WayForward is a giant, sugary, hot mess of flamboyantly colorful cartoons with half of their mascots looking like they should be on cereal boxes. I imagine the creative minds behind most of their games lying on their tummy tums, next to their race car beds, with a crayon in one hand and a Power Ranger figure in the other. Itís obvious that the men and women of WayForward, want to make games that they, themselves would have wanted when they were ten years old. Their childlike giddiness is the most contagious, psychological illnesses this world has ever, and hopefully will ever know.
Their most notable, and most critically acclaimed attraction in their rainbow marshmallow theme park is Mighty Switch Force, released on the 3DS eshop. In this game, you play as a policewoman, who must use the power of poorly implemented game mechanics to put adorable, blonde haired crooks behind bars. The story is as much as you could (or should) hope from a WayForward game. Itís a cute plot for a cute game.
The poorly implemented game mechanic mentioned in the last paragraph is the ability to switch blocks from hollow to solid and vice versa. This mechanic is conceptually perfect. Itís vague enough for a level designer to have a field day of fun, inventive ideas with it. Itís so perfect it makes me jealous that I didnít think of it first. Thank God, Satan, and everything in between that this game doesnít have a level editor, for if it did, any and all goals I hope to to achieve would be immediately forgotten because that's all I would ever do.
The goal of each level is to find and ďcollectĒ five women who have escaped from prison. Doing so requires you to solve brain numbingly simple, mini-puzzles. These puzzles are tied loosely together by wide open rooms, with a tracking device on the bottom screen pointing you in the right direction. Roughly eighty percent of said puzzles consist of leading a bomb enemy to a breakable block and then shooting the enemy, which then explodes and destroys the block. Sometimes there are cannons which you can shoot them out of, to add variety to the levels. This variety is entirely superficial, however. Itís the same puzzle done in a slightly different way each time. Since Itís obvious what you have to do, it shouldnít even be called a puzzle, itís just a thing that you do.
There are times, during these ďpuzzles,Ē where you stand in one spot, just waiting for the enemy to walk to where you want it to, and then pressing the switch button. Itís unclear to me at times why this game is even a sidescroller when they could have just remade most of these segments for the iphone by removing the character and having you tap the screen for switching the blocks. It would have complemented the puzzle designs a lot better and would have made the game a lot faster. Imagine, if you would, Cut the Rope, remade for home consoles, in which you have you manually control a character, and have it walk up a flight of stairs to cut the rope. The candy would then fall onto another rope at the bottom of the stairs, which you would have to walk down again, cut the rope, and have the candy fall into the dragons mouth. Was that boring to read? I hope so! Now you understand whatís wrong with these puzzles.
The other, entirely different, puzzle in this game is leading a giant turtle enemy into a trap, which opens a door. If this sounds exactly like the bomb puzzle mentioned in the last paragraph, thatís because it is. The only difference is that instead of destroying a block, youíre killing a big blue turtle. This superficial variation between puzzles is meant to make you feel like youíre doing more than you really are. It might as well be considered a form of psychological manipulation.
The repetitive nature of the game makes it feel like one big tutorial level. A tutorial is meant to let the player understand and get accustomed to the game mechanics before they are required to use these mechanics in interesting, difficult levels. That is what the majority of the game was like. I will admit that this game did eventually pick up and use these mechanics to create some fast paced, exciting levels. This didnít happen, however, until level twelve out of twenty one. That means that over half the game is used for tutorial levels. They were easily some of the best tutorials in any game I've ever played. They were so good, in fact, that it almost felt like I was playing a real game a couple of times.
After the forty five minute tutorial, the game decides to do a complete one eighty and starts focusing its levels on quick, moment by moment level design. Itís fun, exciting, and organic. These levels require a skill in both platforming and the switch ability, which was exactly what I was hoping for, from the second I started the game. Itís a mystery to me why it took so long for the game to get good. Forty five minutes might not sound like a long time, but on a game that takes about an hour and a half to beat, it becomes a long forty five minutes.
Then, after finally seeing what could be done with the switch mechanic, the next level starts off with a stack of breakable blocks that requires, not one, but several bombs to destroy. Itís as if the game finally worked up the courage to go swimming, dipped itís foot in the water, and then got scared and ran back to play with its one and only toy. This segment actually made me a little bit sad. I sort of wish that I had stopped playing after the twelfth level (the good one) so that Iíd at least be left with a positive, upbeat, hope that the rest of the levels were as good. I played them. They werenít.
Of course, the gameplay wasnít exactly my soul reason for buying the game. While the gameplay in WayForward games are okay, the cartoony style is what makes me want to play them. Mighty Switch Force doesnít really do this very well either. Even though it is a very bright, colorful game, the art direction lacks character and just looks very unenthusiastic. When I look at this game, all I think of is ďwell, thatís a game.Ē
Was that the only level I liked in the game? Of course not. The majority of the game, however, is bland, repetitive, forgettable garbage. After beating the game for the first time and unlocking the gun which, essentially solves the puzzles for you, and the levels are stripped down to their core, the feeling of emptiness makes me sick to my stomach. The best word to describe this game is "empty." The game is just empty.
Mighty Switch Force is one of the saddest games I've ever played. That is to say it makes me sad to play it. All motivation to experience, create, or learn anything is lost when I play this game. Whatís so upsetting is the obvious care and hard work that was put into this game. They were really, really trying, and it shows. Unfortunately, the lack of excitement ruins any good aspects about it. Everything is so smooth, with nothing being entirely wrong, but nothing being very good either.
Mighty Switch Force is as about as fun as drinking vitamin water through a wooden straw.