What is it and who made it? An unhealthily addictive single-button arcade shmup from game designer Matt Glanville.
What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? Switch ‘N’ Shoot is currently in Early Access on Steam for $1.99. You can also get it DRM free on Windows, Mac, Linux and Android from itch.io for a starting minimum of $1.24. The beta’s available on Google Play as well.
How much did we play? For a shade over an hour, though I’m constantly tempted to jump back in for another round despite having other games that need playing. My current high score is up to 432, reaching the fourth sector where there’s a boss fight I’ve yet to conquer. I’ve killed 4448 aliens and performed 6765 switches with an accuracy rating of 43% and 83 failures.
Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? The game is in a beta state so some players are bound to encounter some bugs or imbalances. Fortunately nothing out of whack has happened to me so far. The game’s so simple there isn’t much room for error.
Why should you play it?
• One Button Does it All: Switch ‘N’ Shoot has the look and feel of a classic 8-bit arcade shooter, but the twist here is that the moving and shooting is all controlled by a single button–any button, whether it’s on a gamepad, a mouse click, or your favorite key on the keyboard. Your ship automatically scrolls horizontally across the bottom of the screen while aliens drop down from the top in random patterns. Each button press fires up at the descending extraterrestrials while also immediately changing the scroll direction of your ship. One point is scored per kill, with bonus points awarded for advancing deeper into space. Crashing at any point along the way causes an immediate game over. The game’s a true test of snappy reflexes, enemy and movement anticipation, and making quick decisions about when to take risks and when to play it safe and be more evasive to preserve your ship until there’s an opening to go back on the offensive. Even once you think you’ve mastered the game, it smacks you down before you can score even a single kill.
• Powered Up: Collecting powerups is crucial to surviving long enough to post a masterful score. Mixed in with the alien swarms, coins with plus signs on them periodically fall down the screen. Each one collected enhances the power of the ship’s blasters, initially increasing the size of the bullets before advancing to two levels of spread shot, and then finally triggering an auto-laser mode at maximum level where the side walls, which normally allow the ship to scroll through and come out on the other side of the screen, flame up to box you in until the next coin is collected to activate hyperdrive to the next sector. Advancing further into the sector progression amps up the challenge (including boss fights) but also spawns blue aliens that drop a special shield powerup capable of absorbing a single hit, affording you the luxury of one mistake before the next blow finishes you off. However, there’s a catch to the whole powerup deal. If at any time you let a coin go by, the ship’s power drops a level. Catching them all is never a bad idea, but at the same time there is a strategy to sometimes allowing one to pass, especially for alternating between the two spread shot phases when it’s easier to pile up a lot of kills.
• Fresh Lick of Paint: Switch ‘N’ Shoot is barely more advanced than an Atari 2600 game, technically speaking. However, one of the neat background features is the variety of options for customizing the sprite color scheme for the ship, aliens, effects, powerups, shield, and backdrop. And if you pay close attention while tinkering around with the settings, the option descriptions are good for a chuckle. Additional visual pop comes from the sweet border illustrations on both sides of the screen which sort of emulate the look of cabinet artwork. Playing this game is like stepping into an arcade time machine.
Parting Thoughts: Switch ‘N’ Shoot feels straight out of the coin-op arcade golden age. I don’t play–or cover, rather–very many Early Access projects, but Switch ‘N’ Shoot is one of those rare gems that’s so damn good as is that I have no problem giving it a huge thumbs up. It also helps that the core game is basically content and feature complete; the developer’s just tinkering with final bug fixes and tweaks as well as Steamworks goodies like achievements and online leaderboards, which will only make the game all the more enticing. I say buy it now before the price goes up at final release. Think about it this way: two bucks is a whole lot cheaper than what you would have spent obsessively pumping quarters into “just one more go” had this game come out in the arcades back in the day.
What is Indie Quickie? It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.
Disclosure: A Steam code for Switch ‘N’ Shoot was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s developer.