Rebuild of Press-Switch 0.5β: Your Eyes Are (Not) Your Own
Press-Switch Version 0.5b Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
For those not in the loop, Press-Switch is an open ended visual novel centered around Calvin Hintre, a teenage boy whose life changes dramatically when he uncovers 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, 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.
Now, there is a litany of good things that I could say about the assorted builds of Press-Switch I played, 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.
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. For the majority of his life, he was the only male in a house ran by his mother, where 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 developing 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 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 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 for hours on end.
Though, again, that is 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 the prior build of this game, Press-Switch has had nothing short of a tumultuous history at this point, being fraught with a 3 year delay that opened up massive issues with the game’s pre-existing content. This effectively inspired Skiegh to more or less begin remaking the game. But this time with reworked and refined characters, better code, and fully rewritten storylines that both reflect these changes and showcase the improvements that Skiegh has made as a writer over the years.Speaking of this update in particular, it builds upon v0.5a and contains all of its existing content, and really only adds a single route that was previously seen in the 0.3b build from back in 2014, which is commonly referred to as the Ashley’s Eyes route.
The route begins with Calvin introducing his spunky and energetic friend, Mika, the DSM before they embark on a fully new series of escapades involving them traversing and causing a ruckus around the school as they possess students and faculty in a move that really highlights the more lighthearted and sillier moments of Press-Switch quite excellently. With a good degree of chaos billowing up as the duo fumbles their way throughout various bodies, expressing a large level of disregard for their actions, which I found positively delightful.
However, as these shenanigans progress, bodies are exchanged, mild lewdness ensues, and more people are brought into this katamari of inevitable disaster, Calvin absentmindedly misuses the DSM’s functions and winds up trapping his consciousness in the body of Mika’s friend Ashley. While in her body, Calvin is unable to move, speak, or express himself in any way but through his own thoughts, tethered to not only what Ashley observes, hears, and takes in, but also her emotional state, which strongly affects his own.
It is an incredibly interesting concept that is explored well, detailing both Calvin’s own mental process as he is forced to live an existence that is not his own, one where he is a passive viewer of all events before him, and also develops a deeply rooted connection with Ashley. Learning about her her fears, worries, fragility, and what she adores, while also gaining insights into her at times coyly simplistic nature. I will admit that I felt that the story could have taken this a bit further, which is something Skiegh admits to having deliberated during the writing process of this update, and could have benefited from an alternate ending, but it still serves as a great example for how subject matter like this can be used to tell nuanced and intriguing stories.
However, this is not the first time this story has been told, as this very same route was featured in version 0.3b of this game. So seeing as how this review is a bit light on non-recycled content, and the latest build only lasted me about 4 hours, I decided to go back to the older version of this route and see how things compare, and they are actually quite different. Partially due to how many characters’ personalities were altered to be more pronounced with the v0.5a update, and partially due to some expansion, but mostly due to a dramatic change in priorities with the route, which results in the new version of this path being far more thoughtful and introspective than what came before it, in addition to being longer.
Though, what I find to be the most notable change is that of the ending, and the character of Candice, the creator of the DSM, as her character was dramatically changed into a far more, shall I say, grounded person than who she was in prior versions of Press-Switch. With the new ending focusing on the relationship between Calvin and Ashley, whereas the trio of former endings all center around this absurd plot point that, while good for a laugh and an interesting concept for sure, does not really fit with the rest of the game upon revisiting it. It just goes to show how this game will continue to change as time goes on, and ultimately improve.
Press-Switch is a title that I could easily talk about and analyze like this for hours at end, but there are two constant quibbles or negatives that float around this game. With the first being how the game is littered with dead ends that may be affected by incredibly minor factors, such as waiting 5 seconds to do something, to the point where it is clear that the game will never ever actually be 100% completed, and it would be one of the longest visual novels of all time if it was. This also can lead people to miss existing content due to how labyrinthine it is spread out, but I have conceded to being the “flowchart-girl” for this project, and will continue to pump out flowcharts for each new release.The second quibble is a debatable one, and that is the amount of sexual content seen throughout Press-Switch.
There is not a lot in the current build, but this game does take the opportunity to indulge in 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.
It can also be seen as a bit appropriate, as Press-Switch borrows its visual assets from other visual novels, primarily those put out 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 small 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 immense 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. Things are taken to the next level with the Ashley’s Eyes route in particular, which makes great use of a first person perspective and has such detailed effects work and framing that I was honestly amazed at what Skiegh could pull off here. It’s seriously one of the best presentations I have seen in a visual novel, right up there with the Muv-Luv series.
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. 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. Version 0.5b is very focused with what it adds, and while the breadth of content is a bit limited, especially in comparison to what was seen in the 0.5a update, it is still an excellent route that leaves me confident in how well old content will be improved as it is rewritten and reintroduced. And seeing as how Skiegh is finally back on a schedule, a full new route should be available fairly soon… maybe… possibly… hopefully.
Press-Switch v0.5b Flowchart: