There’s no getting around it. 1, 2 Switch should have been a free pack in with Nintendo’s latest system. Though it’s an unfair comparison to make, the Wii launched with Wii Sports included with every system. Wii Sports was genius, giving newcomers to the system and to video games in general something instantly, tangibly relatable to engage with. 1,2 Switch costs $50, or locally, R699. That’s a lot of money for not a lot of content.
The weird, wacky and frequently wonderful collection of micro-games serves as an excellent primer for the system’s Joy-Con controllers, which are stuffed with arcane technology – but that’s really all they are. 1,2 Switch is a collection of tech demos, a perfect – if fleeting – showcase of the sorts of things you can expect to be doing with the Switch’s magical little controllers for years to come. But is that in itself any fun? It all depends on you.
If you’re the sort who regularly has friends around, or plan on taking the system around to introduce new people to its unique ideas, there’s a case to be made for buying 1,2 Switch. If you’re the more sedentary or solitary sort of gamer, then there’s little point to it.
That’s because 1,2 Switch is a multiplayer-only game that most of the time doesn’t really need players looking at a screen. It takes many of its cues from inventive indie games like Johann Sebastian Joust that have competing players looking at each other instead of screens.
In 1,2 Switch, the screen is secondary for most of its games, relaying little more than instruction or audio cues. At least, that’s after the bizarre, cringe-inducing introductory video presaging the awkward experience you’re about to have before each game.
It starts off forcing you to play through 5 of its games, without saying as much, before unlocking the full set of 28 games. Some are brilliant; using the Joy-Con’s HD rumble to try and figure out how many balls are rolling in an imaginary wooden box is, and always will feel like technological black magic to me. The rest of the games do a pretty good job of highlighting the tech encased within the diminutive controllers. There are some unbearable silly ones, like Eating Contest, which has you munching on air, guzzling imaginary foot-long sandwiches with a controller held to your face.
A favourite in my Harry Potter-obsessed household is Wizard, which has players pretending that each Joy-Con is a wand, strategically thrusting the controller to counter your opponent. Draw has each player standing across from the other, arms akimbo – waiting for the signal to fire. Fastest fingers win. Games like this are good for a laugh, but the appeal is limited.
Some games try too hard to show off the technology, but do little to make themselves at all engaging. Joy-Con rotation, as an example, is exactly that. All you do is put the controllers on a table, and turn them like a dial. How is this fun?
Of course, there are games that are even more awkward, which sullied minds can’t help but giggle about when played. Games like Milk and Soda Shake have players mimicking male masturbation, and are some of the more riotous games when played by adults, especially ones who’ve put a few beers in to themselves.
It’s in precisely that situation where one of its modes, Team Battle mode, shines. Suitable for larger groups in a party environment, it turns the whole thing in to a Mario Party-esque board game. Teams split in to two, choosing a player to go up for each game. The winner of said game spins a dial, determining how many spaces up the board their team goes. It all becomes very silly, terribly tense and competitive and is genuinely a lot of fun. Once or twice.
That’s the biggest problem with 1,2 Switch. While it does an excellent job of showcasing the Joy-Con’s abilities, the lack of depth means it’s just not very much fun in the long run. In the right circumstances, it can be a riotously good time – but it’ll likely spend most of its time on the shelf.