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‘1-2-Switch’: Our First Take

'1-2-Switch' is quick and easy fun that's unique to the Switch

How would you show off the functionality of a console designed with more than a few discrete control schemes in mind, ranging from traditional gamepads, to a touchscreen, to pared-down mini-controllers made for local multiplayer?

With mini-games, of course! That’s what 1-2-Switch, Nintendo’s wacky compilation of party games for its upcoming Switch console, tries to do. In a series of Wii-esque motion games, pairs of players can square off across a wide array of short, odd, and compelling competitions ranging from wild west quick-draw, to seeing who can milk a cow more effectively.

Nintendo revealed six mini-games at the show, and said there will be more when the game launches in March. After trying three of the games, there’s a distinctive design theory, and sense of style behind the games. Every game is fast, easy to understand, and paired with strange live-action videos that serve as tutorials for the games.

Stick ‘em up

The first game was, as we mentioned, a classic old-west quick draw. Two people stand facing each other, each with a Joy-Con mini-controller in hand. You’re instructed to face your opponent — or stand back-to-back — rather than face the screen, which shows two non-descript cowboys. When the game calls “fire,” you lift your gun and pull the trigger button. Whoever shoots first (and aims true) wins.

Unlike Wii Sports, the games in 1-2-Switch feel thin.

The neat part of this game takes place after it’s over. The game will show you how long each person took to fire and, using the accelerometer and gyroscope, shows how high or low you raised your gun before shooting. There is a designated “strike zone,” so if you aim too high or too low, you won’t hit your target. It’s particularly frantic when facing back-to-back so you have to turn and shoot in close proximity. There’s a real danger of pressing the button pre-maturely, or even colliding with each other.

The game itself really just serves as referee. There’s nothing about this game that two people couldn’t do on their own. It’s the data that makes it thrilling. Seeing that the winner only pulled away by a few tenths of a second turns the game into a competition.

Milking for the spotlight

The second, extremely odd game we played, was a cow-milking competition. Again, both players use a single Joy-Con controller. Facing your opponent, you move your arm up and down in a straight line, and press the shoulder buttons in sequence: At the top of your movement, you press the top shoulder button, then switch to the lower shoulder button as you lower your hand.

Again, the screen supplied supplementary information. If you looked over, the screen showed the outline of an udder, and indicated both the fluidity and success of both players’ milking. You could wring more milk from your virtual cow if you held the buttons as long as possible before letting go, and console let you know, both with sight and sound, how much milk you gathered with each motion.

When you boil it down, the milking is actually a simple, but precise rhythm game. In two games, we didn’t quite sync our movement and button presses, but it’s clear (based on our opponent, if nothing else) that it is possible to find that rhythm, which means the game can clearly coordinate your presses and your motion precisely.

Virtual Rumbality

The last game, while far less weird, may have been the most perplexing. Each player held a Joy-Con in their hand, face-up, and moved it around in their hand. Using the Joy-Con’s “HD Rumble” tech, the controllers simulated the feeling of balls rolling around in the controller. The goal was to guess how many.

We can’t tell you exactly how the Switch’s HD Rumble tech works — we asked, they didn’t say. It feels like a series of motors that can be triggered with precise variations in their size and intensity. We can, however, tell you that the HD Rumble is very precise. As you turn the controller over in your hand, it feels as if a number of round objects are tumbling inside the shell of the Joy-Con. You can feel the balls hit the sides of the controller. You can feel them hit each other. Realistically, this guessing game felt more like a tech demo than something we’d play with friends, but it definitely allows the HD Rumble feature to make an impression.

1-2-Switch will probably be the game you want to buy as an early adopter planning to show off to friends. It’s fun, it’s light, it’s social — you don’t need to be a Nintendo person, or even a video game person to admire its quality and charm. At the same time, unlike Wii Sports, the games in 1-2-Switch feel thin. You wouldn’t play more than a few rounds of any mini-game in a sitting, and the games might lose their flavor completely after you trot them out a few times. It’s a fun, but momentary dalliance that will help most of us pass the time until more substantial (and memorable) games are ready.

1-2 Switch will be in stores when the Nintendo Switch hits on March 3.

Highs

  • Wide variety of games
  • Easy and intuitive
  • Quick and fun

Lows

  • Individual games feel a bit thin
  • Probably won’t be fun solo