It's fast, frenetic, and nearly flawless in its delivery. The PSM bar has now officially been raised...
PlayStation Mobile has had a bit of a slow start, but thanks to some great games offered for free as part of a recent promotion and a fairly constant push of quality games, PSM is quickly turning into a platform every Vita owner should be noticing. Games like Atomicom’s Switch Galaxy are a perfect example of what PSM is currently capable of handling: full 3D designed levels with fast moving gameplay running at a smooth as butter framerate.
Switch Galaxy is an edge of your seat infinite racer that requires quick reflexes, perfect timing, and $2.49. It caters to gamers looking for a quick gameplay fix while also providing a fairly lengthy experience with a dollop of Survival mode for that endless replay value. This game could not have hit the PlayStation Store at a better time for me, because I was just telling another PSM developer how I myself wanted to make an infinite racer where the object was to get as far as you can without hitting an obstacle.
I dove right into “Start Game”, looking a lot like a story mode or campaign mode would. In the first area of the map all the levels play out like introductions to the many obstacles of the game, interlaced with a completely passable story. Gameplay is extremely simple: there is no “gas” button, the ship will just go as fast as it can. To increase speed you drive over boost pads. Hitting any obstacle will slow the ship down. The object is to reach each of the game’s 24 waypoints within a specified time limit.
Steadily as I progressed through the campaign, the difficulty increased while introducing me to new enemies, ramps, and color-coded barriers that can only be passed through when a matching pass is collected immediately beforehand. The difficulty spiked in the final three areas where levels had multiple paths to take and plenty of boost pads pushing the top speed of gameplay to somewhere around WTF! Finding that ideal line combining boost pads with other game-changing pickups was how I found myself really enjoying Switch Galaxy.
Whenever I got through a level really fast, hitting as few of the obstacles as possible, that mission would be awarded with a gold star and the path on the map would become gold. Going back and forth would be required to efficiently gold-star the entire map. Another pickup in the game looked like gold coins but were simply called credits. The in-game credits could be spent on ship upgrades such as shield, density, dexterity, acceleration, and boost. There are also ship skins available for purchase.
Survival mode is advertised as infinitely challenging and never ending. Simply avoid every disaster and every enemy in the game at a progressively challenging pace. Take damage just once and it’s Game Over. I challenge the notion that Survival mode was programmed to continue raising the difficulty into infinity given that the “campaign” mode does end eventually once you’ve reached the final destination. It’s more than likely that the higher levels in Survival mode are simply impassible by human hands. Leaderboards is all Survival mode really needs to be future proof on PSM.
The controls in Switch Galaxy are quite impressive, offering not just responsive front touch screen support, but also quick d-pad and shoulder button support. I discovered a way to use all three for quickly changing lanes to the right, and the dpad with L button to quickly move left. This trick seriously came in handy during one of the final levels. There is no motion controls or analog stick controls and I’m actually okay with that. The touch screen or physical buttons can also be used throughout the static menus.
Problems I had with Switch Galaxy are few and easily excusable. Though it would be nice to instantly replay missions I’ve successfully completed to try again for the illustrious gold star the first time through the campaign, a “Jump” option becomes available after completion. Otherwise, the game forces you to trace back your steps and to replay old levels, then come back again over all those levels to return to the furthest point you previously reached. And back tracking across levels does not mean the tracks are reversed unfortunately. Just beat the game first, then a “Jump” option will become available when selecting further waypoints.
Right now, Switch Galaxy is the most well rounded quality PlayStation Mobile game I’ve played and is primed for my 2013 PSM Game of the Year. It’s fast, frenetic, and nearly flawless in its delivery. The PSM bar has now officially been raised and I can’t wait to see what devs like Atomicom will come up with next.
A copy of this game was purchased for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
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