If the job of a sequel is to refine or reinvent, Mighty Switch Force 2 doesn't quite do enough on either count. It's really more of a level pack, a game firmly aimed at those who finished the original and fancied a little more of the same.
Sure, protagonist Patricia Wagon's now rescuing the Hooligan Sisters (the original's gang of skimpily attired criminals) from an inferno with a powerful water gun rather than a pistol, but its 16 stages of puzzle-platforming reuse just about all of the first game's best ideas without introducing many of their own.
For example, you'll still jab a button to make transparent blocks solid, creating platforms to land on while you're in mid-jump. You'll maliciously smash enemies you've lured into position against the screen, either to open a gate that unlocks when they die, or simply to get them out of the way.
You'll leap athletically into boost blocks that send you arrowing over large gaps or up to new heights. You'll frown intensely as you work out how to lock platforms in place to create a route through to the next Sister.
You'll undoubtedly swear profusely at the exacting nature of the platforming as a slightly mistimed switch squishes Patricia like a bug hurtling full speed into a windscreen. You'll swear even more profusely as you fall three-tenths of a second outside the astonishingly strict par times for each level.
Aqua Scream Blunder Force
That isn't to say it's entirely bereft of new ideas. There are enemies you'll need to pump full of water until they explode to reveal the Sister they've swallowed, while new tiles channel your water flow to dissolve mud platforms or hit unsuspecting enemies from afar.
The stages where you redirect the flow using locks and switches prove the game's most entertaining conundrums, but WayForward would rather you run gauntlets of flaming platforms that you need to temporarily douse before jumping on them. We were reminded of Mario Sunshine's Corona Mountain in these stages, mainly thanks to the mix of satisfaction and relief we felt when we beat them.
Of course, those who conquered the original won't mind too much that this offers a steeper challenge, but Patricia's water gun may just be a frustration too far. It fires out jets of H2O that are absolutely fine for hitting targets at a distance, but you have to let it peter out to a dribble for closer hazards, which simply isn't intuitive when you're hurrying to the next bit of safe ground.
Couple that with the longer levels and the harsher par times and we felt less enthused about replaying them this time around. Not least because Patricia's piercing shriek as she runs out of hearts remains one of the most irritating death cries we've ever heard. And trust us, when you're speed-running you'll hear it a good deal more often than you did in the first game.
All that said, Mighty Switch Force 2 shares all the original game's strengths: the gorgeous art, the earworm soundtrack and the smart level design that (mostly) stays the right side of fiendish. It's not as consistently enjoyable as the original for our money, but if Mighty Switch Force merely left you wanting more where that came from, rather than a more substantial overhaul, then you'll find little to argue with here.