Unit 4 looks and sounds like an awesome game on paper and even from the gameplay trailer: 4 player co-op platforming, four unique characters each with their own special ability, tons of levels to explore, boss battles, pixel art and animations that look like a Mega Man knockoff, unlockables to purchase, and even a couple mini-games. This Switch eShop platformer seems to check all the right boxes. Unfortunately, gameplay winds up being a tedious hot mess thanks to loose control and faulty level design.
Ideally, Unit 4 should be played with four players. Not one. Not two. Not even three. Each stage is designed in a way that plays to the strengths of each character so not having a complete team means gameplay will be left with an empty void. The blue character can double jump. The big red guy can charge through enemies. The yellow wizard can float and pass through enemies. And the green guy has a grapple hook that doesn’t work how you want it to (Bionic Commando this is not). The skill set is so varied that playing solo restricts stage navigation, limiting platforming to the one and only ability available at a time. This unfortunate reality is only amplified by the lengthy amount of time it takes to complete each stage, some lasting a solid twenty minutes.
Even if the pacing and level design were polished, it would be for naught as the platforming, the main gameplay mechanic, is so unwieldy. The loose control and slippery jumps means every enemy and platform could yield death not due to difficulty but from inaccuracy of control. Seriously, the jumping is so bad it makes the game boardline unplayable. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the camera sometimes will lag behind and the player and forces blind jumps into frustrating death. The control scheme is also wonky as “A” jumps and “X” activates the special ability (when using a Pro Controller) with the shoulder button switching characters.
At least the purposely pixelated graphics were created with some care and the soundtrack is also better than expected but repeats much too often. The yellow wizard’s floating sound effect, however, has to be one of the worst sound effects sound on the Nintendo Switch. This humming effect is so bad that I avoided playing as that character just so my ears wouldn’t bleed.
Unit 4 is the perfect example of having a solid foundation but fails on the overall execution. If the play control and stage design was tightened and played to the strengths of the number of players available, Unit 4 feels like it could have been a solid co-op experience. Instead, it should be left inside storage locker unit zero.
Play It Instead: the Bit.Trip games
Not As Good As: Runbow
Also Try: SpeedRunners