Edit: I reviewed Press-Switch v0.5b.
Press-Switch is a curious little niche visual novel created by a person under the alias of Skiegh, (pronounced as sky) that I have been openly aware of since I discovered it back in 2014, but did not review it, as I wanted to review the game after the next build came out. A fair enough plan I thought, as Skiegh mentioned how the next update would add a notable amount of new content. But delays were abound as Skiegh’s investment in the project wavered, causing a group of dedicated fans to create Student Transfer to fill a void this game left in their hearts, and the next build did not come out until 2017.
Unfortunately, this new build more or less only contained new content, with the majority of the old routes being left out of this release. After that, Skiegh decided to go back and effectively rebuild Press-Switch, adding in new characters and plot points while revising some of the things he grew disfavored with over the years. He began this process about four months ago, leading to the current build, which only contains a few routes along with a revamped introduction or “Day 0”. Hearing that initially dissuaded me from giving this game a proper review, but screw it, I’m tired of waiting.
Press-Switch Version 0.5a Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
History aside, Press-Switch is an open ended visual novel centered around Calvin Hintre, a highschool boy whose life changes dramatically when he is almost hit by a truck that drops a mysterious package containing a device capable of body transference, mind manipulation, cloning by replicating a person’s appearance, and possession. This device, referred to as the DSM in this new build, opens up a vast array of opportunities to Calvin, allowing him to turn his relatively humdrum life into something far more exciting, especially when it is being used against him and by others.
Now, there is a litany of good things that I could say about the various builds of Press-Switch I played, and that is due to a variety of reasons. The story is creative, has a lot of variety, and is written with a lot of enthusiasm for not only the subject matter, which I absolutely love, but the world it takes place in and the characters within it. The cast of Press-Switch is massive, with nearly 60 characters having been featured at this point, and the writer makes a major and concerted effort to treat them like people, giving them their own quirks, problems, relationships, and personalities, while trying to advance them beyond whatever archetype they may have originated under.
The most interesting of which is easily Calvin himself. While he may initially seem like a fairly standard nondescript visual novel protagonist, he does have a surprising amount of baggage to unpack, mostly due to his family and background. or the majority of his life, he was the only male in a house ran by his mother, while he was sandwiched between his older and younger sisters, both of whom treated him less than kindly over the years, while his mother remained almost absurdly distance. This in turn led to him having a variety of confidence issues along with some complicated feelings about the opposite sex, especially after him and his sole male friend drifted apart.
He does desire some sort of female friendship or companionship, but after living with domineering women for his entire life, he finds doing so to be somewhat difficult, especially if he considers someone attractive. Meanwhile, his morality and temperament are in a rather grey area that shifts depending on the route. Shifting between being aggressive and dominant like the closest things to role models he had throughout his life, or adopting a more passive approach to how he handles the situations he finds himself placed in due to the DSM’s use. He has a malleable enough of a character for him to steer the storyline and its direction in a variety of ways, while still being defined enough to feel like an actual person.
While I cannot say the same for every character, as not all of them have even gotten a simple introduction as of yet, what I have seen over the years has been continuously impressive for a small hobbyist passion project like this. Though, the part that truly blows me away about this game is the storylines it tells. The various routes of Press-Switch area easily among some of my favorite approaches to this subject matter of all time, as they can be so branching, grandiose, and exciting that I struggle to believe that all of this came from a single person, without so much as an editor, considering their breadth and quality.
Whether they fall on the darker or lighter side of things, and they do often fall on the darker side, the routes of Press-Switch are full of entertaining moments and interesting ideas. Every build of this game has had me eagerly scraping through the available content in the pursuit of more story, giddily laughing and smiling as the stories twist and turn into progressively more outlandish directions. I could easily go on and on about individual routes and how much I love the escalation and progression of events, breaking them down in great detail and analyzing the progression of events in great detail.
Though, again, that is talking about Press-Switch in general and over the years. Shifting focus to talk specifically about version 0.5a, I cannot be quite as praising of this game, as, for all intensive purposes, v0.5a is a revision of the base of this game, where all other storylines will branch off of. Beyond the introductory chapter, the only main routes present so far are the revised mother route, a fan and personal favorite, the new witch route, and the new mass possession route. There are some other routes that have technically begun, but they are abruptly cut off by a pending construction message, and for now, simply serve as teases for what’s to come… assuming that Skiegh wants to ever pursue those storylines. Yet none of these routes are completed as of yet, and the only ending in this game is a sudden bad end.
