Before last night, when Nintendo unveiled them at its global Nintendo Switch press conference, I’d never heard of Arms or Snipperclips. After playing them at the console’s hands-on premiere event, held in New York City exclusively for the press, they’re now easily my most highly anticipated Switch games.
I spent ample time demoing both titles, which are completely original Nintendo properties and exclusive to Nintendo Switch. What’s special about both games is how much fun they are — and how that enjoyment is dependent on the console’s specific features.
In some sense, Arms feels very much like a Wii game. It’s played holding a Joy-Con controller in each fist, then throwing punches at the air that the on-screen fighter will mimic. Tilt the Joy-Con controllers left or right, and the fighter will lean that way; turn them to face each other, and the character puts their fists in front of their body to block their opponent’s move.
It’s all very intuitive, just as Wii Boxing and other, similar motion control-heavy titles were back in the day. The difference is that the Joy-Con feels like a smaller, lighter, overall better evolution of the Wiimotes. Holding them in my fists and punching didn’t feel silly, like it often could with the less precise Wii controller. It felt gratifying, as did the nuance afforded by the Joy-Con’s more advanced feature set.
Even better: Arms can be played using buttons, too. Although the one-on-one fighter, whose roster is full of fantastical, superpowered characters with names like “Mechanica” and “Ribbon Girl,” is better served by a big screen, I was told it works perfectly well in tablet mode, too. And either way, if a player ever gets sick of throwing punches, the buttons are there so that they don’t have to stop playing.
Based on just a few rounds of it, Arms seems to be a much better game overall than 1-2-Switch, which seems to be touted as the premier Joy-Con showcase. That’s important when it comes to selling someone on the new system.
Just as fun was Snipperclips, which uses the Joy-Con in a much more traditional fashion. We played it in the Switch’s tabletop mode, with the controllers detached and the kickstand supporting the tablet. Although the game supports anywhere from one to four players at a time, Snipperclips makes the most sense as a co-op game. That’s because the Switch comes with two Joy-Con controllers right off the bat, with each player holding one sideways, sitting side by side to work out an increasingly complex series of puzzles.
Rubbing shoulders with two different companions, I experienced an intimacy that is unique to local multiplayer games. A tutorial showed us how to use the controls to move, rotate and deform our adorable paper cutout characters so that we could press switches and form different shapes. After that, we were off to put our skills together and complete some challenges — which involved a lot of talking out best practices and coming up with a strategy on the fly.
Holding that baby-sized Joy-Con in hand while staring at the Switch’s screen felt perfect for a game this adorable and simple. I was admittedly unimpressed by the console’s tablet mode at first, failing to find much of a use case for it — if I’m at a friend’s place with my Switch, why wouldn’t we just hook it up to the TV? And if I’m home and the TV is occupied, well, I’m more likely to just go handheld with my game. But Snipperclips shows that the tabletop mode is not just a third option, but an ideal one for playing Switch games. It forces a closeness that Nintendo games have always fostered, and this $19.99 puzzle game is just the latest wonderful example of the power of local co-op.
It’s exciting that the two best games I’ve played on the Switch — y’know, give or take Mario Kart 8 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — are completely new titles from Nintendo. It’s a sign that the company’s still got fresh ideas up its sleeve, ones that extend beyond the new hardware.