Everybody 1-2-Switch Preview – The life and horse of the party?

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There’s been a kind of morbid curiosity surrounding Everybody 1-2-Switch since it was announced out of the blue last month. Why is there a horse-man for a mascot? Was anyone asking for a sequel like this? Isn’t this that game that was rumoured to be an absolute disaster? Well, having now played it, I can say that Everybody 1-2-Switch absolutely has a reason to exist, and with the right group of people, it can actually be pretty fun.

If there was one Nintendo Switch launch title that didn’t really deserve a sequel, it was 1-2-Switch. While it had some fun ideas and was able to showcase the nuance and capabilities of the Joy-Con motion sensitivity and haptic feedback, it boiled down to being a bundle of tech demos that had been polished up and sold to early adopters and people wanting a quirky little party game. Considering how many still needed convincing about the Switch back in 2017, it made a bit of sense, even if it was the source of many memes and jokes.

Six years later, everybody and their gran knows what the Switch is all about, and Nintendo has built out a broad array of games that caters both to hardcore gamers, casual gamers and non-gamers alike. Everybody 1-2-Switch is a mini-game collection that tries to be as inclusive and broad as possible, so as long as you can use a smart phone and/or are comfortable with some mild motion controls, every single person at your party to play along.

Everybody 1-2-Switch balloon popping

There’s 17 mini-games included in Everybody 1-2-Switch, and then plenty of variations on top of that. Of those 17, most of them can be played with both Joy-Con and with smartphone, while there’s a handful that are exclusive to one or the other controller type for a variety of reasons – Joy-Con games can will be limited to the 8 controller maximum of the Switch, but once you add smartphones, they simply scan a QR code, load up the website, and can join in. OK, so there’s also fussy phone OS permissions for things like camera access and motion control access, but these pop up automatically and shouldn’t need too much handholding even for the tech averse players.

There’s a number of play options, including 20, 40 and 60 minute team battles that run through a randomised selection of mini-games, hosted by the horse-faced MC Horace in a game show style, a quiz mode (with the ability to create your own 10 question quiz!), bingo mode, and then individual mini-game selections for once you’ve found your favourites. And then there’s plenty of different styles of play to those 17 core mini-games as well.

Everybody 1-2-Switch fashion magazine

Hip Bump has you holding a Joy-Con at the base of your back and then engage in a ridiculous-looking butt-thrusting fighting game that plays out on screen – you’re not actually meant to bump into the other player, but they thankfully avoided the faux pas of hip thrusting in the opposite direction. Ninja has one team flinging shurikens from smartphones while a nominated Joy-Con player has to time blocks to the shuriken sounds. The Quiz modes task you with selecting between two answers as quickly as possible with speed amping up your score. There’s a musical chairs game where you hold thumbs to the phone while moving and then, without actual chairs to race to sit on, you need to basically dive to the floor when the music stops. I think my favourite, though, was the fashion magazine quest to find the latest colour trends – In essence, run around and try to take a picture of a particular shade of colour, whether it’s from someone’s red tshirt, a brightly lit leaf, or whatever else you can find within 20 seconds.

It’s all quick and easy to understand, but the best thing is the focus on team play. As each game comes up, you can opt out if it’s not your cup of tea, and even if you’re not great at reaction times, it’s all cumulative score or a multi-round knockout so the cream can rise to the top and carry you to a round win. The losing team can also grab a Mario Party-esque catch up if they fall too far behind, which does feel pretty unearned, but is fine for a party game.

One question mark hanging over Everybody 1-2-Switch is how plausible this ideal party setting really is, and then the staying power of the game. At the preview event there were 20 of us in the room, allowing for 4v4 games with the Joy-Con, and then for a 10v10 mash-up with smartphones, and it was a good bit of fun, but can you get that same amount of engagement in a real world setting? Maybe with a Christmas party when a big multi-generational family and friends come together… but then musical chairs really wants a garden’s worth of space. Maybe a birthday party or even a wedding reception, though you’ll obviously need to marshal people to actually engage and stick with playing the game, and it’s not exactly a spontaneous Switch party when you need to plan for a giant projector screen and fit it into the day’s schedule.

Everybody 1-2-Switch wedding party?

The other question is over the game’s staying power. Yes, there’s variants, and 17 base mini-games is a pretty decent number, but that need for simplicity means people will very quickly latch onto a winning tactic or how it boils down to simple reaction times. MC Horace as a horse-faced host lacks the kind of quirky tone and attitude of that elevates party game staple Jackbox Party Pack.

What I can absolutely appreciate is that this game scales. The best number is probably going to be eight players, so that all of the mini-games can be played if you have enough Joy-Con, but it’s neat that Nintendo has made the player count effectively limitless for those occasions where yes, you really do have 100 people and they really are looking for a big party game to play instead of splitting off into smaller groups, having a drink and catching up with old friends.

Everybody 1-2-Switch is in the strange position of being both incredibly broad and really quite niche at the same time. Though if you do get to play it at its best, then there’s a broad range of accessible fun to be had.

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