Switch version tested
First-time developer xirBX AB has arrived on the Nintendo Switch with their retro-inspired Demolition Crew. Assuming the role of Sasha or Valya, players are tasked with marking each of 30+ buildings as ready for demolition. While seemingly simple enough, this vertical platformer throws in a heaping helping of traps, enemies and just a sprinkle of puzzle solving.
DC, from the outset, could easily be mistaken as a lost game from the NES library finding new life on the Switch. The retro stylings do an admirable job of mimicking the 8-bit wonder with its limited colour palette and blocky pixels. The minimal animations add to the illusion that this was plucked from the lost to time library. Each building its own level. Not a lot of variety in themes or colour differentiate between them as you progressively work your way up to the top to ring the bell. The handful of enemies you encounter at the beginning of the game will be the same adversaries you face as you ring the bell one last time before the credits roll. The same can be said for the traps you encounter. The small handful you are introduced to will repeat themselves albeit in different configurations as you complete your journey. The biggest change to the environment comes when you play the handful of Christmas themed levels selectable from the options screen at the beginning. Here you have a few reskins of other enemies but deal with a lot more snow and ice changing the overall feel of the levels.
Given DC’s retro-roots the control layout should come as no surprise. Players have the ability to jump and swing their hammer. Scattered throughout each level you will come across powerups that imbue special secondary abilities like the beloved double jump and a ground attack, the latter being used to access areas previously unreachable. The jumping, while a touch floaty feels good after a quick comparison to Ice Climber (via NES Online). The later levels do require some precise platforming and DC is up to the challenge. Along with the retro look and feel some of the old school glitches make an appearance. The all too common clipping through a platform is here, but not in a negative way. In one playthrough I found myself trapped in an area without a bomb to clear the required blocks. Through some double jump trickery I was able to clip my way through the blocks and continue along my run.
What retro game would be complete without the accompanying chiptunes. DC comes packed with its own and does an admirable job with it. Fashioned in the vein of the original black box Nintendo games DC has a minimalistic sound design with accompanying backing tune. Nothing leaps out as being memorable, but more importantly nothing comes off as ear-piercingly grating either. When working in this style a delicate balance must be struck between retro for retro’s sake and just audio garbage.
Demolition Crew is a decent retro platformer. The lack of depth or real challenge leaves it struggling to find a true identity. The co-op option while fun does not add much replayability to a game that can be easily conquered in one sitting. That aside what is left is a game that could have easily snuck onto the NES Online service and you would be hardpressed to not believe it wasn’t released back in the mid-80s.