Mighty Switch Force! Academy

A game by WayForward for PC, originally released in 2015.
Mighty Switch Force! Academy is a new take on Mighty Switch Force, which stars Patricia Wagon as she attempts to round up the five Hooligan Sisters and toss them back in the clink. In order to accomplish this, Patty is able to use the police siren mounted on her helmet to switch the environment around her, making transparent blocks turn solid and vice versa. Things quickly become more complex as Patty uses the environment to destroy enemies, boost off through the sky, and lock certain blocks in place to make them immune to switching... allowing for some puzzle-based platforming with a bit of shooting thrown in for good measure.

The gameplay in Mighty Switch Force Academy is very similar to that found in the original Mighty Switch Force – and it even includes some of the original levels – except that the screen is zoomed way out, allowing players to view the entire area at once. Backgrounds feature a trippy neon vector aesthetic, as this is meant to be a virtual training simulation for Patty, which also explains the “Academy” suffix in the title. In addition, up to four players can take on the game simultaneously in offline co-op.

The game uses the same sprite art, animations, and tiles as Mighty Switch Force! Hyper Drive Edition, the first game in the Mighty series to offer high definition artwork as opposed to the lower resolution art featured in the 3DS titles. Since the game takes place from a zoomed out perspective, the finer details of this high resolution artwork are not distinguishable during gameplay.

Players can see all of the Hooligan Sisters from the start of the level, and the challenge here is to figure out how to navigate the environment to reach them all. In most levels, there are only five girls, as in the original game; however, some levels feature many more, with an indicator on the bottom of the screen showing how many remain to be collected. Getting them all causes a robot to appear somewhere in the area (usually near the center of the screen), and the player must reach it in order to be transported to the next level.

Each level has a par time displayed in the upper right of the screen, and the game records the player’s best time in each level, but there are no added benefits or unlockables for achieving this par time.

Most of the game’s mechanics are carried over from the original release. Spinning floppy disks restore one unit of your 3-heart meter, googley-eyed puppies act as checkpoints, and red and blue blocks may be locked to prevent them from being phased while you are standing on them.

Phasing blocks into existence in the presence of an enemy causes it to be smashed into the foreground, breaking the “glass” between the player and the game world… and players must be careful not to do this to Patty, particularly in multiplayer.

Purple arrow blocks launch Patty across the screen in a straight line when she phases them from transparent to solid while standing on them, setting up a number of reflex-based sequences where she must dash from one block to the next, altering her course to reach distant targets. In the original game, purple arrow block puzzles could get pretty annoying because the player was unable to see the what lay past the edge of the screen, forcing trial-and-error gameplay as the player repeatedly dashed off into various directions to see small bits of the level.

In Mighty Switch Force Academy, however, the zoomed out levels make these challenges much easier – playing out almost like a level test mode – and this is even more apparent in the Classic levels, which feature zoomed out versions of levels from the original game.

Some new mechanics are introduced along the way, including the ability to warp around the environment when moving off the left or right sides of the screen, or when falling through an opening in the floor, which warps you back to the top of the screen. This adds some extra complexity to puzzle solutions, as players need to consider alternate routes to reaching level objectives. The player’s bullets are able to travel the full length of the screen, but they do not wrap around on the left or right edges, even though enemies are able to pass through these transitions.

Some screen wrapping puzzles are built around infinite falling loops where Patty and/or the Hooligan Sisters continue to fall forever. This sets up some challenges where Patty needs to fire off well-timed shots to destroy enemies (getting another chance as she falls past them again) and others where she must time her jumps to grab falling girls out of the sky, since dropping down the shaft results in her moving at the same speed.

The game also offers some gravity-flipping puzzles where Patty can stand inside a clear block and perform a switch that reverses gravity for herself and certain enemy types, allowing for more complex puzzles as the path forward may be above her, and Hooligan Sisters may be sitting on the ceiling with an otherwise impassible row of spikes on the floor below.

Other new mechanics include teleporter pads that preserve your momentum, allowing Patty to use purple arrow blocks to dash through the sky and transport herself elsewhere in the environment. Extra large transparent blocks alternate between three states instead of two, and players must cycle through them to make their way through the environment without trapping themselves and getting crushed. And some levels have the girls hidden in breakable blocks, making their positions unknown to the player at the start of the level, and requiring that exploding enemies be triggered nearby in order to access them.

Mighty Switch Force! Academy was developed by WayForward, a California-based company founded in 1990. The developer’s catalogue consists mostly of licensed titles, including Contra 4, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, DuckTales: Remastered, The Mummy Demastered, and the Adventure Time games. In 2009, the company reimagined the NES game A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Blobolonia with their Wii release of A Boy and His Blob. WayForward is perhaps best known for their original IP’s, which include the Mighty series and the Shantae series.