The launch of the Nintendo Switch recalls the days when pack-in games were big back in the early days of gaming as a means of broadening consoles’ install bases. The first time you played Sonic the Hedgehog at a store kiosk, for instance, you were sure to get hyped up for owning a Sega Genesis, which would leave you vulnerable to buying any number of Genesis games in the future. The same could be said for Super Mario World on the SNES. Perhaps one of the most recognizable pack-in games, however, is Nintendo’s titular-themed debut for their waggle machine, Wii Sports.
Wii Sports, if you’ve somehow managed to forget, was a strong contender for the best pack-in game ever made; it was simple, accessible and perfectly tailored to demonstrating the capabilities of the new Nintendo console to an audience that couldn’t care less about video games. That audience, incidentally, is vastly more large than those of us who do care about games, so Nintendo was on to something. The Wii’s absurd sales over the course of the seventh console generation showed the value of games (and consoles, really) that appealed to a non-traditional audience. Further, we can likely trace any number of developments related to “casual” gaming to the success of Wii Sports.
1-2-Switch is essentially Wii Sports for the modern generation, with a few key differences. First, it’s being released at a time when video games are gradually gaining ground in the mainstream and a game meant as an introductory experience isn’t quite so necessary. Sure, the stigma that’s always been associated with the hobby is still there – try taking out a 3DS on the train if you’re over a certain age and note the looks you get – but it’s much more likely in 2017 that Joe and Jane Sixpack are at least familiar with games. Second, and more importantly, it’s not a pack-in game. Unlike Wii Sports, 1-2-Switch will run you around $50, which immediately shuts out much of the game’s appeal right from the start.
Much like Wii Sports, 1-2-Switch is intended to introduce the unique features of the Switch to new players. In this case, the focus is on the detachable Joy-Con controllers. Since you’re able to remove them from the console and use them individually, 1-2-Switch revolves around handing one Joy-Con each to two players for some minigame action. I said two players and I meant it, by the way; if you’re after a solo experience, you can safely pass on 1-2-Switch because that experience simply doesn’t exist.
So you’re dropping $50 on a collection of around 30 minigames. They must be pretty good minigames, right? Well, sort of. They fall into a few themes, many of which involve looking your opponent in the eye and then doing something on cue. First, you’ve got your “quickly flip the Joy-Con up faster than your opponent”-style games; this includes a pair of cowboy-style quick draw games and a telephone-answering game. You’ve got your “strike a pose while holding a Joy-Con” games, with said poses ranging in flavor from fashion model to dancer to zen practitioner.
Finally, you’ve got your “hey, the rumble on these things is really great” games, where you do stuff with invisible stuff, like milking an invisible cow, counting invisible marbles, catching an invisible sword or playing invisible ping-pong. There are a few other, more esoteric games, like Simon Says or a stressful baby-rocking game, but these cover the majority of what’s available here.
That’s pretty much it! For your $50 you’re essentially buying a bunch of Joy-Con tutorials tied together with a minimal UI and a bunch of cute live-action videos introducing the various games. There’s no online component nor single-player option, so you’re playing these games with someone else locally or you’re not playing them at all. If this were a pack-in it would be a great bonus and a nice distraction for the few times you’re not playing Zelda on your fancy new console.
As a launch title, 1-2-Switch isn’t recommended. While the Switch’s launch lineup might be a little barebones, you can still do better for your $50; check out Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, for instance, which is cheaper and offers vastly more to do. If you really want a party option then Super Bomberman R offers that along with a single-player mode. I can’t fathom the reasoning behind not including 1-2-Switch in the Switch box, but without that $0 price tag, it simply can’t match up to Wii Sports.