Press-Switch Version 0.5c Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
For those not in the loop, Press-Switch is an open ended visual novel centered around an innocuous high school boy by the name of Calvin Hintre, whose life changes dramatically when he finds finds himself in possession of a device known as the DSM. An enigmatic doohickey capable of body transference, mind manipulation, cloning, and possession among other things. This naturally opens up a vast array of opportunities to Calvin, allowing him to turn his relatively humdrum life into something far more exciting.
Now, there is a litany of good things that I could say about the various builds of Press-Switch, and that is due to a variety of reasons. The story is creative, diverse, 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.
Having played the permutations of this title over the years, it seems all too easy to do a deep dive into a variety of the more prominent characters, but the most developed of which is naturally Calvin himself who, despite seemingly filing the role of the unremarkable visual novel protagonist, does carry with him a lot of personal baggage. It is never fully divulged in any given route, but it does allow him to function as a very malleable character throughout the ensuing stories contained within Press-Switch, and his ability to flip flop between aggressive and almost callous actions and the acceptance of a more passive or submissive role is justified.
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. But while the cast is indeed an allure of this title, the main competence lies within its storytelling capabilities. 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 cannot help but admire it from innumerous perspectives.
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 things twist and turn into progressively more outlandish directions.
Though, again, when I say this I am talking about Press-Switch in general, and in order to experience everything the game has to offer, one need to do some digging. As I mentioned in my review of prior builds of this game, Press-Switch has had nothing short of a tumultuous history at this point, mostly due to a 3 year delay that resulted in one expansive build, but in creating said build, the game effectively began to fall apart, so its sole developer, Skiegh, sought to effectively remake the game from scratch, this time with reworked and refined characters, better code, and fully rewritten storylines that both reflect these changes and showcase Skiegh’s growth as a writer.
Speaking of this update in particular, it builds upon v0.5b, cleaning up odds and ends throughout the introductory path but mostly focuses its efforts in the Mass Possession route introduced in v0.5a. It was an incredibly intriguing concept that I, and many others, were quite poised by, and here Skiegh chose to develop this route through the turbulent first day, which I think brings up something of a problem that has plagued this project for the past few years. Skiegh is an overzealous writer who has a terrible habit of narrowing his focus on a singular matrix of events and exploring the possibilities a scenario can bring. Remember that 3 year delay I mentioned? Yeah, that ended with the release of v0.4a, an update that added one new day to a single route that itself was an offshoot only accessible by an underdeveloped new game plus feature, yet somehow managed to include 20 endings, 3 joke endings, and 7 distinct pending paths.
This time the chaos is considerably more contained, instead offering a single day’s worth of content that splits off into 5 paths that each offer their own introspections and unique events while following the same overall format of Sierra Hills High trying to deal with a campus wide body swapping fiasco. I mean, it’s technically possession, but they’re functionally identical in this route. As a result of this mysterious happenstance, everyone swapped must act in accordance to their body and live their respective life for an extended period of time before the dastard responsible for this extraordinary kerfuffle can be dealt with, the culprit can get got, or the body swap pods from v0.4a can be dug up, assuming they even exist after the rewrite.
The five paths that have been updated all follow the same general happenings, but with divergences arising based on whatever body Calvin winds up in and the identity he needs to assume. Broadly speaking through, I found the situation detailed to be utterly fascinating from a narrative perspective, and admired the degree of gravitace it was granted, with denial, excitement, and horror all being common reactions to this unsolicited series of often forced body swapping, all because some people just had to be catalysts for chaos and try snagging a body for themselves. It’s actually a concept that I have always had an interest in as a writer, even if there are a plethora of moving parts to consider when dealing with this many characters.
Megumi Path: Narrowing my focus and highlighting each subset of this route, the Megumi path follows Calvin as they accidentally walk into the voluptuous body of the class president and try to deal with the assumptions people have of him based on the face they now wear, and also deal with a currently lightly detailed yet nevertheless bizarre home situation. The path specifically focuses on Calvin learning to adapt to the sensory overload provided by their new form while also having the opportunity to indulge in it, and forming an interesting relationship with the impeccably mature and resolute Megumi.
