For all their polymath complexity, all their melding of artistic and cinematic and technical achievements, timeless video games sometimes boil down to one very good idea. Nel 2006 Wii Sports’ idea was this: wouldn’t it be fun to wave a controller around like a tennis racquet? That’s it. That’s the game. But man, suo così entertaining. Wii Sports sparked a brief obsession with motion-control video games in the late 00s that has since died out again, but now that we’ve all had a break from flinging our limbs around in front of a console, I’m glad it’s back again.
Nintendo Switch Sports brings that idea to a new wave of families. Snapping off the Joy-Con controllers, you hand one to another person and compete in one of six simple sports: tennis, badminton, volleyball, bowling, football and swordfighting. That last one is Nintendo’s own invention, called chambara, in which two opponents wield wooden swords at each other and try to knock each other off a raised platform into a swimming pool. If you’ve got extra Joy-Cons, you can play some sports with four players; if you’re solo, you can compete online to win glory and cute outfits for your adorably androgynous character. But playing alone robs you of slapstick comedy moments such as watching your partner hit the wall with a wild badminton swing and swear loudly in front of your children, which for me is rather the point.
Football is the most complicated of the lot, getting you to chase a giant ball around the pitch with the control stick and kick it by swinging your arm (o, in one mode, by strapping the controller to your thigh and actually kicking). The rest are played by waving the controller around and pressing maybe one or two buttons. Bowling, specialmente, is intuitive enough for a five-year-old or an 85-year-old to pick up quickly and enjoy within seconds, and that’s the genius of it. I wasn’t blown away by the subtlety of the simulated movements in-game – beyond adding a bit of spin to a tennis or bowling ball, it’s mostly about waving your arm at the right moment – but it doesn’t matter that it’s not 100% accurate. Suo fun.
Nintendo Switch Sports effortlessly entertained my family and a friend’s family for an entire afternoon, and it’s the kind of thing you’ll bust out for an hour here and there for years to come when people visit. It’s just so welcoming, a quality I especially value in a game. One thing to bear in mind is that you can’t play with a friend unless you connect the Switch to a TV, which puts the kibosh on spontaneous pub tennis matches or office sword fights – probably for the best, if we’re honest, as enthusiastic movements sent a Joy-Con flying off in an unexpected direction twice in the time I’ve been playing this for review. If you want your windows and TV screens to remain unbroken, use the controller straps to be safe.
Volleyball is the only truly boring sport of this bunch – the pace is slow and the movements too obvious – and football has the most longevity, a kind of lighter take on Rocket League. But I reckon it’s the old standbys of tennis and bowling that will be brought out time and time again – and perhaps badminton, which works exactly like tennis but is more forgiving to beginners (and children). None of these sports would be enough to sustain a game alone, but together, and paired with Nintendo’s charming and slick aesthetic and brain-infesting music, they are the makings of a good time.