Everybody 1-2-Switch might be the first party game I’ve played where I ended up with fewer friends afterwards – and not for any of the good reasons either, like a contentious Mario Kart match that tears friends apart. After roping numerous groups into playing with me, a few of those people aren’t returning my calls. Instead, these former companions live in fear that I’ll ask them to play again, because this game is full of bad ideas that unfortunately soured a good chunk of my holiday weekend. Sadly, Everybody 1-2-Switch is an incredibly disappointing sequel to 1-2-Switch. While its predecessor served as a tech demo – and mission statement of sorts – for a console that was breaking new ground with its controllers, this meager follow-up manages to feel like a major step backwards by hosting a slim collection of uncreative and poorly designed minigames that make shoddy use of what’s still unique about the Switch’s tech.
The idea is that two teams battle it out in a series of non sequitur minigames that have you perform competitive chores, like jumping rope or pumping up balloons, until a winner is declared. The most interesting change from the original is that now there’s a mode where you and your friends can use Apple or Android phones instead of Joy-Cons, so you don’t need to buy a ton of extra controllers to play in a group.
The addition of phones does result in a few unique minigames that the Switch wouldn’t be able to do on its own, although they aren’t very entertaining more often than not. There’s one where you literally just play Bingo is a great example of how uncreative they are; this is exactly what we, the under-70 crowd, were all hoping to do on our phones at a party, right? There are a few that are mildly better though, like one where you’re shown a color on-screen then have to search your surroundings for something of a similar color and take a photo of it with your phone’s camera, with the closest match claiming victory. That at least has some novelty to it.
Of course, anytime you add cell phones to the mix you can expect some odd technical roadblocks to occasionally gunk up your flow. For example, sometimes we’d get a minigame that required camera or microphone access only to find out that some of the more security conscious in our group had blocked camera access on their browser. That would give us a message saying that the minigame had been canceled because not enough of us could use a camera. Why we weren't able to just give those people an opportunity to enable cameras on their browsers before calling the whole thing off I couldn’t tell you – just don’t be surprised if you have to Google around for tech support.
There’s also a more traditional Joy-Con mode that’s filled with by-the-numbers motion-controlled games, like one where you and your friends have to scoot your butts in each other’s general direction in order to bump one another out of a virtual arena. These are about as uninspired as they come, since they ask you to basically just repeat the same motions – in this case involving butts – in each one, whether it’s jumping up and down or swinging your arms to and fro. They’re also very easily exploited by unscrupulous party-goers who’d rather flick their wrist around instead of actually performing the activity – and, in many cases, those party poopers will win handily using their shady tactics.
You’ll find only 17 minigames in total (compared to the last game’s 28) and yet even with that low volume many of them are not winners. There’s a samurai dueling game that’s just a carbon copy of the Quick Draw cowboy dueling from the last game, a trivial trivia game that has you answer really difficult questions like, “Is the nose used to see things?” or “What letter comes after C in the alphabet?” and another where you repeat the same motion over and over again to summon little gray aliens so that they can perform the same motion back at you and then leave. There’s certainly some novelty in the bizarre competitions you’re asked to participate in, but what precious few are fun the first time you play them definitely aren’t at all the second and third time. That just makes an already underwhelming curiosity progressively worse the longer you play it.
I’m normally a big fan of the “do this random thing” style of party games, like when Warioware asks me to tickle an old man or pick my nose or whatever, but Everybody 1-2-Switch is just a bundle of some of the least creative minigames I could imagine. Worse yet, they also happen to be terrible showcases of the Switch’s novel technology. There’s a relay race minigame that has you shaking the Joy-Con before passing it on to another player, and another where you have to listen to children order ice cream before you’re quizzed on how many scoops of each flavor were ordered. It’s crazy to me that, in a limitless creative landscape where you could dream up anything you want, you’d choose to make me perform a crummy retail job as a party game. How is that the best Nintendo could come up with in the past six years?
After just a couple rounds, you’ll more than likely already find yourself begrudgingly forced to replay the same minigames a second or third time, since your fate is decided by a roulette wheel of options that frequently has the same minigames you just played. With irritatingly few changes to be found through repeated play, the handful of game modes becomes annoying very quickly. Usually there will be only very slight adjustments, like the squatting exercise that adds more fakeouts where the instructors say “squash” or something, but in many cases they’re somehow made even worse in their more advanced forms. For example, the auction minigame asks you to place bids much faster in its later iterations, which takes away a lot of the communication that’s encouraged in the original version and strips out most of the anticipation. Then there are others that change basically nothing at all, like the UFOs minigame that simply has you say goodbye to the aliens you greeted earlier. (More like good riddance.)
Thankfully there are a few games where Everybody 1-2-Switch shines, like Joy-Con Hide and Seek, in which one player hides their controller and the other team searches for it, armed with the ability to make the hidden controller vibrate violently to aid their search. There’s also an entertaining game of musical chairs where your reaction speed is tested against your friends in a way that’s less likely to result in injury compared to the original version. It was nice to see neat pockets of creativity in an otherwise-dull collection of uninspired ideas, even if they didn’t do much to improve the group’s enthusiasm for the festivities overall.
Those bright spots certainly don’t balance the scales when so many are just poorly designed, like the ninja game where one team is meant to surround an opposing player and throw ninja stars at them while they defend with a sword. The problem is that the direction stars come from has absolutely no impact – so long as the defender swings at the right time, they’ll block whatever’s thrown their way. And because there’s a clear sound effect every time an attacker throws a ninja star, the defender can literally play with their eyes closed and it’s not even difficult.
In my group, the response to this complete lack of challenge was something we started calling “going banshee mode,” where the attackers would scream at the top of their lungs throughout the entire round to make it impossible for the defender to hear the sound effects. Just as there’s no rule that a golden retriever can’t play basketball, there was nothing in the tutorial that prohibited audio interference. As hilarious as that meta was, it felt pretty awful that we were able to master and then undermine minigames so quickly. That’s not the kind of replayability games usually shoot for.
Beyond that, there’s a bunch of the usual issues with motion tracking devices not functioning well enough for competition to feel on the level. One of our Joy-Cons had connectivity issues that made a team fail a rhythm minigame, while input lag during the ice cream parlor game regularly caused losses due to people not being able to get their answer in fast enough. Anyone who’s played party games of this kind will know these certainly aren’t unique problems, but it definitely feels worse when the party favor in question was never fun to begin with.