With no Starfox game yet available on Switch, Manticore: Galaxy on Fire is a welcome addition to the library, and it thankfully manages very well to scratch that itch for the forseeable future.
Starting out life as IOS title Galaxy On Fire 3: Manticore, the game we have on Switch today has been ripped apart and reassembled to have none of the micro-transactions of the mobile title, has been fitted with controls making the most of the system and new story features to round out the package. Manticore: Galaxy On Fire works beyond it’s roots and makes the most of the Switch to deliver a competent and enjoyable experience that sci-fi genre fans may lean towards more than others due to a focus on deep storytelling revolving around pirates, politics and betrayal with enough decent voice acting to carry the narrative as well.
You start out as an anonymous pilot caught in the crossfire of pirates when you’re taken in by the crew of a space hangar, the Manticore itself no less. Quickly you’re assisting on escort missions for foreign diplomats, assisting drone repairs to space craft and of course this is all covered with a healthy dose of space based dog fights. The game has a really satisfying feeling of motion, whilst giving you enough freedom around it’s levels to actually take advantage of it. While most missions will explicitly tell you to head towards/save/shoot the displayed target, once this is done you are also given a chance to fly freely throughout the level you were in to find collectibles which will aid in upgrades & buying of new equipment. The missions themselves are fairly varied throughout but they do feel quite short, possibly a hint at their smartphone origins and the time and resource based monetisation system it once had. Load times are certainly not quick enough to offset this either, but the post mission open world sections do help to alleviate this.
Mechanically the game runs incredibly smoothly, with a constant 1080p 60FPS in docked, with 720p 60FPS in handheld, though the models themselves aren’t especially detailed and enemies are prone to pop-in as well. There’s a varied range of environments with different colours, architecture and enemies to keep you visually entertained as well. The controls will feel at home to anyone who has ever played Starfox, with barrel rolls and the inverted X/Y axis all available from the outset. During fights I never felt to slow or underpowered either, with the steady influx of power ups rewarded after each mission always giving you a new toy to experiment with whilst controls feeling smooth enough to not make repeat attempts at missions a bore. Though the selection of weapons and ships that steadily unlock are all fairly generic sci-fi fare, so whilst I was kept playing, I was never particularly blown away by any specific mechanics or awesome new design.
Whilst the voice acting and story can come across a little bit on the cheesy side, they are clearly born out of a love for the genre and would feel right at home in an episode of Battlestar Galactica. The narrative also goes to great lengths to build a world with it’s own language, with players soon having to get used to terms such as ‘Glow’ or ‘The Shattering’. So if this looks like your sort of fair, rest assured there is actually an engaging and well constructed story here to keep you playing through to the end. With a huge array of characters to be introduced to and normally quickly blow up fairly soon afterwards as well.
With no Starfox game yet available on Switch, Manticore: Galaxy on Fire is a welcome addition to the library, and it thankfully manages well enough to scratch that itch for the foreseeable future. Great controls, interesting environments and a fantastic effort put into narrative make this a deep and rewarding package for people in need of a space shooter fix. However, the slightly slow and bureaucratic story may not be for everyone, while fairly standard mechanics never peak the interest either, with perhaps anyone overly familiar to the genre likely to find nothing new or executed well enough to make the title stand out.