It lays a lot of seeds of intrigue throughout, but in its current form, and in comparison to the other routes detailed in this update, I can’t help but find it to be among the most ‘standard’ or ‘traditional’ routes throughout this game. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Though I do need to give it some props for pairing up Calvin with a bunch of horndog teenage boys who tried to snag the hottest bodies they could. Because for as much as I love deconstructive tropes, sometimes you’ve gotta respect the classics.
Timothy Path: Timothy was something of an odd introduction into Press-Switch in v0.5a, being a character whose personality and demeanor made painted them as something of a nuisance to Calvin and was likely meant to spark some ire within the playerbase. They are an individual who Calvin feels a sense of resentment towards for a variety of reasons, which are made plainly clear as Calvin finds himself forced to hide away in Timothy’s form lest he experience death via nonexistence. Timothy is effectively a parallel of sorts for Calvin, an individual who seemingly epitomizes everything he identifies as a personal inadequacy, and now he has to live as the dainty little boy. While the incomplete nature of this route naturally prevents this character arc from being seen to fruition, it nevertheless establishes a captivating foundation for a more involved character examination of Calvin Hintre as he must either seek to improve himself while gaining a greater understanding of a character who could be considered an exaggerated version of himself, or accept this new situation and embrace the debaucheries presented before them and become the very person they resented so ferociously.
This path also naturally reveals a lot about Timothy themself, and I wish I could speak about them more definitively, but as it stands only glimpses are shown, albeit captivating ones. Between their actions, demeanour, life situation, and claims about their own identity, I find there is a lot to unpack about their character and how they fit into a TG game given their urges and impulses. These same details have unsurprisingly caused this path to be met with a more mixed reception from the community, possibly because of some subject matter that hit too close for them, but I am always interested in seeing how creators can take introspective looks into just about any subject matter, and TG is no exception. Which I say, but depending on where exactly this path veers, it could delve into some troublesome waters depending on what Skiegh fancies.
Jaina Path: Body swapping as a narrative concept often places a hard divide between the mental and physical, viewing them as distinct entities. But much of the mind is ultimately shaped by the body, and if somebody has an abnormal brain chemistry or some sort of mental disorder, then it would remain with their body and whatever benefits or adverse effects this disorder would bring would be thrust upon its new occupant, who will likely have a vastly more difficult time dealing with these unfamiliar mental sensations, on top of the existing differences between anything from gross physical proportions to the subtleties of one’s mouth.
This is something of the pretense seen in the Jaina path, which follows Calvin as he deals with being in the body of small girl with assorted mental disabilities that are currently described as autism, but in reality the effects are far in a way beyond what is usually seen throughout the spectrum. These unfamiliar sensations, coupled with a very dainty and underdeveloped body prove to overwhelm Calvin and force him to seek the aid of one of his teachers, Shreya Acharya, who enables Calvin to accept the lack of control they now have with their own life, reducing them to a very child-like state. Thus leading the two to form a pseudo-parental relationship that is equal parts awkward and heartwarming. All things considered, it’s probably among my favorite paths to ever grace Press-Switch. The intriguing concept, unsettling situation, endearing relationship between the two main characters, hues of what I guess could be considered psychological horror, and just enough silly moments to make everything feel tonally well-rounded. My only real gripe with it is the fact that Jaina is only described as autistic, but that is something that may be remedied later on in the path.
Silease Path: Whereas Jaina’s body puts Calvin in a predicament where he is dependent on others, the Silease path does just the opposite, granting Calvin the body of his art teacher who despite being 31-years-old, looks like she’s 13. A predicament that proves to be a major upset for Calvin initially, but as the familiar sequence of events that make up this school day draw to a close, things gradually become more uplifting as the revelations continue rolling in.
