Timberman VS is Digital Melody's Switch enhancement of its free-to-play arcade title first released on Android and iOS devices in 2014 (and eventually ported across to Steam in 2015). If the name wasn't already enough of an indication, it's a game about chopping trees as fast as you can until your hands hurt.
Given its mobile roots, the concept here is quite simple. You must chop down a tree while avoiding its branches at the same time. To chop, you press a button on the left or right side of your controller (which varies depending on your specific controller setup) and your character will move from side to side while avoiding any incoming branches. If you don't maintain a certain speed while chopping, it's game over. As a result, you must maintain a relatively consistent pace - which adds to the intensity and overall frustration of the exercise.
To motivate you to be the best lumberjack you can be, there are three different game modes. The classic mode is the most standard affair with an inbuilt XP levelling system. Each time you chop a tree you're rewarded with XP, unlocking new avatars such as princesses and hockey players. You can also play this mode alongside three others. In hero mode you must save a nest of birds at the top of a burning tree and in the race mode you compete against three other players or AI opponents by reaching the finish line first.
Regardless of the mode, essentially the task is to chop as fast as you can at all times. The multiplayer will likely offer the more memorable moments, with the competitiveness between friends and family fuelling the fun. As a solo player, it's hard to embrace - especially with the fact no online multiplayer or leaderboards are present at the time of review.
Given how basic the concept here is, the sound and visuals do a good job at offering a sense of variety. The pixel presentation is rather generic, but the selection of backdrops ranging from circuses, deserts and even an area strikingly similar to the Mushroom Kingdom is enough to keep each woodcutting session feeling fresh. The sound should also keep you on edge with satisfying wood chopping noises and music that maintains the intensity.
What makes Timberman VS more bearable than you might expect is its accessible design. This is amplified on Switch, mainly due to its own quick, responsive and adaptable traits. The game modes on offer means it can be played in short sessions when you’re out with friends or at home taking a break from more prominent titles. The performance is also steady whether you're playing on the couch or in tabletop mode. Sure, this isn’t necessarily the definitive iteration, but it does offer its own unique advantages, yet again courtesy of the smart design of Switch. Still, all of this doesn’t necessarily hide just how basic the offering is.
The trailer for Timberman VS describes it as 'the most intense multiplayer rage game ever' which is a pretty accurate summary. As infuriating as it may be at times, it's mysteriously satisfying when you are victorious against friends and family. By yourself, there's less reason to get excited when there's no online play or leaderboards to spur you on. In saying this, by yourself Timberman VS still offers the same frustratingly addictive gameplay and with 50 humourous characters to unlock, there's at least some incentive to keep playing. Ultimately, whether you play within the company of others or not, what's on offer is a well-presented but simple and highly repetitive package.