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Game Review #194: Unit 4 (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B.

Developer: Gamera Interactive Publisher: QubicGames Category: Platformer, Adventure, Multiplayer, Party Release Date: 03.15.19

Price (at time of review): $14.99

Buy Unit 4 from the Nintendo eShop here.

Action! Adventure! Platforming! Unit 4 from developer Gamera Interactive and publisher QubicGames flips, smashes, swings, and phases its way to the Nintendo Switch today, and it’s something of a doozy. It’s an 8-bit styled, very retro-inspired, hard-as-nails action-platformer that combines the ridiculous challenge of old-school platformers with some modern quality-of-life improvements to ease away a lot of the frustration those old games could cause. That’s not to say Unit 4 is without a flaw or two of its own, but overall, it's an action-packed good time.

Whom-o is Robbing Doomo?

One day, right after their rigorous training exercises which they definitely always remember to perform, Unit 4 is contacted by Boss and informed that their home planet, Doomo, has been occupied by an unknown alien force. Unit 4 touches down on Doomo and becomes embroiled in a conflict that will span their known galaxy involving ancient artifacts and tons of platform-based combat. The story is fairly thin overall; there aren't really any character arcs or anything to really sink your teeth into, but it is pretty fun. The writing is sharp and clever; managing to recreate the bland style of many retro platformers while injecting it with genuine humor that keeps things interesting and amusing.

Fantastic Unit 4

The single-player campaign consists of some pretty brutal action platforming levels that players must navigate while switching between four playable characters; the titular Unit 4. Blue is an acrobat who can slide along walls and double-jump. Red is your team’s Hulk; he can smash through or push along many obstacles. Green has a grappling hook allowing him to hang from platforms or enemies. Yellow is a ghost; he can turn intangible and walk through enemies to stun them, as well as certain traversable walls. All four characters can defeat enemies by jumping on top of them, Mario-style, while Red’s smash action and Green’s grappling hook can destroy them as well. The action is fast and brutal; be prepared to die a whole lot. Luckily, respawn is instantaneous and you have unlimited lives, so there’s that. You respawn at your most recent checkpoint, and while I would have liked a few more checkpoints per level because of how bad I sucked, I think in general they were spaced out nicely along each level.

The action is fairly well-crafted, but for a few minor, but fairly consistent, issues. First of all, the camera doesn’t pan down as fast as the action moves along, meaning you often can’t see where you’re going to land until it’s too late. It’s one thing to not be fast enough to avoid a spike pit; it’s another thing entirely to not be able to avoid the pit because you didn’t see it until it’s too late to do anything about it. Second, the hit box for killing an enemy and not dying yourself when jumping on enemies seems to be kind of inconsistent. I can’t tell you how many times I landed on an enemy’s head and then died anyway; it was very frustrating. Sometimes I died, but so did the enemy, leaving me wondering if I hit them, why was I dying? Mostly I just tried to take enemies out with Red’s dash-and-smash ability, but that wasn’t always an option. Like I said, respawning is easy and fast, and the checkpoint system means you’re never replaying a ludicrous amount of each level, but it was an annoyance.

Planetary Exploration

There are a ton of different worlds to visit in Unit 4. Some of them are the game’s main setting, where the story advances and the serious platforming stuff occurs. But there is a Mass Effect-like exploration aspect to the planets, as well. While some are story-based, some are just one-off side planets where you can find mini games, decorations for your ship, or just amusing skits and/or eulogies for video game retail. Oh, planet R33T-T4IL, we will miss you when you’re gone. Speaking of retail, you collect coins throughout each mission and some mini games which can be spent at shops to buy alternate costumes for your characters and decorations for your ship. The alternate costumes definitely don’t infringe any copyrights (wink, wink), but should nonetheless be familiar to seasoned nerds.

Bring a Friend

Unit 4 can be played solo, cooperatively, or competitively depending on the mode you play. The mini games can all be played competitively, but you can also play every mission cooperatively if you want. Honestly I found it to be a bit of a burden; the level layout didn’t seem to change that much to me, which just means two different people have to surmount the same ridiculous challenges. If one player dies, the other can keep going, but the first player doesn’t respawn until both players are dead. Since only one instance of each character can exist at one time, you have to constantly switch characters with your friend to tackle obstacles. Plus, if one player gets too far ahead, the second player just dies. I found co-op to be a lot less fun than either playing it solo or competitively.

4 Units, 8 Bits

The retro-inspired look of Unit 4 is perfectly Mega Man-ish from top to bottom. The music is upbeat and up-tempo, which accentuates the action nicely. The graphics are well-rendered; showing off a definitively retro inspiration, while still retaining a level of detail that is undeniably modern. The character models are full of personality and smoothly-rendered animation; including each of Unit 4’s members having a jumping pose that will be very familiar to fans of the Blue Bomber. The art direction of Unit 4 is a retro game lover’s dream.

Four Good Reasons to Play

Unit 4 is an epically challenging action-platformer. The levels and gameplay mechanics are well-crafted enough to allow you to determine the ideal way forward in most cases; sometimes you may even find multiple solutions to the same problem. The mechanic of switching between characters is well-implemented and simple to understand, but like everything about Unit 4, it is difficult to master. The visual and audio designs of the game are superb; they perfectly recreate the look and sound of old-school action-platformers like Mega Man. The different planets you can visit offer plenty of variety in terms of both gameplay and story to keep the game feeling fresh for its duration. I can take or leave the game’s co-op mode, but that’s a fairly easy issue to forgive when overall Unit 4 is a blast to play.

Score: 8/10

Buy Unit 4 from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided by Keymailer

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