I watched the Nintendo Direct which announced the Switch, like countless others. I cheered some games, shrugged at those which did not catch my attention, and was shocked to discover that 1-2 Switch was not a free game bundled with the Switch. It was basically Wii Sports revamped, so why would anyone have to shell out $50 for a glorified demo reel?
I reluctantly picked up a copy to play during a company retreat, when several of us would be spending several nights hanging out together in hotels, figuring that it would be a good way to pass a little time. 1-2 Switch quickly become the unexpected hit of the trip, occupying hours of every single evening, and many an office Friday since. It’s not perfect, and there are some games which go entirely unplayed, but this grab-bag of party games has far more doozies than duds.
The Internet’s favorite game, Milk, was a bit of a flop during our first play session. One person entered the room only to have a controller thrust into his hand. Before he really knew what was going on, he had locked eyes with me as we set into the controlled yet frantic motions of milking an imaginary cow. We were only half way through the game when he suddenly snapped out of it, dropped the controller on a couch and announced, “I don’t wanna be good at this, I need a beer.”
And thus the night began.
As everyone was over 21, adult beverages flowed as we squared off to see who could most quickly answer phones, who had the best catwalk and who was the master of air guitar. There were some obvious hits, such as Quick Draw and Samurai, but a few unexpected favorites floated to the top. There was a serious battle over who had the best daddy skills between several men thanks to the game Baby, where you have to rock your Switch until it falls asleep, then set it down and walk away without waking it up. Safe Cracker became the favorite game of our coder crowd, and you could often find pairs of people holding up Joy-Cons as if it were a dial handle, turning their wrists this way and that, waiting to feel the slight vibration of a tumbler falling into groove so they could unlock an imaginary safe.
Our second round of gameplay involved an actual Switch party, with specially made red and blue cocktails. Picking a cocktail would assign you to either the red or the blue team, where you would fight to earn your team the most points. In this session, Milk was a huge hit, and the winning technique involved getting down on one knee and applying a few body rolls to your milking. Copy Dance was the other game of choice here, with some performers opting for huge gestures at the ‘pose’ prompt, while others literally did nothing more than flick a wrist.
Of course, the evening was stolen by the most unexpected of games: Zen. We collectively rolled our eyes at a yoga game, but competitive natures, fueled by good friends and doubtless a little liquid help, resulted in a huge amount of smack-talking, sabotage, and culminated in an extended Hulk Hogan trash talking impression during chair pose.
1-2 Switch also provides a few excellent options for the non-gamers. Several people had never really played video games outside of Bejweled and Clash of Clans style mobile games. Unfamiliar with controllers, much less motion controls, several were hesitant to even approach the Switch. Enter Treasure Chest, the perfect introduction to motion controls. In this minigame, each Joy-Con transforms on the screen into a treasure chest which has been wrapped up on lengths of chain. With no buttons to press, you have to turn and twist your Joy-Con in order to unravel the chain and free your precious pirate booty. It’s simple, it’s tactile and it’s addicting; this game is a great gateway drug for those unfamiliar with gaming.
Sneaky Dice proved to be another unexpected gem for both non-gamers and BS’ers alike. This game involves each player rolling a pair of dice under a cup, with the goal of getting a higher roll than their opponent. The number which you rolled will be transmitted to your opponent via Joy-Con vibrations. Both players can re-roll their dice up to three times, and players can use any mixture of honesty, lies and mixed messages to convince their opponent to either stay or reroll, whichever is to their advantage. We had a lawyer and an IT guy squaring off in this game for the better part of an hour, inventing rules on the fly, arguing technicalities and generally entertaining an entire room of people who had no way of knowing who was telling the truth and who was lying.
As I mentioned before, there are some duds. We had high hopes for Ping Pong, but the idea of trying to play with neither net nor ball, using your imagination to decide where the ball is, doesn’t really translate well for either novices or die-hard paddlers. Those who aren’t good at ping pong couldn’t effectively imagine where the ball was, while the game just made the experts want to break out an actual ball and net and play for real. Gorilla, where players have to try and move around the space as if they were a great ape, was also met with a generally ‘meh’ reaction several times over.
1-2 Switch also gets in the way of its own fun in a few ways, especially when it comes to certain games. Zen will not let you pick your yoga pose, one is randomly assigned to you. If both players shake their Joy-Con, then a new random pose will be assigned, but you can only do this three times before the game tells you that you have to do that pose. Incredibly boring if the pose happens to be Lotus, and incredibly annoying if you just want to do the same pose again.
The game also comes with a built-in Red vs. Blue mode, allowing groups of players to divide themselves into teams and collectively race a virtual board to see which team scores the most points first. This is great fun, except that, like with picking Zen poses, the computer randomly assigns each game, and you can only reroll for a new game three times. Simply providing the option to pre-select games, allowing organizers to avoid the less fun games, or removing the reroll limitation would make this mode far more fun and functional. We were so disillusioned by the restrictions of this game mode that, when we held our Red vs Blue competition, we resorted to keeping score on a white board, rather than using the built-in feature.
