With the advent of Exa-Arcadia and its swelling line-up of indie games, I’ve recently become much more invested in the world of independent development. There are a lot of really, really special games out there that unfortunately don’t always receive all the praise that they deserve.
With that in mind, I’m on a mission to highlight some fantastic indie games (arcade or otherwise) through reviews on my blog. Today, I’m starting with the immensely charming Switch ‘N’ Shoot for the Nintendo Switch. (Fun fact: Switch ‘N’ Shoot is available for arcades, as well. Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to try that version someday.)
With the usual formalities out of the way, I think it’s high time I review this gosh darned game.
Switch ‘N’ Shoot
Developer: Matt Glanville
Publisher: Matt Glanville
Release date: April 10, 2019
As tiringly cliché as it may sound, I simply must to invoke an age-old saying: Switch ‘N’ Shoot is easy to learn and difficult to master. Although the gameplay requires the use of just one button—I kid you not!—therein lies a deep well of challenge.
The fire button controls your fire and your direction of movement. Tap once to go left; tap once to go right. Your ship continues to slide in its direction current (going off one side of the screen and returning on the other, Pac-Man-style) until you need to blast and anyway. Your goal is balance the tension between switching and shooting—blasting enemies while avoiding death.
To the uninitiated, this style of gameplay may sound novel yet basic. Fortunately, there are additional layers to the gameplay that spruce up the experience.
Switch 'N' Shoot is structured in “sectors”. As you zoom through space, you’ll collect powerups that enhance your firepower. After collecting your sixth powerup, you’ll enter “hyperdrive” and progress to the next sector. If you miss a powerup, you’ll regress to the previous form of firepower. (You can also collect a shield shooting a blue alien and catching its item drop. The shield can be a real savior as your progress deeper into the game.)
Every fourth sector (I think), you’ll face an “Incubator”, the game’s boss. This dude is one tough customer, and I’ve only had the opportunity to challenge it a few times. It’s just so dang hard to reach that point.
Speaking of hard, I like the game’s difficulty curve. The curve is grueling—make no mistake—but it ramps up gradually. Getting higher scores, like anything, just takes practice and patience. A, uh…whole lot of practice and patience.
The scoring system is super easy to grasp: You earn one point for every alien killed and a bonus for each sector reached. If there were ever a game designed around chasing scores, it’s Switch ‘N’ Shoot. The pursuit of higher numbers is beyond addicting, people.
In my eyes, Switch ‘N’ Shoot is barrels of fun all around…even if I’m not good enough to get all that far in it.
The base game, to my understanding, can last as long as you want it to—or rather, as long as you can survive. If you like “jump-in-and-out experiences” with no foreseeable end, the content provided here should be more than enough to satisfy you.
As for in-game “stuff”, there’s not a lot. There’s only one ship, one standard enemy type, and one boss type. The content that’s here is fun, for sure, but don’t expect any twists or turns. After all, Switch ‘N’ Shoot is meant to replicate the feeling of playing a classic arcade game.
That being said, there’s a lot of fun things to fiddle with if you decide to stick with Switch ‘N’ Shoot in the long run, all found within the “Extras” series of menus. In the “Options” menu, you can adjust the volume, toggle the music on or off, toggle the border art on or off, and toggle TATE (vertical) mode on or off. The availability of these basic presentation choices goes a long way.
In the “Colours” menu, you can customize the palette, the color preset, the ship color, the alien color, the effects color, the powerups color, and the background color to your liking. I think it’s really, really cool to have all these customization options available, as you can accutely tailor the look to your own liking. (Go ahead and shake up the aesthetic if you ever tire of the default.)
There’s also a “Stats” screen that details your lifetime kills, misses, switches, accuracy, pilots loss, pwerups, powerups missed, shields, shields missed, hyperdrives, and Incubators killed, as well as the farthest sector you’ve reached. I’m very proud to proclaim that, as of this writing, I’ve lost 454 pilots.
For the utmost accessibility regardless of region, you can also select one of seven languages: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian. You can also take a gander at the credits if you feel so inclined.
The surface simplicity of Switch ‘N’ Shoot betrays and absolute bevy of awesome features to play with at any time. While I can’t say I personally have messed with most of the features—I’m one of those freaks who just likes my games to look as they were intended—I can’t deny the monumental importance of plentiful options to those who utilize them.
Also, you can toggle TATE and palette on the fly during gameplay, so that’s pretty rad.
As I went over briefly in the “Gameplay” section, the controls (well, the “control”) are fairly simple to pick up and function brilliantly. When I first started the game, it took me a few tries to get used to switching and shooting, but now, it feels like the most natural thing the world.
