Games come in many genres, styles and forms. Some are more experimental, others focus on story, some provide quick gameplay, and some, some make you rage. Force of Habit have released two games so far on the Nintendo Switch; Toast Time: Smash Up! And more recently, Neon Caves. Both are challenging, share similar mechanics, and are increasingly difficult as you play.
In Toast Time: Smash Up! you become a toaster, shooting out bread to destroy enemies. There are two modes in this game; a single player, level based mode and a multiplayer arena battle. I’ve spent most of my time in the single player mode, taking on waves of enemies who are trying to make it to a clock.
In the various levels, you are defending a clock — making sure no one gets to them. To do that, you must dispense toast towards your enemies. The challenge in both games, for me, comes with the movement and dispensing of bullets (or, in this case, toast). Shooting provides your only movement, pushing you quickly in the opposite direction. You can grab onto a spot, but this only lasts for a limited amount of time.
As you shoot, your aim can sometimes snap to an enemy, but you’re likely to be constantly moving through the air from the previous shot, so you’ll need to act fast and accurately. Crates also fall from the sky, which can change the type of toast that you have. Smashing crates with toast or bumping into them will activate them, and the more crates you collect the more variety you unlock in terms of weapons.
Once the clock has counted down, as long as not a single enemy has hit it, the level ends. You get a star score on accuracy and move onto the next level. If an enemy does get to your clock, you will instantly lose and need to restart. These levels are quite short, but don’t be mistaken, they are very, very chaotic.
In the multiplayer mode of Toast Time: Smash Up! you play against up to three of your friends, throwing out toast and hoping to survive. The matches are quick as the toast goes flying within a bunch of different arenas — it’s a pretty fun time, as long as you’re not me, who isn’t good at the game.
Now let me tell you about Neon Cave, the newest game from Force of Habit. Neon Cave takes the same general movement from Toast Time: Smash Up!, but takes away the levels and instead draws its structure from wave-driven games. Instead of a toaster you are a neon ship inside a very small cave. Blue shards of the cave and sealife fall from the ceiling or glide across the screen, each looking to take one of your three lives.
Movement is the same as Toast Time: Smash Up! — you propel in the opposite direction as you shoot, so every move matters. Below you is a bunch of water which can take away one of your health points if you spend too long in it. You’d think that having these three lives, which can allow you to take a hit, dive into the water for too long, or hit the edge of the cave three times before the game ends would make the game easier than Toast Time: Smash Up!. You’d be incorrect.
You see, every few seconds — and I do mean seconds — a warning will pop up saying the cave isn’t stable. To stabilize the cave, you must either smash into or shoot five golden fireflies. Even if you have all of your lives, a collapsed cave is not something you can survive in. You’ll need to quickly focus on eliminating these creatures or face immediate death.
The only bonus you get to make things easier, much like in Toast Time: Smash Up! is an anchor. This allows you to grip to where you are for a few seconds, shooting out without moving your ship. This only lasts for a very limited time, so you’ll need to master it to survive more waves and time.
Once you do die, you will be presented with your final time and some other stats, before starting into the cave again.
Both of these games really do rely on that anchor, especially if you are going to last long and destroy enemies. You’ll have to learn how to deploy your anchor, shoot, and then fly back into the air before hooking into your anchor again. This is just something that I, for whatever reason, cannot seem to get down.
I want to be good at these games, but despite playing them over and over for hours on end, I just can’t get that anchor to be my friend. The controls are good, the gameplay is fun for both, and they are different enough to provide two unique experiences. That anchor, however, will be my mortal enemy. What makes this even worse is that I have handed the game to my little cousins and brother, ages 11, 13, and 19, respectively, and they’ve done better.
After struggling for a little bit of time, I mentioned the anchor, and they seemed to actually be able to use it in a way that helps them much more than I have even been able to do. I feel that the anchor is probably something that anyone could master, if they didn’t get as frustrated as I do when I only survive 30 seconds into a wave before needed to start again.
I’ve done terribly in both of these games, passing Toast Time: Smash Up! with one star on each level, and surviving a whopping 35 seconds as my best score on Neon Cave. Both of the games do make me go ‘one more time, I’ll do better if I just try again’ the only issue is that I am not improving.