It’s also worth noting that, outside of a few games which are single-player or which require one Joy-Con to be passed between any number of people, 1-2 Switch is a two-player game. You can’t play against AI if you are home alone, and you can’t attach extra Joy-Cons to have a four-way race in Beach Flags, something which is a little disappointing when you have a room full of people and only two at a time can play, given that Super Bomberman R supports up to eight people playing at once.
I purchased 1-2 Switch expecting to be mildly amused but ultimately disappointed, much like my general feelings towards Wii Sports. I’m happy to say that, in real world settings, 1-2 Switch went well above my expectations, and provided, and is still providing, many hours of laughter and entertainment. The general requirement to look your opponent in the eye does wonders to bring out competitiveness, while the short length of the games means that it avoids being the kind of friendship killer that several other party games have earned a reputation for. It’s as fun for the spectators as it is for those actively playing, and it provides enough variety to entertain all kinds of people, both gamers and non-gamers alike.
Second opinion – Elisha Deogracias
Much like last generation’s Just Dance series, 1-2 Switch is silly and goofy; so much so that older folk may need to be a tad inebriated to fully enjoy the title. However, I contend that the game is perfect for all ages, and it’s a great title to showcase your shiny new Switch to kids and parents alike.
They say there’s beauty in simplicity, and 1-2 Switch takes that premise and runs wild with it. Each of the 28 mini-games is relatively easy to pick up, and every tutorial video is full of a charming quirkiness that catches the eyes of random passerby. I was a babysitter for a few kids of family friends, and the children would always be interested in the little thirty-second tutorials. (Then again, it was a bit hard explaining the milking minigame’s video to them, but hey.) There’s a signature goofiness that 1-2 Switch exudes. It’s boisterous and funny, and as entertaining as the people with whom you play.
As their ages were below thirteen (with a couple of my friends in their early 20s), the kids were big fans of the active minigames and ones that required a lot of waggling. Quick Draw (and by extension, Fake Draw), were big hits, as was the Shave game (because I don’t know, puberty or something?). The former emulates a western shootout, which works seamlessly with the voice directing you to “Fire!” (or “flower!, or “five!”, depending on which version you play). The latter, however, uses the HD rumble feature to mimic shaving (or something similar to the action).
Almost every game takes advantage of the Joy-Cons in a unique way; I really haven’t seen many other games (other than Breath of the Wild) utilize the novelty controller as much as much as 1-2 Switch. The most-played game hands-down was Soda Shake because the one Joy-Con setup was perfect for playing with more than two people. We had about five people at a time shaking an imaginary soda, hoping that it wouldn’t explode on us. It turned into a frantic psych-out session, with children shaking the Joy-Con at the last second. (The receiving person was understandably freaking out.) Safe Crack was a great use of HD Rumble, and my friends and I would spend 15 minutes at a time trying to get the record for the game.
Oddly enough, Baby had a lot of replay time with our group (where you hold the switch like an infant, trying to rocking back and forth before laying it on a surface when it goes to sleep), but only because much of our time with the game was spent with the Switch undocked. This is possibly the best part of 1-2 Switch, however: the game is excellent as a portable title. I played the game everywhere from family friends’ houses to McDonald’s. The game works well wherever you have some room, and because everything you need is on the Switch itself, it’s an instant party hit. Do you remember that Switch ad where Karen takes the console to her rooftop party? Well, that can happen, and when it does, it’s glorious.
While the game relies on audio cues, I found that the ones which centered around that mechanic (excluding the Quick Draw games) to be the ones which weren’t too great. Ping Pong was too unwieldy to get a rally going, and Telephone (where the only mechanic is picking up your Joy-Con when you hear ringing), is over way too quickly. This is also exacerbated in tabletop mode, as while the Switch’s speaker is adequate enough for large settings, you may hear the cues wrong in a noisier room. While the option to have a 3-on-3 party mode is there, I also didn’t really enjoy it as much due to the shallowness of that mode. A little polish on that would’ve made it an essential addition to 1-2 Switch, but for now, it just seems like an afterthought. However, it is hilarious to watch whoever’s playing, as it becomes a game of facial expressions and big grins.
Is it worth $50? For most people, probably not. However, for those looking to have a good time with a family-friendly title, I’d be hard-pressed to find another multiplayer game (other than Mario Kart 8) on the Switch that anyone can get into, regardless of skill level.
1-2 Switch defied my expectations, providing an entertainment experience above and beyond that of what I thought was its closest counterpart, Wii Sports. It has a huge variety of games, some better than others, which appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. Although artificial restrictions placed on some games and game modes keep it from being as much fun as it could be, this is an excellent party game, and it’s just as much fun to watch as it is to play.