Whatever Review: Mighty Switch Force

Hi. It’s been awhile. Sorry.

A deluge of games hit my face since the beginning of November. Too many, almost. New Zelda, new Mario, new Mario Kart, 10 FREE GBA Ambassador games, Pushmo, VVVVVV, Twinbee (a bit late to this one), etc etc. I have been lost in gaming nerd Nirvana or whatever for almost two months. Adrift in Zelda’s intricate albeit linear environments, mostly.

But, I am back. Happy 2012, you two readers you.

Mighty Switch Force is made by Wayforward, a dev that Ninty nerds love love love. I have never hopped aboard this bandwagon — I found previous Mighty Flip Champs to be a fun albeit mild take on puzzle platforming, while their other titles were not played by me. Mighty Switch Force inspires the same feelings I got from Flip Champs: I’m having some fun, everything looks pretty nice, but… “eh.”

The biggest drawback to Mighty Switch Force is its brevity. Even at rather cheap price of $6 (in comparison to most eShop games), it’s just too short. 16 levels short to be exact, most of them over within 5 minutes. The gameplay resembles a miniature collectathon, with your cop character nabbing six escaped prison inmates and then finding the exit. The “Switch” part of the title refers to blocks that you have to basically turn off and on to get through the levels.

There are charming sprites everywhere, decently well drawn but in a very specific style that doesn’t totally click with me. The 3D adds a fun sense of depth that is entirely inessential to gameplay, with characters popping out of the screen and various layers of background pushed to the back, ala 3D Classics: Kirby’s Adventure (among others). I really enjoy it, although I can understand why it is considered pointless by others.

For the hour or so it takes to get through the game, it is an enjoyable time. I even initially recommended it to others. But I’ve lived with the game for a couple of weeks, and it doesn’t thrill me anymore after completing everything. You have the option of trying to beat levels as quickly as possible (“par times”), so for score attack junkies it could be worthwhile.

+ Nice, detailed sprite work, even if I’m not a huge fan of the style.
+ Level design is consistently engaging.
+ Lack of hand holding is refreshing.
+ Decent fun.

– Short.
– Replay value isn’t quite high.
– Sound effects (ie voice overs) can be annoying.
– Puzzles all revolve around the same two or three concepts.

*** / *****

Review: Tetris Axis

Hi, Tetris! Welcome to my 3DS! I knew you would visit sooner or later!!

Simple stuff out of the way: Tetris Axis is not a terrible game, nor is it an amazing one. It does the classic game design pretty well, and for my $30 has more value than that Tetris Party Live I know you have been nervously eyeing in the eShop for a paltry five bucks.

In fact, I have enjoyed Axis slightly more than Tetris DS. Nerds will know DS as that highly acclaimed iteration Nintendo developed in 2006 because they are probably still playing it. All of the extra “party” modes in Tetris Axis do a great job of simply being entertaining, something I cannot say for more than half of DS’s package. There is nary a dud in the bunch, even if some are more compelling than others.

And to point out the obvious: sure, this new one might not have Mario and Zelda running around in the background like that fan favorite, but something tells me that you are not paying attention to what’s going on behind the tetrominos at level 15 and beyond.

The main thing Axis wants you to know right on the package — and in the scant advertising Nintendo has allowed — is that there are AR MODES! AUGMENTED REALITY TETRIS! YOU CAN PLAY TETRIS ON YOUR KITCHEN TABLE! The downside of this, however, is that it is not particularly fun. Oops!

The 3DS cameras are still shitty, and they still require a bunch of light my seemingly impenetrable cave of a house will never have, so just setting up for a specific Tetris-friendly environment is enough to drive one mad. Once you finally get Marathon mode going, it ends: the pieces are bigger than usual in a smaller field, the requirement to reach the end easily done within a minute or two. Full disclosure — I could not complete a round of AR Tower Climber, that one mode where a stick figure runs up a tower magically growing out of your table or someone’s face via a path of tetrominos you helpfully throw at him. The game could not see my giant AR card even with thirty lamps scattered around it. But, hey! At least it was not as frustrating as my time online!

