Disclaimer alert – I haven’t always been a big fan of the “shmup” (shoot em’ up) genre of video games. Growing up, I found the genre to be an obnoxious bore of arcade titles that were either too easy or too hard and made no attempt to be good for anything other than killing time.
Imagine my relief to see a shmup for the Nintendo Switch that aims to be a little different. Dimension Drive is a comic book-styled space adventure from the small indie team 2Awesome Studio. In it, you play as Jack, lone survivor of her race and pilot of the legendary ship Manticore. The Manticore’s ability to teleport across dimensions is really the heart of what makes this game work. Both dimensions are laid out in a split-screen format and you will help Jack and her trusty A.I. sidekick V.E.R.A. navigate through both dimensions as you fight off swarms of alien fighters named Ashajuls. The goal? Play through various worlds, help Jack find out the origin of the Dimension Drive and uncover the truth about what happened to her people. Sounds simple enough, right? I’m happy to report it’s not.
The neat thing about firing up Dimension Drive on your Switch is that you really get a heavy dose of comic book elements from the main screen to the cutscenes and even the gameplay. This game has style everywhere. And while I found some of the cutscenes to be a bit longer than I was expecting, the mere fact that a shmup has them is impressive and encouraging. Dimension Drive also gives you a quality story mode that you will spend some time playing through. This is where you’ll be progressing through worlds, looking for data cubes to upgrade your ship and fighting off the evil Ashajuls while you use that unique teleportation system to your hearts content. It’s a deep, challenging mode that rewards you time and time again with an intense experience.
Speaking of story mode, if you head into the game settings on the main screen, there’s a way to turn it off. This is for those of you who really don’t want your shmups to have lengthy cutscenes and you just want to hop into the action. If you are just looking to shoot some bad guys for five minutes, I can see the allure of having this option available. It’s a credit to 2Awesome Studio for recognizing that people might want to enjoy this game in a variety of ways. In my humble opinion, however, they really went above and beyond to try and appeal to everyone with the inclusion of a coop mode.
Coop mode in Dimension Drive is where I found the most rewarding experience during with my time with the game. You and a friend are following the same story line but instead of having to worry about teleporting dimensions solely on your own, now you rely on someone else to help you fight off Ashajuls swarms. In the process, you’ll both be attempting to snag data cubes, grab power ups for boss fights and not get in each others way while you teleport back and forth across dimensions. It’s rewarding, challenging, intense and tons of fun. You’ll be constantly wanting to come back for more and more.
The game also has a few other neat, little features like a pilot’s log, V.E.R.A. has her own scouting report on enemies that you can access from the main menu and the four difficulty levels available for you to play range from “normal” to “insane.” I felt like each level of difficulty provided a unique challenge but was never unfair. It was actually a breath of fresh air. Even the boss fights feel more manageable than I was expecting. Hard, yes. But in a good way. Tip of the cap to 2Awesome Studio for that.
If I had one complaint about the game, it would be that I didn’t really find myself caring all that much about Jack and her quest. She’s not the engaging hero you expect to see in a story mode campaign. After a while, I did find myself skipping through the cutscenes of her dialogue. She wore me down a little and it’s probably the one part of story mode I enjoyed least. Ultimately, Dimension Drive is a unique shmup that smashed through my reservations about the genre. It has depth and unique gameplay elements that keep it fresh and challenging. If more shmups played as well as this one plays, I just might rethink my feelings on the whole genre.
Thrilling coop mode
Comic book style looks great
Cutscenes can drag a little
Jack is fairly boring
I’m aware that Dimension Drive found itself on Steam and the Nintendo Switch on December 7 after a Kickstarter for the game was unsuccessful a few years back. At the time, I imagine developer and publisher 2Awesome Studio were utterly disappointed. However, in retrospect, it might have been for the best. Dimension Drive feels at home on the Switch. While the bright, comic book-style action is vivid in handheld mode, the game really picks up when you dock the Switch and play coop mode with a friend. I’m not sure there’s anything on the eShop quite like it. It’s absurd how many times you will die trying to learn the mechanics of the game only to continue plugging away at it. Why, you ask? It’s barrels of fun. And at a $12.99 price point, it’s an absolute steal for Switch fans.
The most elegant of tomato soups. Cheap, hearty and delicious.
A review code was provided by 2Awesome Studio for the purposes of this review.