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1-2 Switch review: Remember how much fun Wii Sports was? Yeah, 1-2 Switch isn't that

It should have been a free pack-in

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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4 min read

If you're expecting Wii Sports, this isn't it. 1-2 Switch isn't even NintendoLand.

The Good

Fun with friends. The minigames are generally pretty entertaining. It makes good use of the Joy-Con motion controllers.

The Bad

Costs two to three times as much as it should. Very little in the way of one-player content. Needs lots of play space.

The Bottom Line

There's some brilliance in Nintendo's oddball compilation of party games for the Nintendo Switch, but it should've been a freebie pack-in with the console.

Instead, 1-2 Switch is an oddball party game, one of the few launch games for Nintendo Switch. It wants to be the game you play with friends, a classic fun social experience. 28 mini-games explore different ways of holding and using the versatile Joy-Con controllers. Two people play, staring at each other. Each holding a controller.

And from there, it gets stranger.

You've probably seen 1-2 Switch in Nintendo Switch ads, or on Twitter, or YouTube. It's the "crazy Switch game." It's clearly engineered to be a conversation-starter, a party game.

Does it work?

I tried 1-2 Switch at a Nintendo preview event, briefly milking a cow. (Yes, really.) But this time, we got the whole office involved. Playing the full game with co-workers I see every day, it was a different vibe. 1-2 Switch de-emphasizes staring at the screen at all. Most games involve sound effects, vibration feedback via the Joy-Con controllers' "HD Rumble," and lots of imagination.

I want to applaud 1-2 Switch for encouraging social interaction, for being daring with its insistence on away-from-the-screen gaming in its little mini games. But a lot of 1-2 Switch feels too shallow to be anything more than a little amusement. And some of it feels like ideas the Wii already hammered in 10 years ago.

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Note the chili pepper rating. Difficulty, or spiciness?

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

"Milk" is the infamous one. 1-2 Switch's instructions request eye contact with your competitor. Suddenly, you're staring eye-to-eye with someone while pretend milking an udder for a while. If you ever wanted to feel like you were part of a Japanese game show, this is your chance.

I love weird. Some of my favorite Nintendo games have been the weirdest ones. Warioware, Inc is a brilliant collection of insane micro-games. Rhythm Heaven throws players into quick-fire music games set to insane themes. 1-2 Switch feels like a cousin of those games. But I wish there was more: 28 mini-games feels a little light. There's also no one-player mode. And the game's heavy-motion play means 1-2 Switch can't be used while, saying, riding a bus (or, can it?).

Of course, time will tell. I thought NintendoLand was gimmicky on the Wii U, and years later it's my kid's favorite game.

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"Shave" is a shaving simulator. It's pretty good, actually

Sarah Tew/CNET

Not necessarily a kid game

I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for kids, though. 1-2 Switch has "Quick Draw," a gunslinging game where I try to raise my controller and fire faster than my partner. Or "Baby," which makes me rock the Switch tablet and watch a creepy crying baby, as I try to calm it down (nightmare alert).

Gorilla made our copy chief Nick Hide and myself beat our chests incomprehensibly while the game threw hearts at us. It made about as much sense as that description.

Other games are brilliant little party tricks, like Sneaky Dice, a bluff game where two players know the other's dice roll and try to convince the other to reroll. Others explore the remote's subtleties, like a safe-cracking game where I gently turn the controller to "feel" for when the tumbler clicks. Or a ball-rolling guessing game where it feels like balls are rolling through the Joy-Con.

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"Sneaky Dice" is... a little sneaky.

Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Almost all the games involve looking away from any screen at all. Baseball and Table Tennis involve pitching and batting and swinging, listening to audio and vibrations. They're nothing like Wii Sports: they're simpler rhythm games. Results can seem random. That seems to be the point. 1-2 Switch is, after all, a party game.

But the larger problem with 1-2 Switch could be replay value. Mario Party takes dozens of minigames and builds a ton of play modes on top of it. Games like Rhythm Heaven can be played over and over to beat high scores and win new challenges. 1-2 Switch mostly just throws you 28 funky minigames, and that's it. A large-group multiplayer and shuffle mode mix things up a bit, but I expected more.

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"Eating Contest" uses the IR camera to sense your mouth, and then this happens.

Sarah Tew/CNET

1-2 Switch feels almost like an attempt at a party board game, or something that Hasbro would make. It's more about swinging rumbling controllers around and laughing with friends. But would I take the Switch somewhere just to play 1-2 Switch at a party? I don't know. I don't go to parties anymore, I'm old. Would I play with my kids? Sure, maybe. Stay tuned for my 8-year-old's impressions over the weekend.

I had some fun. Others were fascinated, or thought it was stupid. But it drew a crowd at the office. Maybe that's the real goal for 1-2 Switch: to draw attention to itself. And, Nintendo's new system. Mission accomplished, but this would be far better as a freebie. Most people I played with asked if it was a free pack-in, and were incredulous that it wasn't. 1-2 Switch costs $50, which is entirely too much. Maybe $15, or $20. I'm not sure how much replay value 1-2 Switch will get.

At this price, I'd like something larger-scale. 1-2 Switch is the sort of weirdness I love, but I just wanted a bit more of it.