Impressions: “Preventative Strike” (Nintendo Switch – Attack Helicopter Week Special)
Welcome back to The Splintering’s Attack Helicopter Week. I wish we were meeting again under better circumstances…
When I don’t or can’t fully complete a game, I try not to call my critical write-ups “reviews”, and instead opt for the term “impressions”. I did not finish Preventative Strike, and I’m not sorry.
Developed by TocanaDev, Preventative Strike is an old-school, vertical shoot-em-up with a slightly isometric perspective and plenty of inspiration from its “bullet-hell” predecessors. Being a fan of shooters of this type, snagging Preventative Strike on the Nintendo Switch felt like a no-brainer.
Story? Guns make boom!
There’s not much “plot” to speak of in Preventative Strike, which is fine. It’s not like I need motivation to blow some stuff up. You are simply tasked with reaching the enemy’s base and driving them out of your land, so you can fill in the story blanks on your own. Are they terrorists? Communists? Pineapple pizza eaters? Who cares? Just kill everything that isn’t you.
To be victorious against these pineapple-pizza-eating-communist-terrorists, you have to fly through four enemy-riddled stages. Your attack helicopter is equipped with guns, rockets, shields, and you can also call in a massive airstrike. All of these abilities are limited with the exception of your guns, so you’re never left completely defenseless. There are items scattered through each of the game’s four stages that recharge these abilities, too.
You can build up your score multiplyer as you defeat enemies, and your high scores can be posted to the online leaderboard if you are skilled enough to rise above the competition. The catch? You have to complete the game from beginning to end without continuing for the game to record your score.
Sounds fair, right? Maybe even typical? It wouldn’t be right to say that Preventative Strike is too hard. By retro standards, it’s really not. It is, however, poorly designed and more frustrating than it’s worth.
First off, the enemy fire comes at you hot and heavy, so you’re almost always on the move to avoid taking hits, which are often nearly impossible to dodge. This is because your helicopter’s hit box is simply too big. When you’re at the bottom of the screen, it takes up a full third of the screen’s height. There just isn’t enough open area to maneuver successfully.
Adding to the frustration, the enemies are able to fire both guns and missiles, the latter which are heat-seeking. These missiles cannot be shot out of the sky or destroyed, not even with the powerful airstrike attack attack, which is honestly nonsensical.
If you put your head down and power through (and get lucky), you can eventually progress through the game, stage by stage. There are no end bosses that I saw, so you just have to survive long enough to reach the end of each stage, memorizing when to use shields, when to call an airstrike, and so on. If you lose a life, your helicopter immediately respawns, so that works to your advantage. There are also infinite continues (which start you back at the beginning of the stage).
On the flip side, Preventative Strike‘s presentation isn’t too bad. The isometric perspective works well enough, and the graphics are solid for a budget title. There is sometimes a “bloom” effect when there are large explosions onscreen, and while these look cool the first couple of times you see it, they will quickly begin to annoy you as they obscure incoming enemy fire. The music is passable, but nothing memorable, though the concussive explosions are what really drives the game from a sound standpoint.
To the rescue?
Could Preventative Strike be fixed? Yes, it really could be. If TocanaDev could patch in a mode where both your bullets and airstrike attack can destroy enemy missiles, that would go a long way. It would also be nice to be able to track your high score even if you don’t finish the game, because then you could at least give yourself something to work toward if you are unable to beat the game in a single play.
If you’re still interested, you can pick up Preventative Strike on the Nintendo Switch eShop here, or get the PC version of the game via Steam here. Unfortunately, I just can’t recommend it. Life is simply too short.
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