The mother route is actually the first route I ever played in Press-Switch, where it’s dark and often hopeless nature really grabbed my attention, as it tells the story of how Calvin’s misuse of the mind control functions accidentally caused his cold, distant, and malicious mother to engage in filatio with him, and how Calvin could not resist having his first time be with his mother. As punishment, he is thrown into his mother’s body and is essentially reduced to his mother’s servant, forcing him to behave as her and live her life. Meanwhile, she is left to enjoy experiencing youth as a young man, and retains full control of the DSM. As the weeks go by and Calvin’s friends are thrust into a similar position for trying to help him out of his dilemma, the despair only grows deeper and things devolve into a story so deliciously dark that I cannot help but adore it.
The witch route is a far more lighthearted one in comparison, effectively centering on Calvin’s attempts to mess with his friend of one month, the energetic and eccentric Mika, using the DSM to transform himself and her into different people under the guise of it being magic. It is a genuinely funny little route with plenty of humorous and silly moments strewn throughout, though it unfortunately stops a bit before things are set off into a scramble as people are separated and the situation gradually starts to fall out of hand.
While the mass possession route focuses on a scenario wherein Calvin takes the mysterious package that falls off of a truck, and gives it to the school without opening it. Two weeks later, the entire populus of the school are separated from their bodies, and in the rampant confusion people wind up in other people’s bodies, and the school is overrun with seemingly equal parts bliss, confusion, curiosity, and despair as people settle into their new bodies. While the route does split off into many subsets that do not develop things beyond the first… 30 minutes of the mass possession, the beginning, set-up, and promise of this scenario are so rich with potential, that I was left more than satisfied by what was there.
Meanwhile, the “Day 0” that serves as the set-up for the story lays a far more versatile and polished foundation than what was featured before, introducing many new possibilities and displaying information in a more effective manner. It establishes more characters, offers glimpses at others, and informs the player quite a bit of the world by showing a fairly typical day in Calvin’s life, while also hinting at several potential storylines. It also revises or polishes certain existing characters in a way that I feel only goes to further benefit the story itself.
I could go on about praising the story and route of Press-Switch for hours, but there are two negatives I should point out, both of which stem from one of the game’s strengths. For as winding and expansive as Press-Switch is, the game has a massive number of dead ends, pending paths, and storylines that will never ever be completed. While even the content that exists in the game can be a bit difficult to parse or uncover. Seriously, waiting 5 seconds to select an option can send you on an entirely different route in v0.5a. This expansive nature makes navigating through the game rather difficult on one’s own, simply due to how easy it is to miss content. Which is why I have dedicated myself to making flowcharts for this game, effectively turning this gripe into a non-issue.
Well, there is one more potential quibble that comes with that, and it has to do with some of the game’s sexual content. There is not a whole lot of it in this current build, but Press-Switch does not shy away from the occasional sex scene to inform or guide the storyline in new directions, even if they can be a bit extreme. I mean, v0.4a had multiple sex dungeon endings. However, this sort of thing is actually weirdly appropriate given the subject matter, and while the descriptions can be somewhat erotic in nature, I really would not call it a primary focus of the game, and would instead say that they are scenes that inform and enhance the story, rather than taking away from it.
That being said, Press-Switch borrows its visual assets from other titles, primarily those from games by the eroge/hentai game developer Bishop. Considering how this game was always designed as a free title, it is actually a rather clever solution that results the game looking notably more appealing than it would if the developer has used, say, some freeware visual novel character creator. Though, it is a decision that brings with it some limitations. From the limited number of male sprites available, inconsistent school uniform designs, and similarities across most of the female cast with regards to facial features and breast size.
However, Skiegh puts a conceited effort into making the game look as visually appealing as possible. Characters’ expressions subtly change as dialog goes on. They move around the screen when the scene calls for it and even perform little gestures when appropriate. While the various effects featured throughout the game are kept rather simple, yet remain effective and far better looking than they would need to be. This level of visual polish really does add to the enjoyability of the game and the personality of its characters, while also showing off how versatile of an engine Ren’py can be.
Press-Switch is a game that, over the years, has come to mean a lot to me, and has probably creeped its way amongst my favorite titles of all time, due to its storytelling prowess and the subject matter it explores with it. As I said earlier, I could go on for hours about this game, discussing each little route and outcome featured in it, and I feel like there are very few games I could say that about. As for v0.5a though, it is a reset of the project that refines and revises things for the sake of its future both from a player and developer perspective, and I am left excited and hopeful to see how things will fare as the game continues to iterate and improve. Which might even happen within the next year, wouldn’t that be a treat?