If there’s one thing the Nintendo Switch is developing a reputation for, it’s becoming to a home for indie games. Whether they launch on the device or are brought over years after, games are finding fresh life on the Switch. Today, we have one of the latter with Defunct, a single-player adventure-platformer originally launched on PC in 2016. It’s as much Sonic the Hedgehog as it is Pixar’s WALL-E, but does it have substance to back up its speed? Get ready to find out because this is our review of Defunct for the Nintendo Switch.
Like many indie darlings of late, the setup for the game is simple. You’re a small, cute robot travelling through space on an interstellar cruiser. When sailing over a post-apocalyptic approximation of Earth, you’re mistakenly sucked out the garbage chute and must race across the planet to make it back to your ship. There’s precious little storytelling beyond that but the developers do a good job of making the character endearing the world an interesting place to romp around in.
Since humans are a thing of the past, the world is largely empty save for things explicitly for gameplay and scene setting. This would get tedious fast if not for the fact is half-motorized with a wheel instead of legs. You learn quickly that the goal isn’t to putter around and explore but instead to race as fast as you can to the finish. In fact, when I first watched trailers of the game I thought it was a racing game and that the competitors must be somewhere in the dust of the main character. But no, this is a game that takes the Sonic mantra of “gotta go fast” and straps a motor onto it.
Throughout the levels, you’ll find speed boosters and launch pads, but a crafty player can build up quite a bit of speed using your characters gravitizer on the downside of hills to build of momentum. This tool also allows you to grip onto walls but if you’re careless can quickly slow you down or make you miss a well-timed jump. All of these things combine to make a game that’s less an “adventure” and more of a curious racing-platformer.
Also like Sonic, if you take the time to slow down you can find alternate paths and hidden items. I appreciate this but honestly found it much less fun than racing through the game. The developers also seem to acknowledge that this is where the heart of the game lies as when you finish you unlock Time Trials where you can compete against other players on the leaderboards.
For all the fun that’s found in Defunct’s swiftness, it’s hard to get past the horribly dated visuals. I’m not one to rail on a game for its looks – some of my favorite games are hardly stunners – but there are scenes that look like they belong on the Nintendo 64 instead of the Switch. Others aren’t quite as bad, but it never looks particularly good when you slow down for a closer look. Gotta go fast, indeed.
Defunct is a decent game that offers a fair bit of fun through its high-speed puzzles but it’s also one that feels empty and lacks depth. The character is cute and makes you want to love him but with only basic animations and limited storytelling, he’s not as endearing as he’s clearly meant to be. If you’re a fan of 3D Sonic the Hedgehog or just like the idea of racing and flying through the air from floating bounce pads, it’s definitely worth a look. At $14.99, however, it’s probably worth waiting for a sale.