So the Switch is finally here and those eccentric oddballs at Nintendo have once again taken a brave and innovative stance with their new console, which has provoked “aah!!”’s, “umm?”’s and indeed “eh?!”’s from the gaming community.
A key launch title, 1-2-Switch has been billed as the new party-in-a-box and equally a grand showcase of the Switch’s numerous capabilities, but can its collection of mini-games continue to fuel the burning furnace of the hype train?
On the slate are a total of twenty-eight ways to embarrass yourself and everyone else in attendance; some mildly interesting, some quick to bore, and some a complete waste of everyone’s time. To ease you into the absurdity and prevent total sensory confusion and shut-down before you even get started, the game limits you to a mere five introductory activities to prove your mastery of the concepts. Getting these down unlocks the whole bizarre kit and caboodle, and a crazy, befuddling time awaits. Individual games can be selected by the player or at random, with each activity rated on the industry-standard one-to-four red chili pepper scale of arduousness. For a more structured evening’s entertainment, a team battle can be selected, with up to ten revelers competing for top score in a predetermined subset of events.
The required actions to be performed for each game are goofily demonstrated by a troupe of unbelievably enthusiastic actors possessing the inconceivable joie de vivre heretofore only the preserve of children’s TV hosts, while the on-screen announcers cajole you into having fun like a relentlessly chipper clown at a kid’s birthday party. Most of the initial enjoyment to be had is to approach the collection with no knowledge of its contents, laughing at what fresh incongruous insanity the next press of the randomiser will bring. Once all the games are uncovered, most will find very little reason to return; a good few of the selections barely even qualify as games, with points awarded as much for thoroughly uncoordinated waggling of the controller in lieu of what you’re actually supposed to be doing. If you’re in contact with your more frivolous and extrovert side (or are, indeed, a child), you might have an easier time buying into the game’s conceit, but it doesn’t prevent the facade being paper-thin.
If you’d like to know a little more about what awaits you and don’t mind spoiling the singular surprise of it appearing on the screen, here are just a few highlights. Wild west cowpokes handy with the steel can have a digital shootout with ‘Quick Draw’, or for variation the slightly more farcical ‘Fake Draw’, where the announcer attempts to trick you with a barrage of other F-words before actually shouting ‘Fire!’. ‘Ball Count’ and ‘Safe Crack’ show off the genuinely impressive sensitivity of the Joy-Con’s enhanced haptic feedback. The former simulates a small box with a number of ball bearings inside which you have to guess the number of, and the latter recreates the almost imperceptibly subtle clinks of safe tumblers falling into place. ‘Milk’ predictably acts out a one-sided bovine encounter that probably doesn’t ever feel comfortable in real life, never mind in a game. Finally, lest we forget, ‘Baby’ is a deeply disturbing slice of techno-horror straight out of an episode of Black Mirror where you are invited to cradle your console to sleep while it displays an abstract infant face, which will almost certainly have the majority of players force-quitting faster than you can say Eraserhead.
The game is as quick to remind you as the old Wii to secure the Joy-Con to your hand with the bundled strap, or risk the tiny device taking flight from your outstretched palm for a swift but violent visit to your most fragile of living room items. The little fellas aren’t quite as bulky or heavy as the original Wiimotes; in fact you’re more likely to damage them than anything else. Nintendo clearly believes that with constant reminders sensibility should prevail, even if the cost is having the phrase ‘be mindful of your surroundings’ etched into your brain in two dozen stereotypical accents. Participants are also frequently reminded to ‘look each other in the eye’, an instruction that feels decidedly counter-intuitive for a video-game, but is designed to foster the friendly competitive spirit. Having your eyes locked on your opponent’s gaze, aside from making you more self-conscious, means you’re totally reliant on audio cues for some of the games; fine for when you have the Switch docked and hooked up to a decent sound system, but not so great with the limited speakers in tablet mode.
The Wii brought motion control to mainstream gaming, and at the time Wii Sports was a groundbreaking showcase of the new technology. Try as they might to make lightning strike twice, the Switch’s Joy-Cons are just a basic iteration on the idea, and while 1-2-Switch manages to pack more activities in, they all feel extremely devoid of depth; vaguely interesting or fun to play once or twice, then discarded forever. The inherently obvious consensus is that this offering would have provided a mildly entertaining distraction on the day you would bring your new Nintendo console home as a pack-in title, like Wii Sports and Nintendo Land before it, but to try and justify its place as a full-price title is a fool’s errand, especially with the superlative and expansive Zelda: Breath Of The Wild on the shelf next to it.
Recommending 1-2-Switch depends very much on the age of the intended player. Kids won’t mind the repetition and will probably find it hilarious, and some adults might be willing to meet the asking price for a couple of evenings of baffling, ironic, B movie-esque fun with a group of friends before deleting it or consigning it to a dusty drawer. Regardless of audience, it still feels a high price for what is essentially a trussed-up tech demo, and no amount of wacky antics can make up for that.