Milk a cow, make a baby go to sleep, strut, shoot, feel some balls, eat a giant sandwich… 1-2-Switch has got it all. While Zelda: Breath of the Wild is stealing the headlines, Nintendo’s curious mini-game collection is, arguably, a better demonstration of the Nintendo Switch hardware. And it’s great fun. For a bit. If you’re drunk.
There are 28 mini-games to get to grips with, nearly all of which are played by looking at your opponent, not the screen. The games have a feeling of WarioWare: Smooth Moves about them, but the cartoon characters have been replaced with human actors gyrating in brightly-coloured rooms. Nearly all the games require little explanation: in Shave you have to shave your face using the Joy-Con; in Ball Count you have to count the number of balls in the Joy-Con, a sensation ingeniously created using the controller’s HD rumble feature; in Wizard you have to battle your opponent by casting spells; in Dance Off, you dance.
As with WarioWare, the genius of 1-2-Switch is in the glorious incongruity of its mini-games. Staring into the eyes of a friend while miming milking a cow will always make you laugh. Then there’s Baby, where you’re tasked with putting a baby, apparently trapped in the Nintendo Switch’s portable screen, to sleep. Rock it in your arms and set it down on a flat surface just right to win. It’s odd. But it’s also very good. Table tennis, where you stand facing your opponent and thwack a virtual ball back and forth based on sound alone, is exceptionally fun. As is baseball, where pitcher and batter duke it out in a ninth-innings showdown.
Nearly all the games make use of the Nintendo Switch's innovative hardware in one way or another. Eating Contest, where you have to chomp your way through as many virtual sandwiches as possible before the time runs out, uses the right Joy-Con's infrared sensor to work out when your mouth opens and closes. The quicker you chomp, the faster you get through the pile of sandwiches. But where Nintendo takes this kind of innovation next will be the real test of the hardware.
Most people will get a couple of hours of fun out of 1-2-Switch, but that's it. Then, like so many party games, it will sit gathering dust until you've next got a house full of people, a bottle full of gin and a fridge full of tonic. This is an excellent party game and one quite unlike any that has come before.
Yet the game's biggest fault is more to do with how it’s sold. For all Nintendo’s protestations, 1-2-Switch absolutely should have been bundled with the Nintendo Switch. It's an excellent demonstration of the hardware and the sort of game that could be chucked on when you’ve got friends over and want to show them what the console is all about. Instead, you’ll have to fork out £35 for a limited, albeit fun, tech demo.