Beginning its life as Switch on mobile devices, developer Atomicom originally updated the game for the PlayStation Mobile platform as Switch Galaxy. Shortly after, Atomicom knew they could do much more by combining the runner genre with the fast pacing of sci-fi racers like Wipeout and released Switch Galaxy Ultra on the PlayStation 4 and Vita.
Like other games of similar trappings, you aren't given direct control of your forward momentum besides speeding up or down by passing through marked areas on the track. Across 55 levels, you'll be zipping in and out of the multiple lanes that comprise each track, narrowly avoiding colored barriers and even other spaceships racing to the finish. Oddly enough, time has no true consequence in the game, outside of leaderboard bragging, as your progression is gated by a collectible called Tantalum. Hitting a barrier, another ship, or breaks in a lane slow you down, sometimes tremendously, but you'll also lose precious Tantalum for every object you hit. With forward progress blocked without enough Tantalum, you may be forced to replay previous levels.
The problem with collecting Tantalum is it isn't located on the actual tracks where you'll be spending the majority of your time. Instead, you burst through a portal at the midway point and collect as many of the floating Tantalum orbs as you can with full Z-axis movement. The controls are quite twitchy, so collecting all 10 is a bit of a rarity (I think I collected all 10 only a handful of times in the first 20 levels). Each stage only contains 10 Tantalum orbs, making it more frustrating when you hit a bad streak near the finish line and end the stage with only one or two orbs.
At the start of each level you'll be moving slowly, avoiding colored barriers and hazards with ease, and boosting when you can to gradually increase your momentum. Once you exit the Tantalum section, you'll be moving at a blazing speed, making it easier to lose that valuable resource. Later stages become much harder to navigate, adding in items that allow you to pass through a specific colored barrier a set number of times. At times these are easy to miss, and will leave you hurting when all available lanes are blocked by a different colored barrier. Other times you must fly through an explosive that, while blinding your vision momentarily, will destroy all nearby barriers.
In a game that focuses on the sensation of speed, the controls in Switch Galaxy Ultra get the job done. Instead of using the analog stick to move between the lanes, I found it more productive and faster to use alternating shoulder buttons, especially when you have to move back and forth rapidly. Collecting speed boosts, however, can be troublesome. I've discovered that passing over the middle of the speed boost sections won't yield anything, adding to the frustration. Thanks to their close proximity to barriers, entering the beginning portion of the speed zones can be problematic. If this was a design choice, it wasn't made perfectly clear to the player.
Switch Galaxy Ultra includes online multiplayer, even supporting cross-play functionality between the PlayStation 4 and the Vita, but suffers from the lack of an online community. My efforts proved futile, as I was unable to find a single game to join on multiple occasions.
Switch Galaxy Ultra is an evolution of the previous titles from Atomicom, with 60 FPS, impressive visual improvements, and an intriguing comic book-style narrative sequences. The lack of online presence is disappointing, but with over 50 levels there is plenty of game to play through. However, if you hit the progression wall thanks to Tantalum, you may lose your drive to finish all of the levels.Note: The Switch Galaxy Ultra review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided for review.