In late 2011, WayForward released Mighty Switch Force!, one of the first eShop titles to make significant use of the 3DS's capabilities. You took control of Patricia Wagon, a cop in search of the ostensibly criminal Hooligan sisters, and the puzzles were all based in some way around the 3D effect, popping platforms into the foreground and then sliding them back out again.
It was a fun and interesting evolution of a series that never seems afraid of trying new things. From the page-turning platform puzzles of Mighty Flip Champs! to the gravity gimmicks and planet smashing of Mighty Milky Way! (which, by the by, has the single best ending of any DSiWare title) we've come to expect new and unique approaches to each of the games released under the Mighty! banner.
Mighty Switch Force! 2, then, has a challenge ahead of itself. Specifically, it needs to convince us that of all the possible titles to revisit, Mighty Switch Force! would have the most potential for a strong sequel. It doesn't entirely succeed at that task.
On the plus side, much of what we liked about the original game is present here. Patricia Wagon is again our protagonist and she's still hunting down those Hooligan sisters, only this time she's rescuing them from a blazing inferno. Why they keep stepping back into the blazing inferno in order to give poor Patty another puzzle to solve is something the game wisely never bothers to address.
You once again solve these levels by tracking down all of the sisters, defeating enemies and popping platforms in and out along the way. Once you've rescued them all you then locate the transfer point out of the level and have your time compared against a par.
There are checkpoints scattered around the level, in case you step on some nasty spikes along the way, and you'll mainly be jumping and blasting your way toward a puzzle solution. A radar on the touch screen lets you know where you need to go next, and the trick will always be figuring out how to get there. By shifting platforms out from the background and back in again, you might reveal the way forward, or you might fence yourself in. You'll always need to experiment in order to figure out how to progress, and even though the platform shifting mechanic is a simple one, there a lot of different ways that it comes into play.
If that sounds a lot like the original Mighty Switch Force!, that's because it is. The differences here are minor: Patty has a hose rather than a pistol, there are a few new block types to figure out, and a couple of new enemies are crawling around. Apart from that, despite some good intentions in terms of spicing up the formula, this game is just a bit too similar to its predecessor, and not in a good way.
So much about the game, from its presentation to the nature of its puzzles to the format of its final level, feels like a direct lift. That's fine, in a sense, because puzzle-oriented games can simply complicate their solutions a bit and justify a sequel. Here, however, certain puzzles just feel like direct recreations of ones from the previous title. Considering the relatively small amount of levels in each game, that overlap is pretty glaring.
So those similarities mean that will find you manipulating coloured "lockable" blocks. And there are puzzles that require you to launch Patty around the level in a specific way in order to access the little nooks in which the Hooligans hide. And there are puzzles that see you corralling an enemy into a situation that will kill it and unlock a door. The exact solutions might have changed, but if you've played the original game then you already know how to solve these puzzles, and it's short and unrewarding work to do it again.
There are some new flourishes that show the real potential this sequel should have had. Water redirection puzzles are a great example of this, as they take a mechanic that didn't exist the first time around and force us to master it. There are also some new blocks that either need to be burned away or extinguished before Patricia can pass, but neither of them are actually used in any interesting way, and they won't force you to reconsider any of the strategies that worked in the first game.
That's the problem with Mighty Switch Force! 2. In the first game, we had to learn how to solve these puzzles, and working that out was a fun exercise in lateral thought and forward thinking. Minor wrinkles aside not much has changed here, so there isn't much thought required to get to the solution, though this won't be an issue for new players or particularly big fans of the first game. Despite this, there really should have been more done with the water mechanics and new enemies, because this sequel often feels like a level pack that doesn't even change up the levels very much.
Some of the issues with the first game carry over as well, such as a camera that whips around when you change direction, making it difficult to keep certain enemies and obstacles on screen when you're trying to figure out what to do with them, and the small number of levels means you'll see all of the content rather quickly. The par times are nice to aim for, if you have speed-running in your blood, but apart from that there's not much to keep you coming back.
It's not a bad game by any means, but it is relatively disappointing. The cutesy approach to the character design is as fun as it ever was — and will make this game just slightly embarrassing to play in public — and the soundtrack is great. The controls are tight, but the level design feels slightly uninspired and the new mechanics alternate from feeling underused to being completely unused.
Still, the timing couldn't be better, as running around with a firehose spraying the Hooligan sisters down is a perfect summertime activity, and the addition of a hidden baby in each level makes for a certain comic moment that never gets old. It just feels like a lesser retread of the original, and in a series known for innovation, that feels a bit half-baked.
Mighty Switch Force! 2 delivers a fun experience that we have come to expect from WayForward. The light-hearted charm of the original is completely intact, with cutesy graphics and great soundtrack lending significant flair to the overall package, and fans of the puzzle style and par times pursuits will get good value. The problem, arguably, is that the experience is a bit too similar to its predecessor, with some of the puzzles feeling like straight retreads aside from some notable but underused new elements. If you haven't played the original this won't be a problem, but if you have there's not much new to see here; but if you liked the first title the odds are good that you'll enjoy this again.