When I purchased Switch N Shoot for PS4, I thought I’d be in for a quaint and simplistic shoot em up (shmup) innings. Boy was I wrong! This is a tricky shooter that had me screaming in rage and celebrating achievements in not-so-equal measure. It all revolves around its main game mechanic – you only have one button to press.
Your ship is always moving side to side and the screen of each level is (for the most part) screen wrapped so as you fly off one side you’ll appear on the other. Every time you press a button to shoot, your ships direction changes. This takes an insane amount of time to get used to – partly due to the screen wrapping and partly due to the other difficult tricks the game throws at you. As enemies descend down the screen and shoot at you, you obviously need to avoid things and so you’ll be rhythmically pressing buttons to slalom your way to survival.
Where the extra difficulty comes into play is in the level progression system. Among the enemies are batteries and you must pick them up sequentially to build up your battery charge. Get 5 in a row and your battery charges up and warp drive kicks off. This closes down screen wrapping and the edges of the play area are now walls. You must then collect a 6th battery to clear this to progress to the next level. As you pick up batteries your shooting power increases too, which is handy. Miss a battery and your battery power decreases one point. You must be pixel perfect to get runs in that allow you to progress to the next level quickly as enemies increase over time in the level you are on. Faff and miss two of three batteries and you’ve essentially written your game over. What often happens is that your firepower is overwhelmed by enemy numbers and if they reach the bottom of the screen where you live, they stay there. It is like Space Invaders that way, you have to hope a rare shield pick up comes your way or your weapon upgrades to a burst attack to clear them. You’ll usually die first.
Collision detection is a bit vague at times, adding frustration to an already tricky and difficult game. Progressing through levels offers no bonuses at all except unlocking various retro and garish colour palettes to swap around with. Tate mode is available for those who want it (turning your TV on its side into a long oblong for non – shmup fans) too. Aside from the tricky and harsh learning curve, my main issue with Switch N Shoot is that it’s all over too quickly. Runs take anywhere from a few seconds to few minutes max and enemy types are few and far between. Bosses are challenging and show up every 4 levels to add variation but they usually end your run rather than add real challenge.
Switch N Shoot is a cheeky retro hardcore game that few will appreciate. I’m glad it’s out there and the initial mechanic is unique and sound enough. It is just too hard for most and doesn’t offer enough variety for those who can conquer its challenge.
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