1-2-Switch

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With Breath Of The Wild com­fort­ably ful­fill­ing its straight­for­ward re­mit to be an un­miss­ably bril­liant Nin­tendo game, 1-2-Switch has been as­signed the less glam­orous – but no less im­por­tant – job of sell­ing its host con­sole’s fea­ture set. In that role, of demon­strat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the hard­ware, it’s an un­doubted suc­cess. But it feels like an ideal pack-in game that’s been some­what over­val­ued by its pub­lisher, and it’s not hard to imag­ine what might have hap­pened had the sim­i­larly slight Wii Sports also been sold so­lus at an in­flated price tag.

Its suite of 28 two-player minigames may seem gen­er­ous, but per­haps half of those will be quickly left out of the ro­ta­tion when friends and fam­ily mem­bers next come over. Among the high­lights are Safe Cracker, a fas­ci­nat­ing show­case for the Joy-Cons’ HD Rum­ble fea­ture in which you ro­tate your wrist to turn a dial un­til you feel a more pro­nounced click. Tele­phone man­ages to turn the sim­ple act of an­swer­ing a call into a strangely tense com­pet­i­tive chal­lenge. At the more phys­i­cally de­mand­ing end of the scale is Wiz­ard, where the Joy-Cons be­come thrust­ing wands in a back-and­forth mag­i­cal bat­tle sure to have kids of all ages pic­tur­ing them­selves as Harry Pot­ter fac­ing Volde­mort.

It rarely gets much more com­plex than that, though im­me­di­acy is rather the point. The short videos that in­tro­duce each minigame are bland and be­nign, like much of the pre­sen­ta­tion. But then the screen isn’t the fo­cus; in­stead, you’re told to look at one an­other. The real game takes place within the room, then, with am­ple op­por­tu­nity to con­found, dis­tract or oth­er­wise trick your op­po­nent. You might swing en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in Table Ten­nis as if smash­ing the ball, while squeez­ing the shoul­der but­ton that pro­duces a lob, forc­ing a hasty re­turn into the net. Or dur­ing the self-ex­plana­tory Quick Draw, you could yell ‘fire!’ so your ri­val jumps the gun. In that light, vari­ant Fake Draw, dur­ing which a voice shouts sim­i­lar words to tempt you into a pre­ma­ture shot, feels some­what re­dun­dant.

En­er­getic if sim­plis­tic, shal­low yet enor­mously re­playable, it’s the kind of game you’ll for­get about for months, re­dis­cover dur­ing a party, and within ten min­utes ev­ery­one will be shout­ing, laugh­ing and clam­our­ing to join in. It’s an ex­pen­sive wel­come mat of a game, spo­rad­i­cally rather than con­sis­tently in­spired. There will, no doubt, be more ex­pan­sive and al­lur­ing Switch games that de­velop these con­cepts into some­thing more sub­stan­tial. For now, how­ever, there’s some­thing strangely ap­peal­ing about a game that so ex­u­ber­antly cel­e­brates the unique­ness of this fas­ci­nat­ing new Nin­tendo hard­ware.

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