You actually have quite a few choices for how you interact with the game. To switch and shoot, you can press any of the eight face buttons—yes, that includes the directional buttons—or tap the screen.
I found that, when I’m playing in TV mode, my preferred method of input is either just the A-button or the use of the left and right directional buttons. Rocking my thumb back and forth between the two horizontal directional buttons makes me feel more “in control” of the ship’s movement, so it’s easier for me to wrap my mind around the core mechanic.
In handheld mode, I operate much the same way, tapping the left and right sides of the screen in lieu of directional buttons. Playing in handheld mode almost feels like playing a mobile game—the key difference being that I genuinely enjoy it.
Overall, Switch ‘N’ Shoot controls like a dream. What more can you ask for from a game that uses one button for everything?
Switch ‘N’ Shoot has this sort of “stripped to basics” pixel art look to it. Some would argue it’s almost too simplistic—as I mentioned earlier, there’s no variety in enemy types—but I’d argue that Switch ‘N’ Shoot commits to its aesthetic and runs with it.
I also mentioned the variety of color toggles at your disposal, which is nice. Yet it would be remiss of me not to highlight the many wonderful visual effects sprinkled throughout the game. I love the way the way the “stars” streak across the backdrop. I love the way enemies burst into pixels. And weirdly enough, I love the way the score counter “bounces” each time it ticks up.
On the presentation side of things, I have to give serious points to Switch ‘N’ Shoot for allowing us to play in both horizontal and vertical orientations, even in TV mode. I happen really adore the love border art used to fill the pillar-box space in horizontal mode. It’s almost reminiscent of Atari 2600-era box art in that it brings the comparatively limited in-game art to life. (Something tells me that was exactly the intent. Mission accomplished.)
Switch ‘N’ Shoot does, in fact, boast a great deal of personality. There’s this in-game narrator guy who will say goofy stuff like, “CROD is going home in a body bag” and “I’m learning to make spreadsheets and stuff.”
The only aspect of the presentation that I dislike is the random name generator. When you snag a high score and land on the leaderboard, Switch ‘N’ Shoot documents your achievement with a randomly generated “funny name” as opposed to a personalized moniker. This is a tad annoying when I’m trying to remember if a certain high score was my roommate’s or my own.
Beyond that, the menus look nice, and everything’s really intuitive. The best word I can use to describe the visuals is “utilitarian”. The game looks totally kick-butt—don’t get me wrong—but I think it was designed more so with practicality in mind. Flashy and over-the-top this is not.
Going in, know that Switch ‘N’ Shoot wears its minimalism on its sleeve. Whether you like this or not is 100 percent going to be a matter of taste.
The audio is just as retro-inspired and effective and everything else. The sound effects, in particular, are loaded with punch. In my eyes—or should I say ears?—these effects add a lot of weight and intensity to every action. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it every time I blasted an enemy or my own ship exploded into oblivion. The sound design here is just plain brilliant.
The actual “soundtrack”, comprised of just three songs, is also quite good. The chip-tune aura is just about as authentic as can be, and it really works. I especially like the title screen music, as it has this sort of beauteous, adventurous vibe to it. Before you even start the game, that song tells you that you’re in for some deep space travel. If, uh…if that makes any sense.
While I also really like the energy and beat of the in-game song, I will admit that it can get a little tiring hearing that single song over and over again when you’re shooting (heh) for a high score. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a super solid ditty—but having a few more songs in the rotation would’ve done wonders for repeat play. (Imagine if there were only one song you heard each time you played Splatoon Turf War. It would get repetitive, and that’s what I’m trying to express here.)
There’s also a unique theme for the aforementioned “Extras” menu. This mellow romp makes for easy listening, which is part of why I’m listening to it as I type this very paragraph.
That all being said, I give the sound and music a huge thumbs up. Any repetition is softened considerably by the brief, pick-up-and-play nature of the experience, because it’s not likely you’ll play the game for hours at a time. (Side note: Wouldn’t it be wicked if we got a CD release for these three songs? Actually, I’m probably the only one who thinks that.)
Also, if you really don’t like the music, you can just turn it off. (To which the in-game narrator will protest: “Don’t like my jams?”)
Switch ‘N’ Shoot is darn fine game, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for everyone. You’ll have to assess beforehand whether you’ll be content with its bite-sized, arcade-inspired style of gameplay. If think you will, in fact, be fond of such, you’re in for a real treat.
At somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 to $5 (depending on where you buy it), Switch ‘N’ Shoot was practically a no-brainer for me. I knew for a fact that I’d derive some sort of enjoyment from the purchase, and what I ended up with was so much more.
Bottom-line? I strongly encourage you to give Switch ‘N’ Shoot a fair shake. And maybe keep it real while you’re at it, yeah?