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1-2-Switch is not the killer app the Nintendo Switch needs

At $50, these minigames aren’t worth it

After 30 minutes of 1-2-Switch, Nintendo’s only Switch-exclusive launch game, I think I’ve had my fill.

The minigame collection, which will be sold separately for a sub-$60 price at retail, isn’t bad, per se. It’s a diverse showcase for the Switch’s exciting new controllers, the Joy-Con. Each of the speedy two-player titles we tried at Nintendo’s hands-on Switch press event were focused around one of the peripheral’s gimmicks. One game, “Ball Count,” had us tilting a single, horizontal Joy-Con in our palms as the HD rumble feature generated the sensation of a number of marbles rolling around. Another, “Milk,” required players to pull a Joy-Con straight down, squeezing the trigger buttons rhythmically as if they were a cow’s udder.

The problem is that these and the other two games we were able to try were flashy, but not particularly fun for more than a round or three. While “Ball Count” proves that the Joy-Con controllers’ rumble feature is a pretty unique, dynamic sensation, it’s also just bland and infuriating to play. It’s an impossible guessing game with no frame of reference; how the hell am I supposed to know how many imaginary marbles are hiding inside of my controller? I just like the way they feel rolling around in my hand, but there’s no real depth or intrigue beyond that.

I can’t imagine wanting to play that or “Milk” ever again, especially with the latter game’s very uncomfortable controls. Although the Joy-Con can be held in different directions and configurations, there are some that just feel better than others. The vertical pose used for “Milk” isn’t ideal for hitting the tiny triggers on the top of the gamepads.

Ball Count was the most annoying minigame of 1-2-Switch’s disappointing lineup.

Simpler games, like the Western-style “Quick Draw” and “Samurai Training,” both of which just require swinging the Joy-Con like a Wiimote, are more successful. But even they last all of 30 seconds, and neither the gameplay nor the challenge ever changes. They quickly feel repetitive, and victory is dependent more on your existing reflexes than any grasp of those nifty controls.

At best, 1-2-Switch is a tech demonstration for new owners of the Switch to have their friends play when they ask about that fancy gadget docked by the TV. It’s arguable that Wii Sports served the same purpose, but there are key differences here. Wii Sports felt rewarding, what with its increasing challenges, various missions and single-player offerings. Each event in that collection wasn’t just a fun, replayable game; it was a satisfying tutorial for the motion controls that Nintendo made the Wii’s cornerstone.

More importantly than that: Wii Sports came with the Wii, a console that cost $50 cheaper at launch than the Switch will. 1-2-Switch is sold separately, and it’s hard to offer it my vote of confidence as a smart launch day purchase. Its returns diminished quickly after just two play sessions, and without that familiar Nintendo aesthetic — no Mario characters or Miis are found in this package, as far as I saw — it’s not an endearing party game to a hardcore Nintendo fan. While the minigames show just how much the Joy-Con can do, it’s hard to imagine these controls translating to other games. Based on what we played, they rarely did; 1-2-Switch is not a great primer for the console’s library thus far.

None of this would matter so much if the game came with the console itself. But it doesn’t, and that means I just won’t ever choose to play it again if I don’t have to. I’ve seen all I need to see from 1-2-Switch, and I think I’m good from now on.