Let’s begin with the elephant in the room: yes, 1-2-Switch should have been packed in with Nintendo’s shiny new console. Following in the footsteps of the cultural phenomenon that was Wii Sports and the charming Nintendoland, 1-2-Switch has been positioned as the ideal way to get friends and family involved with your new toy and showcase its gimmicks. 1-2-Switch’s £39.99 price tag is hard to justify, more so than it would have been for the aforementioned Wii and Wii U pack-in titles had they been standalone games, but there’s no denying that it has the potential to raise just as many smiles as almost anything else in the Switch’s launch line-up.
1-2-Switch boasts 28 minigames and most of them task you with doing something utterly ridiculous with your Joy-Cons. Some require you to use the entire tablet, like Baby, which beams the face of a crying tot onto the screen and asks you to cradle the entire device and rock him to sleep before setting it down on a flat surface. Say what you like about Nintendo, but the minds at work over there are capable of coming up with ideas that nobody else in the industry would even begin to contemplate.
Quite a few of 1-2-Switch’s minigames don’t even require you to look at anything other than your opponent, and you’re regularly told to look them straight in the eye while playing. There’s Quick Draw, in which you face-off with another player and wait for a signal before pulling up your Joy-Con and pulling the trigger as if you were part of a dramatic Wild West shootout. Fake Draw is an alternate version in which the announcer shouts out a number of other words beginning with F (behave) in a bid to tempt you into shooting before he tells you to fire. It’s simple but undeniably fun, and the responsiveness of the Joy-Cons ensures that you never feel cheated and the winning shot always feels genuine.
Perhaps the most impressive contests in 1-2-Switch’s arsenal are those that rely on the Joy-Cons’ HD Rumble feature, which allows for far more subtle and precise fluctuations in the pattern of the vibrations within the controllers. Think of it as an evolution of the rumble triggers Microsoft introduced so successfully with the launch of the Xbox One. In 1-2-Switch the HD Rumble is used in Ball Counting, in which you tilt the Joy-Con around in your hand and have to guess how many balls are rolling around inside. Then there’s Safe Crack, where players race to open up a safe by twisting the controllers to turn a dial, keeping track of bumps in the vibrations to know when to pick the lock. It’s genuinely impressive technology, and it’ll be interesting to see whether developers take advantage of it to enhance more fully-fledged games.
Some of 1-2-Switch’s other offerings feel like Nintendo going back to the well and picking up concepts that served them well during the Wii era. Minigames like Table Tennis, Sword Fight, and Baseball all featured in some capacity across Wii Sports and its sequel, while Beach Flag’s insistence that you run on the spot as fast as you can and in doing so annoy your neighbours in the downstairs flat will bring back memories of the halcyon days of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. You’ll also be made to dance and hold some zen poses, and it’s no surprise that these minigames feel like little more than excerpts chopped from Just Dance and Wii Fit.
There’s no doubt that 1-2-Switch is at its best when it’s at its most absurd, and it’s credit to Nintendo that the aforementioned Baby minigame has some serious competition in the weirdness stakes. Eating Contest uses the Joy-Cons’ IR motion camera to track the movements of your mouth as you chomp up and down as fast as you can to clear an order of tasty looking sandwiches, Wizard has two players waving their controllers at one another and pushing for supremacy like the finale of a low budget remake of Harry Potter, and Shaver gets you to rub the Joy-Con around your chin and jaw as if you were trimming a beard. The game’s insistence on eye contact during most of these minigames means that – when combined with alcohol – they could make for fabulously awkward icebreakers if pulled out at parties.
Indeed, it’s conditions such as these on which 1-2-Switch will live or die. As fun as many of its minigames are, 28 of them for £39.99 would be a big ask even if they were all fantastic, and it pales in comparison to Nintendo’s premiere minigame franchise – WarioWare – when it comes to getting bang for your buck. It’s admittedly difficult not to become enamoured by 1-2-Switch’s undeniable charm, but only if you can rope in a group of friends who are willing to make a fool of themselves as much as the actors in the game’s hilarious video tutorials.
1-2-Switch joins a very select group of video games that become infinitely better when you’re drunk. You probably can’t beat Ganon after you’ve downed a few vodka and cokes, but you might have a pretty good time pretending to milk cows.