2D platformers have created a trend to build on simple mechanics, but require precision timing and actions to be brutal keyboard smashing, controller throwing hard levels. Switch – Or Die Trying is no different, being the latest platformer that shines by making you as mad as possible but never being unfair.
Switch – or Die Trying is simple. You are a lowercase ‘i’, who can switch to a capital ‘I’ as needed. Tied to the switching case is a second jump mechanic. This means to double jump, which you need to do regularly, you need to jump and then use another button to switch. Sounds easy enough and early on it feels easy enough. Then it gets harder as the two require precise timing to get enough air to land on an edge.
Added to these mechanics is simple shooting, generally used for destroying specific environmental objects and the ability to stick to walls. These simple mechanics are used to make the simple hard, or at least requiring precision and timing. For example, to make your way up a flat wall you may need to jump out, then switch to jump back into the wall, rinse and repeat. This is relatively easy but having to use different commands to complete the task makes it significantly more difficult and repeated actions require good rhythm, which can be very annoying if you jump out twice right at the end.
The bulk of the gameplay is pretty stock standard for 2D platformers, so it’s hard to talk the game up too much in this situation, even if the switching itself is a glorified second jump with a unique animation. Having said that, a 2D platformer that is hard which also works well is awesome and Switch – Or Die Trying excels there. The levels aren’t long, which makes it that much more frustrating on your twentieth failed attempt to overcome a simple challenge in front of you.
The cleverest thing the game does is it also ties elements of the environment to the switching mechanic, such as a series of platforms disappearing and appearing as you switch. When you first encounter this element its relatively easy but quickly starts requiring timing as you need to use switch jumps to get to a changing block, which requires estimating the number of switches required so you can start with it in the right state.
The game has one minor flaw. When your character spawns then drop down, if you hold right then jump quickly the I wouldn’t jump and falls to its death. This happened regularly but only in that specific scenario so it’s easy enough to work around. On the positive side, there is plenty of replayablilty. There are stars to be collected for each level, which can be earned by beating the level, finding the ink drops throughout the levels and beating it in certain times, the latter of which can require spot on timing.
Aesthetically the game is gorgeous, nothing stands out in its style, but the animations look smooth, the whole design looks stunningly polished and swish. The music and sound effects on the other hand are a stand out winner. The youngi makes the sounds of a young child which while it feels like a cheap trick thinking about it, but did lead to feeling invested regularly in the i. The soundtrack is simple and repetitive, good enough to notice, but not so much as to take your attention away from the brutal level design.
Switch – Or Die Trying is a well-polished, good looking, brutal yet fun 2D platformer. It’s different enough to warrant a look by diehard 2D platforming fans, but make sure you remember to use a controller, as it’s significantly more comfortable with a controller than keyboard.
Released: March 2017
Platforms: PC (Windows 7 or Higher)
Developer: Threye Interactive
Publisher: Threye Interactive