When Mighty Switch Force! released on the Nintendo 3DS back in 2011, it became somewhat of a sleeper hit. Displaying Wayforward’s flair for originality with a dash of eccentricity, it soon spawned a sequel, a spin-off title and its very own HD remaster, all in the space of just 4 years. Now, the series has been brought together on Switch in a collection that fans of the series will adore – and at a price newcomers can feel comfortable parting with.
For the uninitiated, Mighty Switch Force! is an action platformer very akin to Mega Man, with a particular focus on puzzle-solving. You play as Officer Patricia Wagon, a straight-laced keeper of the peace who must round up a group of escaped Hooligan Sisters scattered throughout each level (referred to in the game as ‘incidents’). Equipped with a special Siren Helmet, Patricia is able to switch blocks in and out of the stage, creating platforms with which to explore the area, along with multiple means of dispatching enemies and ultimately reaching the Hooligan Sisters.
The blocks themselves come in various types, each of which assist you in specific ways. The basic yellow blocks simply switch in and out, creating platforms for you to traverse. Pink blocks propel you across the stage in different directions, and are often laid out in ways that create chains of movement, allowing you to fly around the stage at great speeds. Finally, red and blue blocks have the ability to lock into place, so for instance, if you want to switch out the red blocks but leave the blue as they are, simply stand on the blue blocks and they will lock themselves.
Learning how each of the block types work doesn’t take long at all, but some of the stages are so fiendishly laid out that you’ll undoubtedly spend a good deal of time scratching your head, wondering how you might reach that last Hooligan Sister. Crucially though, it never feels too difficult or unfair, and there’s a great sense of accomplishment once you beat a particularly tricky level. What's more, each level displays a 'par' time that encourages you to finish within a certain set time. These are purposefully quite challenging, so it gives you plenty of incentive to play each level multiple times, gradually chipping away at your completion time. One thing's for certain: speedrunners will absolutely relish this challenge.
Mighty Switch Force! 2 is very much like the first game, except here Patricia Wagon has switched (ahem) out her police uniform for a firefighter get up. Instead of the basic blaster equipped in the first title, Patricia wields a powerful hose that shoots out water across the screen, which is perfect for clearing any fire or enemies blocking your path. Additionally, the varying water trajectory caused by the hose allows you to target enemies above or below you – something that you wouldn't have been able to do in the first game. Otherwise, the puzzles here are familiar yet different enough to provide a decent challenge if you’ve mastered all the stages in the first game.
The third game in the series – Mighty Switch Force Academy – was previously exclusive to PC and is more of the same again, except this time the stages themselves are all contained on one screen, with the character sprites shrunk down to about a quarter the size of the previous games’ equivalents. If anything, having all the action take place on one screen makes it a bit too easy for the most part as you can clearly see what path you need to take. Nevertheless, the levels are well designed, and with the ability to jump off the bottom of the map and reappear at the top, it does makes you rethink your strategy quite a bit.
Finally, Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition is an HD remaster of the first game. We’re appreciative that Wayforward has provided the option of which visual styles to go for, but we think it might perhaps have been more appropriate to give the player the ability to switch between pixelated graphics and HD graphics on the fly, rather than keeping the two styles completely segregated in their own games. Having said that, we found that the pixelated graphics look great in handheld mode, but the HD remaster looks fantastic whilst in docked mode, so having the two experiences separated may well be a positive thing, depending on your preferred play style.
What is disappointing with this collection, however, is there’s an obvious lack of any kind of supplemental material. We’ve been spoiled with this kind of stuff recently with the various Mega Man Collections, so it would have been great to be able to browse some artwork or listen to the great soundtracks. Alas, you get the games themselves, and that's it, so we feel this is a bit of a missed opportunity.
Mighty Switch Force! Collection is a great way to bring Wayforward’s 3DS series to the Switch that will undoubtedly appeal to both fans of the series and newcomers alike. The decision to separate the first game and its HD remaster is one we’re not fully on board with, and we’d love to have seen some extra content like concept art and soundtracks. Nevertheless, every game included features superb gameplay and level design, making this a collection that every Switch owner should experience.