Unquestionably, the allure of the mobile gaming arena has lit a fire underneath many developers, causing them to shift focus from traditional console and handheld development in hopes of creating the next hotly anticipated title for phones and tablets. With the exception of porting over a title in their renowned “Shantae” platforming franchise, however, indie darling WayForward Technologies have been rather late to the party in our pockets.
Enter Mighty Switch Force! Hose it Down! — a spin-off of WayForward’s Mighty Switch Force! titles on 3DS, and their first wholly original mobile offering. With Hose it Down!, though, do they spark our synapses, or find themselves full of of hot air? (Oh please God someone save me – they won’t let my family go unless I keep making these puns.)
The Mighty Switch Force! entries on 3DS are all about madcap multitasking in the form of split-second platforming challenge interspersed with clever control of the game’s titular swapping blocks. Hose it Down!, on the other hand, focuses on puzzling of a significantly flatter nature. Across the game’s 25 – or 50 – levels (we’ll get to this later), you’ll commandeer the trusty firehose of Officer Patricia (Patty) Wagon, fighting nasty blazes that have broken out across Planet Land. Sliding blocks containing directional tubes, it’s your job to rapidly guide Patty’s jet stream to cells containing flames, contending with everything from stubborn mud to sneaky cloaked blocks along the way.
WayForward should be commended for preserving the Mighty Switch Force! DNA while cleverly reimagining it for trips to the work and bathroom alike. Rather than risk marring the series’ precise platforming legacy with potentially clunky virtual controls, WayForward focuses on time-sensitive, pattern-driven block sliding, making Hose it Down! feel immediately at home in the palm of your hands. In spite of themselves, each level may seem simple: slide the blocks around enough times, and you can put out each blaze in under a minute! The catch? Looming above each stage is an aggressive “par” time required to earn a coveted star…a par star, if you will.
And herein lies the rub: what for some will shine through as Hose it Down!’s surest selling feature will for others be reason enough to give it a pass altogether. Like the other entries in the Mighty Switch Force! series, this is a game of discrete, learnable patterns; of enduring sometimes unsatisfying repetition in order to taste the sweet satisfaction of a perfect run. Beneath the seemingly multifaceted solutions for each stage lies a golden goose: one perfect pathway for you to find, master, and execute flawlessly. For WayForward fans and those forged in the flames of retro gaming, there are hours of fun to be had with Hose it Down! With that said, if you’re simply looking for a game to pass the time in line or on the bus, don’t count on this one to occupy much of it.
Speaking of which, that aforementioned number of stages is a problematic testament to the growing pains of getting used to a new platform, and to the player paradigm that comes with it. Included in Hose it Down!’s cost of admission are 25 stages, with another 25 unlocking for an extra dollar, and providing access to added challenge and new mechanics. It’s odd to lambast WayForward for charging modestly for their dotingly crafted content, and to wit, that’s not really what I’m doing. To mobile die-hards, however, it’s easy to predict the backlash, and I’ve already seen commenters crying foul at the perceived “bait and switch.”
In a market increasingly dominated by freemium content, there is most definitely still room for premium titles that know their own value, but with this payment model, WayForward feels like they’re hedging their bets to the potential detriment of the player perception. And while I’m of the personal opinion that this pricing scheme allows you to wet your feet before deciding if you want to dive in, and that anyone crying foul should build a bridge and get over it, that’s much easier said than internalized by gamers. Sadly, then, Hose it Down!’s pricing peccadilloes are just as much a case of some much-needed research on the part of the team at WayForward as they are some much needed growing up by audiences of mobile content.
Larger questions of market trends aside, however, Hose it Down! is still a little slice of WayForward’s signature recipe: pixel-perfect, chiptune-infused challenge, ripe for replay. Be aware of what you’re looking for in your next mobile title before downloading, however, or you may walk through the fire and still find yourself with chills.