Developer: Mission Ctrl Studios
Release: Jan 15, 2021
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Writhe is an arcade-style first person shooter where you are tasked with saving an alternative universe 70’s Thailand from a horde of mutant worms. Armed with a shotgun in one hand and a plasma rifle in the other, the object of the game is to stay alive. Fight to survive for as long as you can, then see how you rank on the online global leaderboard. This is a great indie title from a husband and wife development team that strips out all of the bloat of online first person shooters and delivers a challenging yet engaging game rich with lore and bug guts.
You control your exterminator as you would any first person shooter: left analog stick to move, right analog stick to look around, B to jump, shoot the shotgun and plasma rifle with the left and right triggers, respectively. As you kill worms, you collect gems. Once you’ve collected enough gems, the rate of fire in your guns will increase. These same gems are used to unlock lore on the main menu. Lore is first unlocked at 500 gems, and increases to 30,000 for the final piece of lore, so there is a good amount of grinding needed to learn the full story of Writhe.
Fair warning, Writhe is very hard. While my longest life is just over 60 seconds on each level, the world leader at the time of this writing is 332.99 seconds. It’s really important to change elevations, and pick up health by destroying worm eggs that will spawn on the map. I’m sure there are other tips I'll uncover as I continue to play. Regardless, the online leaderboard is a great addition and keeps the game fun. Every time I beat my high score I rush back to the leaderboard to see my new rank.
Visuals and Music
Writhe has a retro feel to it. The environment is pixelated and blocky, something I typically don’t enjoy. But with Writhe, I don’t mind it. The three levels: Rundown, Jungle, and Factory are small, tight, well designed arenas, rich with subtle hints of detail that are easy to miss as you run for your life. I love the designs of the worms, and the physics of them leaping and chomping at you looks great on Switch. When you kill a worm, the body quickly burns away, another subtle hint that’s easy to miss
There are several gameplay customizations available to tailor the experience to your liking.There are three separate screen filters that can be added: Modern, Retro, or CRT, each of which are fun to use. I find myself switching between Modern and Retro every few games. Graphics Mode can be set to Quality (30 fps) or Performance (60 fps). While quality does provide crisper visuals, I prefer playing in performance mode. The frame rate difference is noticeable, especially when the action on the screen picks up.
The music for each level is an upbeat techno mix that is a great accompaniment to Writhe’s fast tempo run and gun. It reminds me a bit of Mortal Kombat, which is fitting since Writhe is always a fight to the death. If the music isn’t your thing, it can be toggled off in the options menu.
The development team already has some free DLC in the works. In the coming weeks they plan to release gyroscopic aiming, more controller sensitivity levels, and an indicator that shows when health is about to despawn. They plan to release two new maps along with a friends leaderboard (woohoo!) around Easter, and are currently testing local co-op viability, with a potential launch in 2021.
Final Grade: A
I think Writhe is a great game that should be on the Switch of every arcade shooter fan. The run and gun gameplay is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Writhe is made even better by its development team, who are responsive to the community and are passionate about making Writhe the best it can be. The future updates in 2021 will only add to an already solid gaming experience.