Switch Galaxy Ultra

There's a touch of the mobile about Switch Galaxy Ultra.

It's something about the simplicity of it all. Resembling a WipEout-style racer, but stripping away all the tricky steering and cornering from its game, the focus here is purely on switching between lanes to avoid obstacles - a setup which mobile gamers should be all too familiar with.

And indeed, despite its sci-fi trappings, this one's got more in common with Crazy Taxi: City Rush than it has with WipEout 2048.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Simplicity and purity are often perfect accompaniments to addictive gameplay experiences, and that seems to be what Switch Galaxy Ultra is aiming for.

But that rigidity takes a little getting used to.

Here's a game which looks every inch the flashy, futuristic racer, but actually casts you as what's essentially an intergalactic tram driver, sticking strictly to prescribed tracks, tutting as you shift across to avoid troublesome roadblocks.

Flick the switch

In the story mode - a procession of levels attached to beautifully-drawn but ultimately throwaway comic panels of exposition - you play as Vince Vance. A gruff Brit, veteran racer, and all-round Jack the Lad type, he's actually an oddly charming bundle of cliché.

A minor quibble, though: the text on the comic sections appears in a ludicrously tiny font on the Vita's screen, making it a squint-worthy challenge to read. Doubt anyone's going to be too upset at missing out on that, mind.

But all you need to know about the story is that Vince harvests Tantalum, a valuable resource which allows you to access any point in the galaxy instantaneously (read: open up new areas and levels). And that's where you come in.

About halfway through each lane-switching, barrier-dodging level, you find yourself flying through a swirling vortex, hoovering up Tantalum orbs.

There are ten for grabs on each stage, but thanks to the fast pace and odd perspective - this is the only part of the game which has you moving freely in a 3D space - you'll often find yourself missing a couple.

As if that wasn't frustrating enough, each time you bumble into a barrier you're not protected against (more on that later) you lose one of your Tantalum stash.

Completing a level with a full quota of Tantalum is tough, then, and dead satisfying to boot.

Breaking bariers

The tracks in Switch Galaxy Ultra are absolutely chock-a-block with barriers, though, to the point where it's nigh-on impossible to avoid them all. And this is where the game's most interesting dynamic is called into play.

The barriers are each differently-coloured, you see, coming in rather snazzy-looking yellow, green, red, and blue variations. But there are items along the way which give you the power to bypass a certain number of one colour without losing resources or momentum.

And, further adding to the mobile feel, there are little microtransaction-esque boosts you can purchase before starting a level - that's with in-game money, you can put the pitchforks down - which also grant you immunity to a single collision with a colour of your choice.

You can either hedge your bets by grabbing a couple of Barrier Passes for each colour, or you can pay a little extra to get more information on the level before you plunge in.

This gives you a percentage rundown of how frequently each variety of coloured barrier appears in the level, allowing you to prepare more effectively for the task ahead. It's a smart system.

Galaxy's end

Overall, Switch Galaxy Ultra has some pretty smart ideas. And, when it all clicks into place, it's a fluid and enjoyable experience.

However, over the long haul, it can begin to feel somewhat pedestrian for a game about piloting a sci-fi mega-ship.

Switch Galaxy Ultra

If you're after another WipEout, best give this one a swerve. If you want a clever arcade game - and aren't too fussed about a story - then fill your boots
Matt Suckley
Matt Suckley
Achingly contrarian. Proud owner of an N-Gage and a PSP Go. Matt spends most of his time writing about indie games of which you've never heard. Like that one, yes. Matt is an English student, and largely terrible at games. Go figure.