Format reviewed: Commodore 64
Publisher: Gremlin Graphics
Developer: Simon Phipps
When I first spied Switchblade in my local computer game store, I knew it was akin to finding my very own Megan Fox stuffed inside the belly of a sofa. The graphics were gritty, the gameplay smacked of classic arcade run-and-gun action, and the front cover showed a guy gearing up to stick the business end of a shank into a metal lizard – all elements that told me this was something I needed in my life immediately. So, I handed over my cash to the chap behind the counter and trotted home, anxious to boot up the game and have my mind well and truly blown.
Created and developed by Simon Phipps, the brain behind Rick Dangerous and Wolfchild, Switchblade certainly didn’t disappoint. It was made for Atari ST in 1989, and later ported to the Amiga, C64, Amstrad and Speccy. From the moment I saw its cinematic intro I was hooked.
Switchblade’s hero, Hiro, was tasked with venturing through a seemingly infinite number of underground caverns to retrieve 16 scattered parts of a sacred and powerful artefact called Fireblade. The gameplay was a nice mix of platform, exploration and side-scrolling beat-’em-up, all wrapped up into one good-looking package – one inspired by Japanese animation and post-apocalyptic cinema.
The most memorable elements of Switchblade were its scale and length, and its unusual but perfectly workable combat system. Unlike conventional side-scrolling fighters – in which you simply stab at the fire button to make your character do the same on screen, or do so in tandem with a joystick push – Switchblade added a chargeable power meter that allowed the player to hold down the fire button and unleash a concentrated kick so powerful it could smash brick walls and enemy faces as if they were constructed out of wafer.
As you’ve probably gathered, I’m a bit of a fan of Hiro’s sword-reclamation adventure. It struck a chord with me back in the day. The mix of platformer and atmospheric run-and-gun game felt remarkably fresh for its day.