending with a final stage that adds a whole new level of challenge in itself and feels like a fine ending, but there are so many good ideas at play here that it’s natural to find oneself asking for more.
All in all, Mighty Switch Force 2 is a simple wonder. There’s really no reason not to pick it up if you’re wanting some good platforming action on your 3DS. And if you only have enough to spare on one of the two games, 2 is easily the superior beast. With the weapon from its predecessor replaced with an item that doubles as an essential tool for many of the game’s puzzles, the game no longer relies as heavily on a single gimmick, allowing more creativity and variety in its level design. Each level feels fresh, introducing new concepts that build on pre-established ones, all complimented by gorgeously animated visuals and a fantastic soundtrack. Only hindered by a rather brief length, Mighty Switch Force 2 gets 4.5 hot girls amidst hot flames out of 5.