He may be dwarfed by his former peers, but he has the authority and clout needed to push them around and demand respect, something he had lacked for… basically his entire life. He may be devoid of the stable direction or ties to anybody he knows, but he is granted the independence he craved so much after such a strained family life. Also his own car. He may be in the body of a an adult woman who looks like a middle schooler, but everything about his new home is catered to his proportions, and the body is pretty receptive to masturbation— which Calvin naturally indulges in because… because he can be such a goldarn degenerate sometimes, and that’s why I love him. Without other character to really engage with beyond the initial kerfuffle, this is among the least developed route, as aside from Calvin reaping in the surprise benefits of his new body and life, there is not a whole lot here, but assuming he will need to actually try living the life as his own art teacher, there’s more than a lot of potential for where this story can go.
Nicole Path: The character Nicole was an enigmatic figure from v0.3b whose off-shoot and rather obscure route raised a lot of questions about her psychological state. Questions that are, to a surprising extent, answered within just the first day of this route, and in a manner that goes to make the sprawling and web-like branches of Press-Switch come off as more cohesive… that is, assuming you already played the three main versions out there (0.3b, 0.4a, and 0.5c). Regardless of revelations privvy for those who have been following this game for years, the route still does stand out quite a bit next to the others. With Calvin needing to deal with more overt relationship baggage tied to his body, having the opportunity to befriend Nicole herself in order to be granted a more detailed glimpse of her and her fragile mental state, while also being in a body that he actually likes from the get-go..
There is still plenty to unpack with this character, and I look forward to the nitty gritty that ensues, but my biggest takeaway from this route is honestly the assortment of joke endings that are accessible by, when prompted, adopting the name Skiegh. For as much as I enjoy deeper character studies and psychological examination, I will never not be a sucker for zany antics, outlandish bumblings, and needlessly cruel and dark twists done for the hell of it. I mean, I thought the flavor text you got by entering other Press-Switch and Student Transfer characters was enough of an easter egg, but this is something else, and I loved it.
Yes, yes, I wound up taking delight in the new scattering of updated paths as per usual and retained my positive outlook even as I made the steady crawl from day 0 to wherever the next content brings me to. The more things change, the easier it is for things to start looking the same, and the ever-present gripes one may have with the project remain true. Despite being such a sprawling an expansive game, Press-Switch is a creative platform for Skiegh more than anything, meaning that it is likely that some paths will indeed never be updated, not that this prevents the game from being somewhat confusing to navigate, leading me to become to the “flowchart-girl” for this project, because somebody has to unravel this mess. Oh, and the game also boasts a surprisingly high amount of sexual content throughout its iterations, with v0.5c being no exception, and much of this content comes from graphic sex scenes involving high school students. A gripe that I fully sympathize with, but I never feel as if it is the primary focus of this title, and enhances the story more than anything.
Plus, sexual scenes are kind of a given when your game is build on the accumulated assets ripped from other visual novels, primarily from the eroge developer Bishop. Considering how this game was always designed without any conception of ever becoming a retail title, it is actually a rather clever solution that results in 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 a very limited number of male characters due to sprite limitations, inconsistent school uniform designs, and similarities across most of the female cast with regards to facial features and breast size.
However, Skiegh puts immense effort into making the game look as visually appealing as possible. Their subtle changes in expression, movements across the screen, and even little gestures all present a level of presentational care and craftsmanship that is startlingly rare for visual novels. The Mass Possession path in particular is commendable for how it depicts this chaos with its limited assets, making good use of its space, using silhouettes or a change in perspective to compensate for its limited number of sprites, and putting in the expected effort into making the characters charismatically prance about like the little digital kamishibai show. It’s seriously one of the best presentations I have seen in a visual novel, up there with the Muv-Luv series and Student Transfer.
Press-Switch is a title 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. I could go on for hours about this game, discussing each little route and outcome featured in it, at least if I were inclined to spoil things, and I feel like there are very few games I could say that about. Version 0.5c is yet again a more focused update that does not feature a conclusive storyline, but rather an assortment of permutations, all of which go to further express a lot of the things that I have come to absolutely adore about Press-Switch over the years.