Switch Galaxy Ultra: Review

The Extra Power afforded to developers by the PlayStation 4 isn’t just good for graphics, you know. Games like The Witcher 3 are using the hardware for scale, building a bigger world than any you’ll have seen in a game before; MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and Destiny are using it to bring more players together smoothly and easily; the likes of Evolve and Planet Side are taking multiplayer to the next level. But this curious little indie follow-up to one of the best PlayStation Mobile games has found another way to take advantage of the power of PS4: pure speed. If you thought WipEout’s top-end classes hit crazy speeds, you’re in for a bit of a shock by the time you fully upgrade Switch Galaxy Ultra’s best ships, you’re in for a thrill ride so fast that blinking is no longer feasible if you want to nail that perfect gold medal run.

Where speedy racers like WipEout can only go so fast with analogue control, the digital, lane-based racing of Switch Galaxy Ultra means that it can really up the pace to eye-melting levels. Your ship slowly accelerates as the course goes on, with boost pads used to refill your gauge for an added burst of speed if you’re feeling brave. Make contact with any obstacle and your pace takes a huge hit, making it crucial to time your lane changes to perfection in order to avoid coloured barriers, traffic, broken sections of track and even incoming fire from enemies, which can bump you into harm’s way even if you don’t take a direct hit. There’s a lot to think about and precious little time to react once you get up to full speed, making a flawless run of a tougher track more about memorising hazard placement and clever use of boost than just hitting the gas and hoping for the best there is a brake button, but to use it is to pretty much sacrifice any chance at gold medal greatness. There’s no shame in feathering it in a maxed ship if it means the difference between a perfect run and a horrible accident, mind.

The colour of the gates takes on a new level of importance once Passes are introduced, effectively offering free passage through one correspondingly coloured obstacle for each you hold. These can be bought before races if you feel you need the safety net but more often, they’re picked up as collectables just before a colourful barricade and you’ll need to quickly react to follow the trail of your chosen tint. Later stages can play dirty with this mechanic at times one in particular has a choice of two Passes followed by two portals, but picking the wrong combination will leave you unable to pass the barriers without having your speed crippled but then again, these later tracks are already pretty memory-reliant when you’re in one of the faster ships anyway. As more and more gimmicks come into play (from shortcut portals to balance-based jumps), your options open up in terms of approach and what you want out of a run one route might be better for earning Credits with which to upgrade your vehicles and stock up on Passes, while another might have off a few seconds and take you closer to that all-important gold time.

It must be said, though, that the unlock system could be a lot better. There’s a total of ten Tantalum up for grabs in each course, with courses unlocked based on the total you’ve managed to bank so far. Trouble is, this currency only appears in the slightly clumsy into-the-screen free flight sections that come at around the halfway point in each race (positioning takes some getting used to here, but accuracy will come with time) and can be lost if you collide with anything on the way to the finish. If you’re just looking to get through to the later tracks (which you will be early on, as only the faster ships are capable of gold times), this renders the first half of the course all but redundant and puts way too much pressure on the latter section. Given that the end is almost always trickier than the start, it’s not uncommon to see your Tantalum reserves take a huge hit before the finish line, making a complete rerun the only way to earn enough to progress. You’ll need to replay races anyway in order to earn Credits so it’s perhaps not the worst thing in the world, but it still feels a little bit misjudged.

There’s a story of sorts, for some reason, but you shouldn’t let that or the dreadful dialogue put you off Switch Galaxy Ultra is great where it matters, which is out on the rails. It’s silky smooth and insanely fast, plus races tend to be short enough that it makes a great pass-the-pad game it’s hard to watch someone else plough through a string of barriers without itching to grab the controller and do better, but it is harder still to keep up with the lightning fast action while fully aware that the eyes of the room are upon you.

If it’s speed you want, you won’t find a faster game on PS4 right now. And for many players, that’ll likely be all the recommendation they need to leap right in and ruin their eyes for fun.


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