Being able to swap characters on the fly is such a cool mechanic. Unit 4 is a tough-as-nails 2D platformer that allows you to choose from a variety of four unique chums so get ready to battle some evil alien conquerors with style.
Evil aliens have invaded our heroes' home planet and stole their sacred artifact. After hearing similar reports from neighbouring worlds, they decide to travel through the solar system while visiting each planet to deal with these dastardly nogoodniks. Unit 4 is played just like any other 2D platformer where you run around, jump, and stomp on enemies. It's quite challenging, too, with plenty of hazards and enemies that are waiting to end your life with one hit so you better be prepared for plenty of tricky situations that'll put your platforming skills to the test. Thankfully, the handful of checkpoints placed throughout each lengthy stage will help you eventually master every level. It can be a satisfying endeavor but it also relies on your willingness to retry the same often frustrating scenarios over and over again.
Of course, Unit 4 allows you to change characters on the fly. They each have unique abilities that make them suitable for various circumstances: one can double-jump, one can dash into enemies and objects, one can use a grappling hook like Bionic Commando, and one can transform into a ghost in order to pass through some objects and enemies. As you can see, constantly switching who you're playing as adds a ton of welcome variety to the gameplay. The ability to strategically choose which character to use given the current circumstances can be quite rewarding. You can invite your friends to join you in local co-op as well so there are a lot of possibilities.
Unit 4's campaign is broken up into a variety of planets with each one containing a selection of stages that are surprisingly long. Some may take you about half an hour to complete but that mostly depends on your 2D gaming skills. As a result, it's a lengthy campaign that'll take even hardcore platforming fans hours to complete. You can try and collect every coin in each stage, too, which adds some replay value for perfectionists. On top of all this, there are three mini-games to enjoy that consist of submarine, scooter, and astroship races. They're generally played the same although the stage layouts differ substantially enough so each mode stands on its own.
The biggest issue that I have with Unit 4 is that the difficulty often feels more tedious than satisfying for a few reasons. The first is that the camera is very problematic. For starters, you can't pan it so being able to see off-screen enemies and hazards before they end your life becomes a significant annoyance. Secondly, it seems to lag whenever you move too fast. This is especially frustrating when you fall but can't see the ground beneath then land on some spikes or down a pit. Some hazards are also very difficult to see such as ice spikes that are positioned in front of an ice-covered background. Also, memorization plays a big role, especially during the boss fights. It's almost impossible to beat the bosses without memorizing their patterns which makes them far less enjoyable. Finally, the visuals are very basic and lack any sort of unique appeal. In essence, it's yet another generic retro-inspired pixel-filled indie game.
Unit 4 is a challenging and unique platformer that serves up a varied and satisfying campaign. That being said, if you don't have the patience to deal with plenty of unfair deaths then you're better off waiting for Unit 5 to come out.
- + Challenging 2D platforming gameplay
- + Character-swapping mechanic adds a welcome layer of variety and strategy
- + Loads of lengthy stages to master
- - Camera problems cause surprise deaths
- - Challenge frequently relies too much on memorization / hard to see some hazards
- - Visuals aren't anything special