As Nintendo Switch enters its second year, the influx of ports from mobile and Steam continue to increase and show no sign of slowing down. We’ve seen lazy ports as well as serviceable ones and even great ports of games from across the spectrum, but it’s only now we're starting to see developers make the most of Switch's unique hardware. While Sally’s Law originally appeared on Steam and mobile in August 2016, it has been given significant aesthetic and technical upgrades en route to Switch.
Sally and her father Samuel have had a strained relationship since the death of her mother, resulting in Sally moving away to the city and chasing her dream of becoming a writer. History then repeats itself as her understandably protective father then becomes ill while Sally is living her busy urban lifestyle. Split into five chapters, consisting of six levels for each character, the game recalls memories and experiences that they had while she tries to make her way home in time.
These memories are presented in a novel manner, with the two characters sometimes reminiscing fondly of a time when Sally was a child. Other times, there are two contrasting perspectives while tackling problems related to ambition, responsibility and their shared grieving process. It’s clear that both Sally and Samuel need each other, but they have also changed as people and find it difficult to fully understand each other’s viewpoint since mothers passing.
Although the narration is presented as both spoken and written text, the audio is exclusively in Japanese. This doesn’t distract or detract, as the gameplay is pretty laid back. Furthermore, reading the quotes and excerpts as the characters move across from one side to the other is a subtle yet poignant extra layer to the game. Seeing the narrative evolve after playing as both characters and getting both perspectives can be both nostalgic and melancholy. It’s clear that they are both strong-willed, ambitious and struggling.
Despite Sally’s law essentially being a narrative-driven puzzle platformer, there are a few thematic and technical elements which make for a quirky and emotional experience. Playing alone, you’ll alternate between controlling Sally and Samuel. First as Sally, you’ll be moving (or more accurately, rolling) automatically, but you can only jump by pressing one of the face buttons. This can very occasionally be frustrating, as momentum can be both a blessing and a curse when traversing some of the narrower pillar type platforms.
Then, you assume the role of Samuel. It is here that you’ll experience the ramifications of your play through as Sally. The path that you choose will dictate (to a certain extent) how the level unfolds. Conversely, the path that you take can directly affect the extent that the father character can help, or even needs Sally’s help.
The second playthrough of a level utilises the two characters and needs you to synchronise their separate paths and abilities. As Samuel can’t jump, he relies on Sally at certain points to propel him skyward to reach or re-reach ledges and collect photos. On the flip side, Sally may rely on him to trip a switch in order to open a door or clear an area of hazards in order to progress safely.
As there are three checkpoints within each level, you are unlikely to get stuck for too long, and the puzzle situations themselves may take a couple of botched attempts, but they're pretty straightforward. It might not reach the physics-defying, mind-bending heights of something like The Bridge, but it does strike a comfortable balance of challenge and flow, with an emphasis on placement and a bit of timing.
There have been a few improvements especially for Nintendo Switch release, both aesthetically and in terms of added features. The most significant of which is the ‘hustle and bustle’ local coop mode, where instead of controlling the two characters separately in turn, one of you will control Sally and the other Samuel simultaneously, relying on communication and using each characters’ unique abilities in tandem in order to succeed.
There have also been enhancements to the overall presentation since its first release, with new unlockable character costumes, a new opening and closing cinematic, as well as former Nintendo composer Daisuke Shiiba’s beautiful piano soundtrack getting more music. Getting through the game and collecting all of the photos may not take more than a couple of hours, but the added bonus of a coop mode is a good use of the hardware, a clever extension of an already neat mechanic and playing the game with another person also adds extra resonance to the story.
Sally’s Law is an example of an already great game being improved and adapted to fit its new home. The adorable characters, heartfelt story and progressive mechanic of relying on each other is both a technical and thematic success. It is a short game, and once you’ve played through to get all the photos there’s just the co-op mode to go back for, but Sally’s Law is as much of a cherished, emotional solo experience as it is one you’ll want to share.