Over the past week, Polygon has had time to get down with Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch. Naturally, we were drawn to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In our New York office, however, we also had a number of people who wanted to try out the Switch’s heavily-touted, local multiplayer game, 1-2-Switch.
As adults well over the legal drinking age, we also decided it would probably be a little more fun if we were tipsy. After all, 1-2-Switch markets itself as a party game and we wanted to recreate the type of environment we’d be playing in if we owned the game. One co-worker, for example, thought it could be a perfect party game for a housewarming party he was planning to host.
With whiskey in hand, we dropped the ice into our glasses and picked up the Joy-Con controllers. About half an hour later, we were immensely disappointed to find out that even slightly inebriated, 1-2-Switch is not the party game Nintendo wants it to be.
Here’s the thing
The problem with 1-2-Switch in general is the inconsistency in minigames. It’s not just that some minigames use the Joy-Con controllers better than others, but some of the titles just don’t make sense at all. There are 28 minigames in 1-2-Switch, and only a handful of them are actually fun. For example, Treasure Chest is the best minigame in 1-2-Switch because it perfectly understands what it’s trying to accomplish and the controls are simple enough for players to understand. You can see the game in action in this Japanese gameplay video below. Note: The game in the video is called Treasure Box instead of Treasure Chest.
In another context, while tipsy, we were able to pick up the controllers and play the game immediately, having a lot of fun in the process. In Treasure Chest, players hold their Joy-Con sideways and essentially move it back and forth in their hands. On screen, a treasure chest becomes entangled in metal chains and the first player to unravel it the fastest wins. It’s an easy-to-grasp concept, and it was the title we found ourselves going back to again and again.
Party games should be simple and quick. You’re playing with a large group of people who want to get their hands on the controller and give the game a spin. You’re not looking to complete any mission other than beating your friends at a 60-second race or outsmarting them in a quick riddle. 1-2-Switch abandons this mentality, and most of the time, you’re stuck spending a ridiculous amount of time watching poorly-acted tutorials explain a game that ends up being totally lackluster.
Here’s the other problem: The minigames are mind-numbingly boring to sit through as a viewer. Part of the the charm I assume Nintendo was trying to bring to 1-2-Switch was the belief that the game is best enjoyed if you’re looking the other player in the eye. As such, on a number of minigames there aren’t any visuals on screen. Sword Fight and Baby, for example, don’t use any kind of visual representation beyond a simple picture confirming which minigame you’re playing.
If you’re with a group of people who are theatrical in nature and willing to put everything into their performance while playing, 1-2-Switch may be entertaining. At the end of the day, it’s a live show. But if you’re sitting on a couch and looking at the TV, staring at a picture while the players try to figure out what’s going on, it’s as unappealing as it sounds. And believe us, players will be fiddling around trying to figure out what to do. Without visual cues, we actually gave up on games like Baby multiple times because we couldn’t actually figure out how to complete the actions the game wanted us to. We were tipsy, but even some of the sober co-workers who came out to play had a hard time figuring out what to do.
If we were left stumped and having a less-than-enjoyable time, what about when kids play? Nintendo consoles and games have always been geared toward kids in the same way George Lucas has always said that Star Wars movies are children’s movies; adults may enjoy playing or watching them, but we aren’t the target audience. Some of these minigames, like Joy-Con Rotate, which asks players to literally rotate their controllers until it hits a specific angle and challenge their opponent to do the same, just wouldn’t hold a child’s attention. They’re probably not going to enjoy games like Baby either if they can’t figure out how to play and can’t look toward the TV for advice.
I’m someone who loves party games, and by extension, minigames. It’s why I return to Pokemon Stadium 2 whenever I get a chance, and I was hoping the 1-2-Switch would be the game that I could take out whenever I have friends over. Unfortunately, both sober and slightly inebriated, the game proved it’s not worth cracking open and playing.