The Nintendo Wii brought a new demographic to the world of video games. Suddenly, everyone from Mum and Dad, Nan and Grandad were subject to waggle, stray remotes flying into TVs, plastic balance boards and mini steering wheels. Unfortunately, for every Galaxy and Prime example of the console's library, the Wii was engulfed in what is affectionately known as shovelware. To some, this is the gherkin in their burger, to others, the barnacle on a boat one just can't shift. Sure, there was never any obligation to humour such trash, but the Wii became a victim of its own success - drowned in a slew of buggy, hurriedly developed, disposable and unashamed cash grabs designed to hoodwink and convince the enthused, seldom game store visiting masses to part with their hard-earned cash. These ranged from digital versions of various board games, virtual pets, fashion simulators and more.
It's now 2017. Without the need to name drop, there have already been a wealth of quality first- and third-party titles early in the Nintendo Switch's life.
Unfortunately, not only does Physical Contact: SPEED not live up to these standards, but once the novelty and intrigue has worn off you'll wonder why you didn't just fire up Solitaire on another device, or better yet, find that deck of cards gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere.
Let's start with the name. Hang on - let's start with the laughably random connection between the name and the actual game you end up playing. 'Physical Contact' should generate curiosity at least - 'a video game with physical contact? Is it a boxing game? American Football? Rugby?' No. PCS is a one or two player competitive... card game.
Moving swiftly on to the second part of the title - 'Speed'. 'Is it at least a fast paced, thrillingly challenging card game, demanding lightning quick reactions to snatch glory out of the hands of your enemy?' No. For 95% percent of the time, it's a bland and uninspired process of placing one card on top of another that is either of higher or lower value than the one preceding it. If neither player can go, one card from each player's deck is used to reset the match.
And that's about it. For the seconds of satisfaction you'll get from stringing a combo of cards together to defeat an 'opponent' and gain achievements, you'll spend at least five times as long waiting for the match to reset once you've exhausted all possibilities - time and time again.
The overall presentation looks like it was done using clipart; there's no effort been made regarding menus or interface. The actual playing of the game itself is as basic as it can be - use left and right direction buttons to move from card to card, and up to place. No joystick input, no touch screen use outside of the initial menu. In fact, there aren't any options or extra modes of note at all outside of adjusting music and sound effects.
While the visual presentation is inconsistent to put it politely, some of the soundtrack is at least serviceable. Whether it's mildly pleasant elevator music, a cheesy trance tune, the same slow guitar ballad (played three times in a row), or something resembling an obscure mystical ritual from an '80s TV show, it all sounds ok - but like royalty free stock found while waiting for a board meeting.
The single player 'campaign' structure is reminiscent of classic arcade fighting games, climbing a ladder (in this case, a straight tower of Pisa) taking on an increasingly (apparently) difficult set of foes. With a bronze, silver and gold star to obtain on each of 100 'floors' as well as dozens of avatars, along with table designs and deck patterns to unlock by earning coins through winning matches, PCS has at least made an effort to include a passable amount of content, achievements and rewards. The character 'roster' deserves particular praise, not only for how they vary in terms of actual image quality, but also just how random the selection is - a dome shaped mechanoid here, a fluorescent worm there, mythical winged beasts with flowers on their back. Progressing did provide a sense of bewildering unpredictability as to what was coming up next.
At least adding another human when playing the two modes kicks things up a notch, with the Joy-Cons able to be detached or stay on the console in handheld mode, adding a little spice to the competitive spirit, especially face to face. Curiously, if unsurprisingly, when the Switch is docked the setup changes from single player mode, which would have suited TV play just fine, to a side on view. Play multiplayer in handheld mode or risk getting a stiff neck. If you don't have the space to set up a physical (sorry) game of solitaire or any other card game, this might suffice for a handful of minutes, but it still doesn't disguise the impression that the core mechanics and gameplay are mostly an inconsistent drag.
As part of a card game compendium, Physical Contact Speed would have at least been a local multiplayer game to distract for a handful of minutes at a time. As it stands, some serviceable yet generic music and a 'fascinating' selection of avatars can't hide what's underneath - a bare bones and uninspired package with laughable localization, rudimentary controls and trudging gameplay that quickly sucks the life out of any 'speed' related fun anyone would have during a match. Fold.