Switch Galaxy Ultra (PSV) - ReviewXavier Griffiths , posted on 16 January 2015 / 3,495 Views
In Switch Galaxy Ultra you take on the role of Vince Vance, a free-wheeling interplanetary deliveryman. You pilot futuristic ships in order to collect a rare element know as Tantalum for his employer, Dakur Technologies. Though you spend all of the gameplay time piloting ships at fast speeds, Switch Galaxy Ultra is not actually a racing game. Instead, acceleration occurs automatically and your task is to shift left and right between the multi-lane expressway in order to avoid obstacles and maintain your vehicle's seed, but is that enough to satisfy gamers with a need for speed?
You can switch lanes by either flicking the left analog stick, using the D-pad, clicking the L and R shoulder buttons, or tapping the touch screen. Pressing the X button will activate your ship's boost, which can be replenished by flying over boost pads laid out on the track. The square button will decrease your speed and acceleration, although it's impossible to come to a complete stop. I originally used the analog stick for the more simplistic early stages, but as things grew more difficult I came to rely on the dexterity of using both hands on the shoulder buttons.
Lanes can be filled with gaps, which forces you to change tracks. Other obstacles include a barrier that comes in four different colors (red, blue, yellow, and green), for which you need to pick up a special pass in order to travel through unscathed; ramps to jump off; other ships to avoid; and portals that will transport you to different sections of track with multiple possible routes. There are also enemy drones that will blast you with either a red laser, which causes you damage and slows you down, or a blue laser, which will temporarily invert your controls so you will boost when you try to break or zig left when you meant to zag right. Navigating among these various obstacles and traps is initially a simple task, but the level design becomes significantly more inventive and challenging as you go along.
When traveling at blistering speeds Switch Galaxy Ultra becomes a true test of your concentration and reflexes. The sense of speed is remarkable, with various twists and turns and near misses evoking the feeling of being on a roller coaster. Although it has the outward appearance of a racer in reality it's more like a twitch puzzler.
In the middle of each level you will enter a wormhole. Floating in this vacuum you have to position your ship in order to grab 10 floating blue orbs called Tantalum. The physics for these segments are very floaty, and I often narrowly missed out on picking up a valuable piece of this rare element due to a slight, unintentional nudge of the analog stick. Missing pieces of Tantalum comes with consequences, as progress to new planetary routes is sometimes restricted by the total amount of Tantalum you’ve collected. This is the most frustrating part of Switch Galaxy Ultra because you will find yourself replaying earlier levels in order to collect Tantalum you missed the first time around. This feels like an artificial way to pad out the length of the game and each time I encountered such an impediment it would temporarily kill my motivation to continue playing.
You can use credits that you earn or pick up whilst playing the game to purchase items in the shipyard. Here you can buy new ships and skins which customize them. You can also purchase upgrades that affect your ship’s performance, such as increasing its boost capacity or the speed with which it switches between lanes.
Switch Galaxy Ultra runs at a crisp 60 frames per second, with nary a noticeable dip during my entire play time. The background visuals in each level consist of beautiful and varied cosmic vistas populated by stars, asteroids, satellites, and all manner of well rendered space props. The six ships you pilot are also intricately designed and very elegant to observe in action. The game’s futuristic soundtrack complements both these presentational aspects and the gameplay well, with a pulsating techno beat that seems to get more frenetic the faster you travel and more obstacles you have to bypass.
There's also a story of sorts, told through a digital comic consisting of several episodes, but it is rather inconsequential and has no impact on the gameplay. Mainly it deals with the comic cosmic misadventures of Vince as he makes pit stops on various fantastical planets around the galaxy. The artwork and coloring are interesting and the writing is actually quite witty, but the lettering is too small to read on the Vita’s screen and there are irksome loading screens between individual pages.
Additional content includes a survival mode, where the goal is simply to go as far as possible without being hit, and a number of multiplayer modes where up to four players can compete head to head. There are also leaderboards, so that you can compare your performance to those around the world.
Switch Galaxy Ultra consists of 55 levels and will set you back $18.99. Levels typically take between two and seven minutes to complete, and all told I spend around nine hours with the game. As an added bonus it is Cross Buy, Cross Save, and Cross Play compatible with the PlayStation 4 version, meaning you can enjoy the game at home or on the go to your heart’s content. Additionally, a portion of the game’s proceeds goes towards the Cauldwell Children’s charity, which provides support to the families of disabled children in the UK.
So it's certainly not light on content, but it is light in variety. If you sense a similarity to the WipEout series then you are picking up on the fact that members of the now-defunct Studio Liverpool had a hand in crafting the game, particularly the illustrated comic and galactic city designs, but don’t let these superficial similarities fool you; this is not a racing game in the traditional or WipEout sense of the word. That said, Switch Galaxy Ultra does have its moments of beauty and an absorbing sense of speed that makes it worth checking out for any PSV or PS4 owners looking for an intergalactic speed rush.
This review is based on a digital copy of Switch Galaxy Ultra for the PSV, provided by the publisher.
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