Would the Wii have sold over 100 million units had it not come bundled with Wii Sports? It might be a pointless question to ponder more than a decade after launch, but there's no denying that the famous collection of motion-controlled sports titles convinced many a punter to part with their hard-earned cash. It was the ideal advert for the new console and its unique Wii remote controller, and illustrated the potential of motion controls in a matter of seconds. You swung your arm and the action was replicated by your avatar – it was a simple concept that literally anyone could grasp.
Fast forward to the present day, and 1-2-Switch finds itself in a very similar position. A collection of 28 mini-games based around the functions of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers, its objective is to sell the unique features of the hardware to gamers and non-gamers alike, but there's a significant difference this time around – 1-2-Switch isn't a pack-in title but a full retail release. Arguably that shouldn't matter if the content is up to scratch, but sadly there are elements here which feel undercooked and little more than proof-of-concept tech demos.
Each of 1-2-Switch's 28 mini-games is preceded by a video introduction which outlines what's required from the players. The first time you boot up the game you're deliberately limited to a small pool of these mini-games, but once you've played through these the full complement opens up. Jumping in and out of games is encouraged; a press of the "plus" or "minus" symbol on either Joy-Con drops you straight back to the game select menu. Once you've decided on a challenge, it's time to grab a friend and get stuck in.
1-2-Switch works best when it's showing off what the Joy-Con are really capable of. Ball Count is arguably one of the stars of the package, as it perfectly demonstrates the incredible potential of HD Rumble. As you move the Joy-Con around in your hand you can "feel" balls rolling inside – a total illusion of course, but surprisingly convincing all the same. Rumble is well-used in other titles, such as Sneaky Dice, Shaving and Safe Crack, the latter of which has you attempting to break into a safe by rotating the controller in your hand and detecting the telltale click that denotes the correct combination.
Treasure Chest combines HD Rumble with precise recognition of movement, with the idea being to untangle the chains around the titular chest faster than your opponent. As each chain slips away you can feel it working free thanks to the force feedback, and the twists and turns of the controller between your fingers are replicated perfectly on-screen. This is one of the few titles in 1-2-Switch which asks you to look at the TV (or, if you're playing in portable mode, the Switch screen); many of the others are to be played with your eyeballs firmly fixed on the the other player.
For Eating Contest, the right-hand Joy-Con must be used by both players as it is the only one of the pair which has the IR camera required to monitor your mouth as you pretend to chomp through a series of sandwiches. Baby is another mini-game which mixes things up in terms of controls; the Joy-Con are connected to the Switch itself and a baby's crying face appears on-screen. As any parent knows, a gentle rock is needed to soothe the upset infant – but the authentic cries which emanate from the console's speakers make this a prospect that those same parents may want to avoid, lest it bring back bad memories of sleepless nights.
Other games use the Joy-Con's motion-sensing capability to deliver the kind of experience we all thought had died with the Wii. Sword Fight and Samurai Training are fairly self-explanatory, as are Baseball and Boxing. As was the case with the Wii Remote, it's easy to "fool" the hardware into thinking you're making the correct input during these games, which is of course going against the spirit of two-player, face-to-face competition – the fact that you're almost always looking at your opponent keeps you honest, at least. The infamous milking and soda-shaking games are an exception as they not only involve motion controls but a sense of timing as well; they're also a highlight because they're impossible to play with a straight face, adding to 1-2-Switch's party appeal.
Not every game included in this package will get played more than once, however. Beach Flag simply involves waggling the Joy-Con faster than your rival, while Runway – where you're tasked with strutting down the catwalk with more style than the other player – is the kind of pastime you're only likely to enjoy when you've had one too many fizzy drinks. The same can be said for the hilariously indistinct Air Guitar and Dance Off, while the final game – Gorilla – simply involves banging your chest in time to the jungle rhythm. It's not that these games lack entertainment value – get the right group of people together and they're actually quite amusing – but there's no genuine semblance of depth or challenge.
Outside of the 28 games, the only other content 1-2-Switch offers is a team battle mode for up to 20 players. The goal is to reach the end of the board before the other team, with success in each game rewarding you with a spin of the dial to push your token forward. Shuffle play is the only other game type, which randomly selects a game for those times when you're struggling to make a decision.
1-2-Switch does a great job of showing off the unique feature set of the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers, but it's seriously lacking in long-term appeal. When played with a group of friends or family members it's a proper hoot, and has the same social gaming appeal that made Wii Sports a living room tradition for so many households all over the world, but there's no escaping the fact that many of these mini-games lack longevity; some are so basic that they fail to maintain your interest past the first go, no matter how inebriated you and your pals happen to be.
For a retail game, 1-2-Switch feels a little anemic, and would have been much better suited as a pack-in title. Nintendo has countered this stance by claiming that it couldn't bundle the game due to cost, but including a download code with each Switch sold wouldn't have incurred any real physical expense – beyond lost retail sales, of course - and that would have been a sensible trade-off when you consider how solid an advert this game is for the system. How many people were sold on the Wii's merits simply by witnessing Wii Sports at a friend's house? By refusing to bundle 1-2-Switch with the base system, Nintendo has missed out on the kind of exposure that marketing simply cannot buy you; as a stand-alone release it feels too fleeting and ephemeral, but as a free pack-in it would arguably have been much more appealing.