When you think back to the Wii's launch - and to a lesser extent, the Wii U's - it was the bundled mini-game collections that arguably "made" each system. Wii Sports' bowling, tennis and boxing proved revolutionary for Nintendo, encouraging a whole raft of newcomers to pick up a Wii Remote and have a go - and while it never really reached the same lofty heights, the Wii U's pack-in, Nintendo Land, provided plenty of laughs nonetheless, with games like Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion showing off it's 'asymmetric multiplayer' features to the fullest. As a perfect way of showing off what your new console can do - and a nice way of giving people something to play when launch line-ups may be a bit lacking - Nintendo knew they were on to a winner with bundled games, helping get their brand new consoles off on the right foot.
Which is of course why Nintendo's latest console, the Nintendo Switch, won't be coming with a pack-in game at all. Instead, it'll be launching alongside a game called 1-2-Switch - a multiplayer-centric mini-game collection designed to show off the new console's features. Despite being perfect pack in fodder if ever we saw it, 1-2-Switch will instead be being sold separately as a full-priced release, with retailers currently having pre-orders for the game up at £40. If you've just taken a sharp intake of breath, you're not the only one - and it goes without saying that Nintendo may be being more than a little bit too hopeful with this one.
Still, at a stretch, perhaps £40 may not be a bad price to pay for a mini-game collection, if that mini-game collection was very, very good - with plenty of mini-games, loads of replay value, and a substantial helping of depth. The only issue is, nothing we've seen of 1-2-Switch so far suggests it'll be any of those things. Instead, this seems to be a collection of fire and forget mini-games that are fun, if more than a little bit strange - with none that stand out as a killer app of Wii Sports proportions. And that's a shame, as with only five games amongst its launch line-up, a killer app is something the Switch desperately needs.
Even in terms of its basic concept, 1-2-Switch is a bit unusual. In each of it's games, of which half a dozen were on show, 1-2-Switch takes the focus away from the screen, and instead gets players to face each other in a number of two player competitive mini-games. With each player gripping a Joy-Con controller, you'll find yourself cracking safes, having a wild west-style shoot out and milking a cow in 1-2-Switch's quick-fire multiplayer games, some of which test your reactions, and some which require more calculated and cautious movements.
The first of the games we played, this one sees you and your opponent trying your hand at some samurai-esque sword skills. One player holds the Joy-Con above their heads, as if it was a katana (or, you know, a Wii Remote), while waiting to hear the call to start, at which point you swing it down at your opponent, in one fast movement, trying to catch the other player out. The second player, meanwhile, needs to try and anticipate the other's movements, and catch the blade of the sword before it hits them - by clapping their hands together, with the Joy-Con in one hand. With a fair potential for mind-games and false swings, it can be a bit of an intense game for the competitive amongst us - although, in our case, with the reactions of a Zootopian sloth, our samurai was left with a bit of a headache by the end.
In a similar vein to Samurai comes Quick Draw, a mini-game modelled after many a cowboy showdown. Like before, you and your opponent stand facing each other, readying your holstered Joy-Cons until the game barks 'Draw!', at which point you need to pull out your gun and shoot your friend, as quickly as possible. Angle counts too - point your gun too high or too low and you'll miss them, making it as much about accuracy as speed.
Designed to show off the Joy-Con's 'HD Rumble' feature, this one sees you turning, twisting and tilting your controller to try and work out how many 'balls' are inside your Joy-Con. Obviously there's not actually any ball bearings loose inside, but the Joy-Con's intricate rumble feature makes it feel as if there are a load of balls rattling around inside. The winner is whoever's guess is the closest.
Another rumble game, Safe Crack sees you rotating your Joy-Con controller in an attempt to break into a locked safe. As you rotate around, you'll reach a point where a subtle rumble tells you you've stumbled on the right spot - hold it there, and a lightbulb will light up to tell you you've cracked one of the combinations. Hit all three before your opponent, and you'll be declared the winner.
A bit of a misnomer, this title, as Copy Dance is less about dancing and more like a game of Simon Says. Essentially, one player is 'it' and must strike a pose on the beat - it's then up to the second player to match it as accurately as they can on the next beat, with the Joy-Con's intricate system of gyroscopes, motion sensors and the like judging how well they've done. Each player throws out three poses each to challenge their opponent, and the winner is judged on both how accurately they copied each pose, and how on beat they were.
Saving the 'best' till last, comes Milk, a game where you and your opponent wrap your hands around your Joy-Cons, squeeze the shoulder buttons tightly, and move your hands up and down rhythmically to expel a white liquid and - minds out of the gutter people - milk a cow. Accompanied by a stylised picture of a splurging udder on the screen behind you, its not the kind of game you want to play with your Gran on Christmas morning, that's for sure! Unsurprisingly, pictures of it have been all over social media since, and it's really only a matter of time before its photo shopping potential reaches critical mass.
Sadly, though, 1-2-Switch is a game that faces a real uphill struggle. While all the mini-games seem fun enough the first time you try them, we're not sure any have quite the lasting appeal of Wii Sports - which is a shame to say the least. Were it a bundled game, it might be the kind of thing people got out at parties for a few giggles milking a virtual cow - but as it stands, who in their right mind is going to pay £40 for a game that relies entirely on novelty value, and whose biggest draw sees you pleasuring a cow? Still, we did learn a few things during our time with the game - namely that Sarah is terrible at catching swords, and Ian is can milk like a pro.
While only half a dozen games were playable on the day, it does look like the full collection will have at least a little bit more to it, with artwork showing a table-tennis-themed game and another called 'Eating Contest' - although what each involves is a mystery at the moment. 1-2-Switch will be hitting the Nintendo Switch on launch day, in just under six weeks time, on the 3rd March.