While I stood in line at a local midnight launch of Nintendo’s Switch portable hybrid, I noticed that everyone buying a Switch was also buying a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The other popular title for early adopters is 1–2–Switch, a collection of party games that puts the new Joy-Con controllers through their paces.
But there’s uncertainty over whether 1–2–Switch is really worth the $50 price of entry. Should this have been a pack-in game, free with the system?
Yes, It Shows Off New Tech
The Switch is the first console since the original Nintendo Entertainment System to feature two controllers in the box. 1–2–Switch requires two players, each of which takes one of these Joy-Con and uses the motion controls to complete a set of minigames. So far, so Nintendo.
There’s no single-player element here unless you fancy competing against yourself, Joy-Con in each hand. This contrasts with Nintendo’s other motion control launch titles like Wii Sports and Nintendo Land. That’s right, in the eleven years since the release of the original Wii in 2006, motion controls have somehow survived.
Fortunately, there’s no longer any need for a sensor bar above your TV, and the gyroscopes in the Joy-Con are highly sensitive. Unlike Wiimotes, the new controllers don’t require any AA batteries either. On the flip-side, playing 1–2–Switch isn’t comparable to first picking up Wii Sports all those years ago. Part of this is because you’re no longer looking at your TV or console — instead, your gaze meets the other player.
While motion controls have been seen before, the haptic-based HD Rumble feature has not. Nintendo is touting it as another big selling point for the Switch, and many of 1–2–Switch‘s minigames make heavy use of it. One example is a game that asks you to guess how many balls are in a box by moving the Joy-Con around. I thought this was a pretty impressive tech demo, but it didn’t impress my partner very much so your mileage may vary.
You can play 1–2–Switch just about anywhere you can take the console, which is another of Nintendo’s selling points. You barely need to glance at the screen. As long as you don’t venture too far from the console, you can keep playing till you get bored.
That might be sooner than you’d like.
Like WarioWare, But Not as Good
Did you ever play WarioWare: Smooth Moves on the Wii? It’s a frantic collection of microgames presented with a zany Japanese aesthetic that still holds up today. The included tasks range from the relatively pedestrian (guiding a paper airplane with the Wiimote) to the bizarre (drink the water without spilling it on your face). Smooth Moves was as much fun to watch as it was to play.
There was also an element of technique to the game, as it required the player to become familiar with a variety of different “grips” for holding the Wiimote. The more experience you had, the better you’d get. The frantic nature of the pass-and-play multiplayer added tension, excitement, and increased your likelihood of screwing something up.
1–2–Switch is a vastly different game, and not only because both players compete at the same time. The game’s overall aesthetic is barebones, consisting mostly of videos showing you how to play. It’s a far simpler game that’s easier to pick up, but it also lacks the frenetic energy of WarioWare and it’s considerably duller for it.
Some of the included minigames are genuinely good fun, but they number maybe five or six of the 28 included. Some of the games fall flat entirely, with the lack of on-screen feedback making this feel even worse. A good example is the included “invisible” table tennis game (shown above), which forces you to rely on timing to hit the ball back to your partner. It’s every bit as maddening as you’re probably imagining.
There’s something to be said about relegating the console to the background, and telling players to focus on each other rather than the screen. Sometimes this works great, like the “copy dance” minigame (shown below) which tasks you with copying your partner’s moves and holding a pose. Another requires you to strike your partner with a sword, while they attempt to catch it in mid-air.
Unfortunately these experiences are few and far between. Games are a breeze to pick up, and so unlike the aforementioned WarioWare they lack the satisfaction of improving as you play. Something more akin to Smooth Moves would have resulted in more challenging and engaging games, a faster overall pace, and a sense of humor and style that would help mask the shortcomings.
There Isn’t a Lot of Depth
The first time you play 1–2–Switch you’ll have to play through a handful of curated games before unlocking all 28. You can also unlock team battles for up to 20 players, which require around 30 minutes of your time. Ultimately though, there’s little in the way of “game modes” to choose from.
You can choose to play a minigame indefinitely until someone hits the plus or minus button and chooses something else. You can drop it into shuffle mode which serves up random games till you get bored and play Zelda instead. There are no scores beyond the game’s end state, no leaderboards, little in the way of competition, and nothing to work towards unlocking.
This is what makes the game feel most like a tech demo. 1–2–Switch needs more purpose to justify its $50 price tag. There’s nothing wrong with Nintendo slapping together a collection of minigames, provided the price is right. $50 is not the right price for 1–2–Switch.
There are 28 game types, but many repurpose the same gimmick. Nintendo probably could have focused their efforts on the best 10 or so games, and released this as a free digital download to all new Switch owners. A strong start for the Switch is doubly important after the failure of the Wii U, and a free game would have sweetened the deal.
I also have an issue with the presentation, despite Nintendo’s best efforts to sell this as a social experience. It reminds me a bit of those “DVD games” that rely on video and barely-animated menus because that’s all they can do.
It’s Distracting for a While
I don’t see myself playing 1–2–Switch very often at all, and launching alongside Breath of the Wild probably isn’t helping matters. I did have some fun playing 1–2–Switch, but it wasn’t $50 worth of fun. At $20 it would have been passable. As a free pack-in game I’d be singing Nintendo’s praises for trying to Wii Sports its way into our hearts.
Unfortunately though, it’s no Wii Sports. It’s not even Nintendo Land. Pick it up cheap when the used copies start flooding in if you’re looking for a party game that uses motion controls. Or just wait for a real WarioWare game.
Have you played 1–2–Switch? Did you enjoy it? What else have you been playing on your new console?