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Jun 18 2013

Review of Mighty Switch Force! 2

msf2_main[rating=4]

For as much as I like my 3DS I really never use the “3D” part of it, with most games it gives me a headache and it always feels like just a completely pointless gimmick. Yeah I know the standard fanboy argument “if you hate the 3D you can just turn it off and also I’m an asshole” but the cheapskate in me hates not using the feature and the thought of processing power being wasted on it, making for lesser games overall, really grinds my gears. But leave it to WayForward to justify the unjustifiable (they did somehow manage to revive Double Dragon and Bloodrayne after all) with a series that I can not only play with the 3D cranked to full blast but makes me want to as well. I sadly missed the first entry when it was fresh but the second just came out so let’s sit down for a review.

It's hard to see in a screenshot but the layers of the background separate and scroll beautifully.

It’s hard to see in a screenshot but the layers of the background separate and scroll beautifully.

So for those who didn’t play the first game, the way they justify the 3D is with a block switching mechanic where with the push of a button you can cause certain blocks to push into and out of the background. Having the 3D on not only makes it look really cool when you switch the blocks in and out (especially when combined with the parallax scrolling going on in the background) but allows you to better discern what blocks are and aren’t in play. That said they really do make a lot of use of the 3D just in terms of visuals, the block switching, the parallax scrolling, and even some cheesy enemy-cracking-the-screen stuff that makes that paddle-ball scene from House of Wax look subtle. The reason this all works and manages to not give me a headache like every other 3DS game is because the game is rendered in good old-fashioned 2D graphics, this makes the layers of the screen really pop out from one another while still remaining sharp and visible. Of course this all wouldn’t be possible without a fantastic visual style but 2D visuals are WayForward’s specialty so no worries on that front, we get a crisp colourful world that feels like Megaman crossed with Sailor Moon.

On that note, let’s talk about the story. There is none! Ok I’m maybe being somewhat disingenuous but seriously there is no described story, all you have to go on is the action and you’ve just got to derive context from it. The premise (as far as I can discern) is that you are a curvaceous blonde fire fighter, wearing essentially the same outfit as the cop from the last game, who must save other curvaceous blonde women from a massive fire that has taken over the city filled with nothing but curvaceous blonde women. It’s dead fucking simple but I had no complaints with that sort of thing back in the NES days and I have no complaints with it now. That said I will say it is somewhat odd that this city is filled with nothing blonde busty anime women, put simply I think the art director behind this game must have a “type”.

Later those pipe blocks also become switchable leading up to some absolutely devious puzzles.

Later those pipe blocks also become switchable leading up to some absolutely devious puzzles.

This change of occupation though does allow for some new and interesting twists to the gameplay. Replacing the gun with what is essentially a fire hose means that you can’t just fire shots straight ahead anymore, water starts off as dribble and quickly lengthens out to full arcing stream once the pressure builds which obviously greatly affects trajectory and such. Also firing water instead of bullets is a factor though it will still kill any enemies you come across because monsters, as we all know, are water-soluble. The biggest way this new weaponry is used though is in the platforming with mud, oven, wood, and pipe blocks which all require the influence of a little moisture to make things work, also there’s fire everywhere but generally it’s more of a scene setter than an actual hazard. Overall it’s the same basic formula as the first game’s but they have varied things up enough to keep this from feeling like just a repeat of the first game. Also of note is the difficulty, this game requires both some strong thinking skills to figure out the ideal path through the levels as well as masterful timing to able to execute on said path. It starts out easy enough to teach you the basics but at around level 7 things get kicked up a notch and just keep escalating until the final level. This is a good thing mind you, the game is rather short at only 16 levels that run (without deaths or failures) only about 3-6 minutes a piece, so having them be hard enough to make me spend a good hour on the rougher ones gives the game some extra depth. The game also provides you a bit of extra incentive to keep you replaying those levels in the form of nigh impossible par times to beat and hidden babies to save; assumedly if you manage to achieve both those extra conditions for each level you unlock something cool though my slow thumbs won’t be hitting that goal anytime soon.

Oven blocks quickly reignite and will become the bane of your existence.

Oven blocks quickly reignite and will become the bane of your existence.

As always the sound design is top-notch, keep in mind you have Jake Kaufman on the music here and it was his awesome Double Dragon Neon score that won our Best Original Soundtrack Award during last year’s Beardies. While not as iconic as that score, MSF!2’s music has that same feel to it with a similar sort of ’80s jam vibe going on though with a lot more video game flavour. It’s probably most reminiscent of some of the better music from the Sonic the Hedgehog series with their being lots of synth and a good mix of an industrial danger and upbeat enthusiasm to everything. Put simply, the man knows what he’s doing and it’s another soundtrack of his that’ll easily find its way into my regular music rotation. Another thing to note in the sound design is the little bits of VO in the game, it’s all very happy and carefree and gives the protagonist most of her character. It’s just little quips now and then and while they are generally just very video-game-y exclamations they’re delivered with such enthusiasm that it really perks up the overall energy. My favorite line by far is whenever you “save” one of the babies I mentioned earlier by just giving them a hearty boot off-screen and as they go flying off the side she yells after them “YOU’RE SAFE!” in a delightfully cheery tone that makes me smile every single time.

Just having a game that finally allows me to use the 3D on my 3DS makes me happy enough but the fact that it’s also a relentlessly cheery and fun platformer is just icing on the cake. While it is definitely on the short side, especially if you’re the type who doesn’t like to replay games, that is negated somewhat by the high yet well paced difficulty and the attractive price of only $6. Mighty Switch Force! 2 gets a 4 out 5 stars and I can happily recommend it to any fans of WayForward and just good platformers in general.

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