At this time of this preview, please note that Switchcars is still in an Alpha stage of development. A follow-up final review will emerge when the game has been finished.
Rogue-like games seem to be more prevalent than ever. They’re very easy to pick up because of their arcade nature, such as simple controls and colourful levels/enemies. The idea of fixed level design, coupled with a random distribution of enemies and pickups is certainly appealing too.
On a “good roll” it can imbue confidence within the player, supplying him/her with more powerful weapons. Yet on the flip of a coin, it’ll present more dangerous enemies or increase the scarcity of health recovery items.
Perhaps it’s that element of chance, the thrill of finding better equipment, hoping to stay alive longer.
To this end, a lot of them feel very punishing throughout, regardless of what you receive. You’ll die many times and re-spawn with the knowledge of what items worked best in a previous life. Or perhaps you’ll take away new tactics to use against seemingly unbeatable bosses.
Playing the game
Switchcars is a unique beast in that you’re not exploring a dungeon of monsters with a randomly generated maze. Instead the game places you in the 1950’s on a fairly busy stretch of highway. Armed only with a simple grappling hook, the objective is to capture whatever vehicle may be driving past and proceed from left to right until you reach the next time period. Each “year” is divided up into numerous environments, such as fields, drag race tracks and outer space.
All of these environments include many different vehicles. They vary from the speedy and insane, to the ridiculous yet helpful
How many to choose from? We’re talking almost one thousand in total, consisting of numerous sub categories such as cars, vans, trains, helicopters and aeroplanes.
Why are we going from left to right? What’s our motivation?
We’re travelling to the future, while avoiding alien space slugs. Huge green monsters that’ll threaten to crush you unless you can drive, run or fly fast enough to escape. Luckily each time period has occasional “safe zones”, areas that are void of these beasts, giving you precious time to find and stock up on whatever vehicles may be around.
Pick wisely because you’re only got three inventory slots to store them. You’ll come to rely on that standard hatchback from the 80’s, and find the train you stole from the year 2010 turns out to be immediately useless without an electric rail. Aircraft come in all flavours too, from simple bi-planes, to crazy orbital rockets.
After you make it through each year’s set of locations, you’ll be transported a year ahead into the future. The difficulty will ramp up a fair bit when you reach the twenty-first century, but by then cars and aircraft will be that much faster. However losing your character’s entire health bar will give you “game over” and set you back a year or two, depending how far you’ve travelled.
You’re not alone in this quest and by that I mean you’ll find plenty of power ups that you can slap onto your current vehicle. Some are pretty straightforward, such as simple fuel tanks to increase your vehicle’s fuel capacity. Others will give you caterpillar tracks for your transport, enabling it to be taken off-road. You can even find a train style pantograph, enabling your car or truck to utilise overhead power cables found over electric railways. But the most valuable power ups come in the form of drive through repair and refuelling stations that’ll fix or refill all of your current stock.
The game handles very well indeed, utilising both controller and keyboard controls. Handling each vehicles brings it’s own challenges along with it, plus it’s very simple to switch to another car if you don’t like the handling of your current vehicle. The variety in vehicles is quite deep too. Over time you’ll learn to hate the handling of some cars and faster aircraft requiring some twitchy manoeuvring to stay alive. Trains offer a simplistic turn-free ride, while the wacky animals can take next to no damage and become more of a liability.
The environments are well thought out, with numerous static obstacles such as buildings of an urban or rural nature to bring your ride to a crashing halt. Other hazards may include deep mud or even lava that’ll instantly incinerate anything besides aircraft. You’ll need a quick hand on the trigger to change vehicles when coming to the end of the road and onto the next, as most of the time road types won’t link up. A railroad can morph into a river, requiring a perilous attempt to capture a fast-moving boat if you’ve not already got one.
As mentioned earlier in this preview, a full review will follow-up when the game is complete.