With so many games styled as ‘2D Metroidvania platformers’, any title hoping to make even the smallest of impact these days needs a USP that really makes it stand out from the crowd. A striking art style. An engaging and original story. New and innovative mechanics. Just something. Sadly, just being a decent and enjoyable addition to the genre often isn’t enough to avoid disappearing into the rapidly-expanding eShop void.
This is the problem Omega Strike is constantly struggling with. It’s a game that’s been made just fine. The soundtrack pops with the kind of wistful chiptune vibe that instantly gets your feet tapping, its retro-esque visuals doff the cap firmly at the likes of Metal Slug and the platforming and shooting bits jump and shoot just as they should. The problem is, all those well-made bits are lacking that vital spark that elevates the game above the competition.
There is a certain something Omega Strike hopes will give it that extra sprinkle of magic, but it’s neither new nor the best example you can find on Nintendo Switch. The titular outfit consists of three characters, who you can switch between at the touch of a button to make the most of their unique skills. Sarge is your all-rounder, with a machine gun that has a high rate of fire and modest range. Dex has a shotgun for short-range carnage and can double-jump to reach higher platforms. Then there’s Bear, who boasts a grenade launcher and the power to move heavy objects.
Each one can also upgrade to achieve an extra ability, such as Sarge’s roll, which enables him to move through narrow tunnels to reach new areas. It’s the only ‘thing’ Omega Strike really has to sell itself beyond the open-ended exploration and side-scrolling gunplay, so it’s a little odd that the game decides to remove the ability to switch between your crew early on. You start off so well, switching between your trio of mutant-bashing heroes, only to forced into playing solo as Sarge for a little too long.
Once you do eventually reunite the team, there’s very little impetus to swap between teammates while exploring each level, other than the necessity to exploit Dex’s double-jump or Bear’s bouncing grenade launcher. Compared to something like Broforce (which also uses a character-swapping mechanic) or Not a Hero: Super Snazzy Edition (which sold itself on a growing squad of foul-mouthed killers) Omega Strike’s trio lack any real personality. They’re functional, just not particularly fun.
With no XP bars to fill or special loot to collect (collectables are resigned to gold coins/skulls and red squares that can be used to increase your overall health) or the usual roguelike elements that make runs that bit more intense, Omega Strike too often has to rely on that overly-familiar platforming and shooting to keep itself interesting. Of course, there’s always going to be a certain thrill to filling in a map, discovering new rooms and killing everything in sight, but with very little risk and not much reward beyond spending your gold on gun upgrades, you’re simply left wanting more.
That said, there are some highlights to be enjoyed here. You can explore many of its open-ended 2D levels in any order you like, enabling you to reform your team and grind for gold/health squares at your own pace. Each of its locales (ranging from a lush forest sat atop warren-like caves to a danger-filled mining station) has a unique look, complete with a host of foes to vanquish and a final boss to dispatch. Omega Strike’s personality really comes out in the design of these foes, with everything from chainsaw-wielding mutants to projectile-flinging tentacles all vying to stop the team for good.
The bosses themselves aren’t particularly challenging (you can use health kits and items bought from the central hub of Tumbleweed, and these items don’t disappear even if you die and restart at a checkpoint) but they’re all designed to push you to use the tactics you’ve learned throughout the current level. Again, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and if you’re expecting Mega Man levels of difficulty then you’re likely to be disappointed. Much like the rest of the game, these big bads offer a simple, inoffensive experience at best.
Omega Strike is a fun and enjoyable little 2D Metroidvania with some side-scrolling shooter sensibilities. It doesn’t do anything particularly new or interesting – and its ‘unique’ character-swapping concept was done a lot better by Broforce – but if you’re looking for a modern tribute to Metal Slug that’s fun and challenging in a very familiar way, then Omega Strike is likely to scratch that common itch. Just keep those expectations in check as this isn't the most original or exciting example the genre has to offer.