Mighty Switch Force: Perilous Policing

WayForward have made some great games over the years — and not just in their flagship Shantae series.

One of their most interesting and enjoyable series of games comes in the form of Mighty Switch Force!, which provides a delightful blend of platforming and puzzling with plenty of that distinctive WayForward charm about it.

And it’s easier than ever to jump on board with the series today, thanks to the release of Mighty Switch Force! Collection on Switch, Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. So let’s dive in and take a look at the first game in the series.

Actually, Mighty Switch Force! isn’t the first Mighty game that WayForward put out; there were two predecessors, known as Mighty Flip Champs! and Mighty Milky Way. Unfortunately, these are not anywhere near as easy to get hold of today; the DSiWare service for Nintendo DS that originally distributed them shut down in 2017, and the PlayStation Minis version of Mighty Flip Champs! is only available on the North American PlayStation store for PS3 and Vita… while those still exist.

As much as I mourn lost WayForward games, we’re here to talk about Mighty Switch Force!, though, so let’s focus on that for now — since despite being the third Mighty game, Mighty Switch Force! very much became something of a series in its own right over the course of several games.

The first Mighty Switch Force! was originally released for 3DS in December of 2011. In May of the following year, an update was released for free that added five new levels as well as a few quality-of-life features such as the ability to quickly restart a level. And in 2012, WayForward released Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition for Wii U; this was a complete remake of the game featuring high-definition visuals rather than pixel art. We’ll look at that specific version separately another time — today we’re concerned with the original game, or more specifically its port to modern platforms as part of the Mighty Switch Force! Collection.

In Mighty Switch Force! you take on the role of Patricia “Patty” Wagon, who is a cyborg police officer tasked with rounding up the Hooligan Sisters, an all-female group of criminals who have escaped captivity at the game’s outset. Patty is armed with two helpful tools: a Pellet Shooter gun, and a Siren Helmet, and supported in her efforts by her mechanical armour General Gendarmor (who extracts her from mission zones upon the completion of her objectives) and U.T.D (Ugly Twitching Dog), who acts as checkpoints in the levels.

The objective in Mighty Switch Force! is simple: locate and capture the five Hooligan Sisters in each level, then find General Gendarmor in order to leave. The actual execution of this objective, however, becomes gradually more complicated as you progress through the game.

Mighty Switch Force! takes its title from its main unique mechanic: Patty’s ability to use her Siren Helmet to “switch” blocks between different states. When they are transparent, they become solid; when they are solid, they become transparent. It is implied that this “switch” involves them moving “in” and “out” of the background, since standing in front of a transparent block and then switching it causes Patty (or an unfortunate enemy) to be blasted “out” of the screen, shattering it.

Initially, the game sticks to this simple concept; you’ll find yourself having to switch blocks in order to clear paths to the Hooligan Sisters, and sometimes needing to switch in mid-air to create a platform for you to land on. Thankfully, the action freezes for a moment while the blocks are switching, so there’s a little margin for error; however, as the game progresses, timing becomes more and more critical.

After you’ve got to grips with the basic blocks, the game introduces other types for you to deal with. Initially, you’ll come across purple cannon blocks, which do not defeat Patty or her enemies when they come “out” of the background. Instead, anything caught in them while they move “out” will be shot in the direction of the arrow indicated on them. In this way, Patty can reach areas she can’t get to using her normal movement abilities — and in later levels, she’ll need to deliberately send enemies in particular directions in order to prepare a path for herself.

Towards the end of the game’s short runtime, you’ll also encounter blocks that “lock” while Patty stands on them. These don’t change their state when you use the Siren Helmet, so you’ll need to pay attention to what else is going on around you in order to make sure you’re not blocking yourself into a corner. The final levels in the main game make heavy use of these, and require a certain amount of experimentation to figure out the optimal way to progress!

Mighty Switch Force! won’t last you a long time, but it’s a highly enjoyable experience worth having. Henk Nieborg’s fantastic pixel art is complemented by an energetic electronic soundtrack from Jake Kaufman, and the entire game is just bursting with personality. The level designs are creative and interesting, making varied use of the game’s straightforward mechanics and presenting some challenging puzzles without ever feeling unfair — though that’s not to say that you won’t need to practice a bit on some of those later stages where proper timing is more important.

Some longevity is added to the game through the addition of a couple of unlockables: beating the base game provides you with the option to use the more powerful Mighty Shot weapon, while beating all the “par” times for the game’s levels rewards you with an alternate title screen featuring Patty in her casual clothes. The Mighty Shot helps significantly with your efforts to do this, but given how tight a lot of those times are, this is a challenge best left for those who particularly enjoy the absolute precision required for speedrunning games.

Mighty Switch Force! is a great example of WayForward’s strengths: solid game design, personality-packed characters and beautiful presentation. While its smaller scale and origin as a budget-priced download-only title for a handheld likely means that it will never enjoy quite the widespread appreciation and acclaim that Shantae does — though 1/2 Genie Hero did include a special Mighty Switch Force!-inspired alternate game mode — it’s an experience worth having.

And hey — sometimes it’s nice to play a game where the end is reachable in a few hours instead of several weeks or months!

More about Mighty Switch Force!

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