Which REALLY clumsily brings me to the game’s most glaring flaw: the random online matches are broken. A new item is being trolled about to make matches unfair and pointless — I will call it the “screen switcher.” With a tap of the stylus, one who hates the concept of happiness and probably kitties can switch your beautiful looking blank space to theirs, usually an intentional mess of L pieces stacked on top each other that will instantly end your game and lower your score. To see hundreds of points from your online nerd score go down due to this is absolutely frustrating and wrong, and there is nothing you or I can do about it because Nintendo does not believe in modern technology (patching, online, HD, decent online infrastructure, teleportation).

One of the main reasons anyone gets Tetris for more than $5 in these iPhone days is the online component, and to have it be nearly unplayable is just not an ideal situation. Especially when one considers Tetris Battle — a free game on Facebook that does battles between random people way better with its tiered progression and not totally obnoxious items.

Aside from that, I have already put in around 20 hours without even noticing, so either that is something worth noting or simply reflects the general nature of Tetris: an instant time suck regardless of what version you are playing. However, I have enjoyed my time with Axis, so, I do not know. So confused! Buy it/do not buy it!

+ It’s Tetris!!
+ Most of the extra modes are fun and entertaining
+ Your Mii dances really hilariously on the bottom screen!
+ Local multiplayer is a good time, of course

– Online isn’t kewl
– AR modes are boring
– Nintendo very obviously did not develop this one, so some may take issue with the presentation

***/*****

Review: Super Mario Land

Review is for the 3DS Virtual Console re-release.

Super Mario Land is exactly what you expect, and maybe some of what you didn’t. We have (somewhat miraculously) received new 2D iterations of the Mario franchise in recent years, although the results have been slightly disappointing. New Super Mario Bros. for the DS had almost everything but memorable level design — every area was a mishmash of retro ideas and ideals and left barely an impression; coincidentally it is my least favorite Mario main-game. It’s not terrible, but it’s just nothing special, especially in comparison to the other releases.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii was a lot better but still felt somewhat lazy, with “meh” graphics and weird presentational choices (Arial-like fonts in a Mario game? The Wii-ization of gaming complete). At least most of the levels were fun, and there was some decent challenge.

It’s coming to the point where I’m expecting the lesser experience in the new 2D designs versus the new 3D ones, something a nostalgic twit like me never thought would happen. The 2D Mario of the 90s and before was something always truly magical — every single game was a memorable, genre defining experience.

Super Mario Land just reaffirms this belief over and over again in so many ways. The game came out in 1989 for the original Game Boy, is in black and white, and has only a paltry four worlds with three levels apiece, yet is still so much better than the “New” Mario games.

Memorable music, exciting level design, interesting enemy placement/quirks — this is classic Mario through and through. Better yet, it is one of his rare pre-00s adventures that hasn’t been whored out since the invention of the Game Boy Advance — Super Mario Land was released back in the late eighties, and only just now a second time for the 3DS Virtual Console. There’s a good chance you haven’t seen this game with your own eyes in a long time. Or perhaps ever.

(Well, unless you’re a pirate.)

It’s basically a new Mario game for many of us. And it’s still an interesting Mario game, too — 1UPs are achieved by gathering hearts; stepping on paratroopas somehow leads to them becoming bombs and exploding; Mario’s trademark fireball power also doubles as a pinball that zigzags throughout the stage, bouncing off random obstacles; you’re now rescuing a princess named Daisy (Mario was such a whore); the levels have things like Easter Island statues and caves with hieroglyphics everywhere; etc.

Emulation is spot on with the 3DS. Aside from a lengthy (obviously digital) game manual, you’ll get two resolution options and a quick save feature. The ability to save only makes the game about 100 times easier than it was before, but it’s still nice to have. Sadly, the button placement is a little off — run should be where Y is, not B. This is a minor nitpick and has nothing to do with the game itself, and you do get used to it. But it just doesn’t feel as good as it could have.

If you have a 3DS and even a passing interest in the Mario series, you owe it to yourself to download this game. It’s really short but it’s so fun and charming that it’s easily worth the small amount of time you have with it.

*****/*****