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Mighty Switch Force preview – the 2D platformer renaissance continues

From what we've seen recently, it looks like the 3DS eShop is shaping up to be a great source for 2D platformers. That's in large part because developer WayForward (responsible for the outstanding Shantae, as well as Contra 4) is putting its expertise in the genre to good use with Mighty Switch Force, a 2D platform shooter with a healthy dose of puzzles.

Above: Radar on the bottom screen shows the direction of the nearest fugitive you're hunting

The game stars a robot police officer named Patricia, who sets about rounding up fugitive members of the hooligan sisters gang. A big part of the experience of Mighty Switch Force is about discovering how to use the game's mechanics for yourself, so there's no tutorial or explanation whatsoever as we dove into the first level.

It wasn't difficult figuring out how to jump (B button) or how to shoot (Y button), but the A button did something strange, only emitting a seemingly-useless blue signal-like effect. What the…? It became clear soon enough though – each level has certain types of blocks that phase in or out when you hit A, and all kinds of puzzles are built around switching between the phased-in (solid) and phased-out (non-solid) platforms.

Some puzzles are about pure platforming, like hopping from one block to the next by phasing-in a block in mid-air as you jump toward it, but as we played through a few levels we saw the puzzles get increasingly trickier. For example, purple blocks send you (or an enemy) flying when you pass over one and switch it on, and some puzzles involve careful timing of your switches to place yourself or an enemy on a hard-to-reach platform.

Above: Some puzzles involve getting enemies to line up over phased-out blocks and then quickly hitting the A button to crush them

After playing the first six levels, we were thoroughly impressed with Mighty Switch Force's mix of puzzles and platforming. It helps that the game is absolutely gorgeous too, with modern 2D art that still has an old-school feel (not to mention the chiptune-inspired soundtrack by Jake Kaufman, which you can sample here). What we played so far wasn't that intense difficulty-wise, but because of the lack of hand-holding and explanations, we definitely felt a few satisfying "ah-ha!" moments when figuring out some of the more complicated puzzles. Look for our full review when Mighty Switch Force becomes available early next year.

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