Short But Sweet
I must say, though, Mighty Switch Force (MSF) ended up being a bit different than what I had anticipated. From the bits of preview material I'd seen, I was expecting something along the lines of a Metroidvania. In the end, MSF actually has more in common with Mega Man, though there's definitely more of a focus on the puzzle elements than crazy hard platforming.
MSF is broken up into 16 separate incidents, and you need to capture the criminals hiding in each level. WayForward is a bit presumptuous, offering no instruction about the controls. However, there's not too much to contend with here, and a little experimentation will see you a master of the controls in no time.
The first couple of incidents are pretty straightforward, and the main mechanic of switching platforms in and out of existence is intuitive. You'll know what you need to do right away. By the third incident, however, WayForward is already beginning to throw some incredibly clever gameplay at you, and it just keeps getting better from there.
There's been a good deal of talk about par times, which are listed for each incident. Personally, I didn't feel pressured to complete levels within their par times during my first playthrough, and truly, it would be near impossible to do on most levels your first time through.
Unfortunately, there's very little reason to suffer through achieving par times for all levels, as I believe your only reward is a new title screen. That's cool and all, but hardly enough reason to try and beat the pars.
Luckily, the levels are just plain fun to play through, and if you were into SNES gaming back in the day, MSF is a great throwback to that era. For me personally -- with having to redo certain incidents several times -- I'd say the game offered about five hours of play my first time through. But I'll definitely be coming back to this one here and there.
Visually, this is about as good as 2D (in 3D, of course) gaming gets. MSF is gorgeous, end of story. The animations are smooth, the sprite design is pixel perfect, and personally, I love Wayforward's sexy yet harmless art style. The 3D effect is tasteful and not overdone. Seeing 2D layers of parallax in 3D like this is just fantastic.
And if you've frequented any forums related to the game, surely you've noticed quite a bit of talk regarding the game's soundtrack. It's an awesome collection of techno pop that fits wonderfully alongside the gameplay but is equally enjoyable on its own.
It's a shame, therefore, the game doesn't offer a sound-test area or any other notable unlockables. I know it's only $6, but there's so much to love here in terms of audio and visuals, it would be nice to have the opportunity to enjoy those elements outside of gameplay. Besides, unlockables are always the best incentive to keep you coming back for more.
In spite of these criticisms, Mighty Switch Force is an excellent neo-retro experience. The gameplay is WayForward at the top of their game as developers, and the production values are through the roof -- stellar stuff. Next time, though, I'd rather pay double the price for more incidents and some real unlockables. Make it happen, WayForward!