While never quite hitting the heights of it’s Wii predecessors, Switch Sports gets us moving and reminds has why swinging controllers around, particulary in multiplayer settings, is still great fun!
It’s easy to forget what an absolutely huge deal Wii Sports (and the sequels) were. The Wii is still one of the best-selling consoles ever. And the fact that the original came packed in with the Wii means that countless thousands (if not millions) played the game. And it was popular across generations. Everyone from tiny tots to gleeful grannies played Wii Sports. It was a cultural phenomenon! So, it makes sense that now, with the massive success of the Switch – Nintendo wants to bring the swinging sports action back. Nintendo Switch Sports does bring back the best multiplayer mayhem of the original games, and the online mode is a lot of fun. Plus, some of the newer sports (particularly football) are really great. However, a minimal single-player experience and only six different sports (which vary in enjoyability), does mean that you could be left feeling like it doesn’t quite knock it out of the park.
So the best way to start is to break down each sport available in the collection. There are six sports on offer (at least at launch), namely: Football, Tennis, Badminton, Bowling, Chambara and Volleyball. While I found some of the games markedly less enjoyable than others – they all have their own charm particularly if you experience them against real human opponents. In terms of the sports I didn’t enjoy Badminton undoubtedly topped the list. In single-player, it can become a depressing always-lose slogfest and while it is better in any multiplayer mode (locally or online), it was the one game I had to struggle through. To my untrained eye (and arm) Badminton feels like it relies almost exclusively on timing – meaning the actual speed and direction of swinging are almost irrelevant. While Volleyball has a similar timing mechanic, the faster general pace and two-player per team makeup means it works better. However, Badminton feels slow and not being able to hit the ball at least in the general direction you were swinging just left me feeling a little bored. It ends up feeling like a game of aimless Joy-Con swinging endurance, but endlessly hitting the shuttlecock back and forth just isn’t that fun.
It ultimately feels like a game of endurance, but endlessly hitting the shuttlecock back and forth just isn’t that fun.
Tennis is a little better in this respect, but after having played Mario Tennis Aces – I really wished it would be able to pick up a more ‘nuanced touch’ to each swing. in essence, it’s pretty much just about hitting right or left with the occasional drop shot to spice things up. Thankfully, the faster pace of tennis means there’s still something very satisfying about swinging a Joy-Con and watching a tennis ball flash across the screen. Chambara is fun too – although once again I wish the swinging felt just a little more accurate than it does – particularly when using the double sword. Thankfully, the addition of multiple ‘weapons’, and a unique blocking mechanic adds a fun layer of strategy. And who are we kidding… swinging even an imaginary sword and knocking an opponent off a platform into a pool, miles below, will never not feel amazing. Everone wants to be a Jedi, right?
Despite my feelings about the previous games – my two favourite sports were Bowling and Foobtall. As you probably already know from the Wii days, ‘virtual bowling’ just feels great. The movement you make with the controller is probably the closest to the real-life action and being able to add a little spin and twist means it all just works! And in Switch Sports they’ve brought all that was great about Wii bowling and added a fun obstruction mode to the basic formula. This basically means you have to hit as many pins while avoiding obstacles, pits and dips that appear every time you step up for a new frame. It’s a small change – but even when playing on your own – it is hands-down the most fun you can have. The online mode lacks the obstructions – however, if you enjoyed Wii Bowling, Switch Sports going to feel comforting, familiar and still really enjoyable.
Football is basically a Rocket League-lite… I couldn’t get enough of this game when playing online.
For me, however, the surprisingly standout sport is football. There are a variety of modes (1 v 1, Penalty Shootout and 4 v 4). the Penalty Shootout mode is the mode that includes the use of the Joy-Con leg strap (from Ring Fit Adventure). It’s a silly gimmick – but even I found it interesting for a few minutes and I’m sure kids will love swinging their leg and watching the goal explode. However, where football really shines is in the 1 v 1 and especially the 4 v 4 mode. Here, it’s basically a Rocket League-lite. However, while it probably can’t compete with Rocket League in complexity, don’t let the simple mechanics fool you. I couldn’t get enough of this game when playing online! And as your progress up to higher leagues, players have already gotten really good at using the straightforward heading, passing and shooting mechanics. It’s almost an art form at this point. And if you happen to join some friends or luck into a team of fellow football fans – the games can be a great demonstration of skill and strategy. I absolutely loved it!
While I can’t think of a situation where someone would choose to buy this game simply to play solo and offline we need at least confirm that you can do so. This is (as is probably expected) simply the worst way to play these games. I started off playing this way and must admit that only having six sports feels limited. Also, not having the spontaneity and variety provided by playing real humans, means you’re left facing off against the AI. This usually has one of two outcomes: Option A is the AI is ridiculously limited and quite easy to beat. You can choose a higher AI difficulty setting and this does help a bit. And at the highest difficulty – you definitely have to sweat to win a match – however, ultimately, learning a specific pattern usually does the job. And you can therefore usually run through all the AI quickly.
However, on the flip side – Option B happens in some sports where the higher-level AI is almost unbeatable. Again, this is probably most evident in (“my favourite”) Badminton. I found beating the toughest AI literally impossible. No matter how hard I tried to time things perfectly or swing my Joy-Con precisely, getting the shuttlecock to fly to any specific section of the court seemed to be pretty close to completely random. The AI has no such issues, easily switching sides at will and despite intensely long rallies – my player would eventually tire out and I would end up on the losing side. The only exception to the one-player joylessness comes in the form of bowling and the new challenge mode. It’s a pity that there isn’t much more to say about the single-player experience and I can’t help but feel that the game would’ve really benefitted from some sort of adventure/simple story mode but unless you’re bowling – you’re probably not going to want to play Switch Sports alone.
Unless you’re bowling – you’re probably not going to want to play Switch Sports offline alone.
Thankfully, like the Wii Sports games before it – as soon as you throw in some friends or family – even the less enjoyable Sports (yes, even Badminton) become super entertaining. There’s just something fantastically intuitive about swinging Joy-Cons at a screen against a familiar flesh-and-bone foe. Again, this works no matter the age of your fellow players and although I had a ton of fun playing the different sports with my wife, I can imagine pulling this game out at parties; Whether my young nephews or even my eighty-year-old granny are attending. This makes this game pretty unique and really its clear selling point. Quite simply – if you want a game that will have the whole family involved Switch Sports is a perfect Wii Sports sequel.
However, where Switch Sports goes a step further (and actually becomes a really complete game) is the online experience. I know many of the early reviewers weren’t able to access the online components of the game. And I can therefore understand the lower scores. However, despite a pretty boring single-player offline experience – the online component makes this a game I’d be more than happy to (and did) play for many hours alone. As mentioned above, football is simply awesome online and while I will report the odd connection issues, on the whole, the experience was surprisingly stable. And while football is my go-to online sport, all the sports (barring perhaps bowling which works no matter what format) are better when playing against players from around the world. There’s just something to be said about adding a layer of competitiveness to a game where you’re swinging controllers at a screen in your lounge – while wearing your pyjamas. It’s mad and I loved it. Plus, while cosmetics are not usually my cup of tea, the fact that you can earn a full collection just by playing and the addition of ranked leagues for each sport – means there’s something here for almost everyone – and by the end I couldn’t wait for new sports (Golf is coming) to be added.
All the sports are better when playing against players from around the world. And if you want a game that will have the whole family involved Switch Sports is a perfect Wii Sports sequel.