Review – Everybody 1-2-Switch!

1-2-Switch is one of the most divisive games in the Switch’s stunningly long catalog. As a launch title, it made sense: an opportunity for new adopters to get a feeling for what the Switch’s capabilities were. It was a party game that was playable by almost anyone and utilized so many functions of the Joycons, a controller that came hot on the heels of the WiiMote and the WiiU Gamepad. The concept was great: games that required all kinds of silly gestures and committing to enjoying a sort of character play persona. Using the gyroscope, inner speaker and all the different components, it should have been a pack-in title, or a quick ten dollar gimmick to get people in on the ground floor, much like Wii Sports back in the day.

Instead, charging a very full retail price for 1-2-Switch left a massively sour taste in everyone’s mouth. At a time where people were able to pick up Breath of the Wild to start their Switch journey, a rather short list of games that asked you to gesticulate like a fool and call it a day was, well, awful. I have yet to meet anyone who says that the game is in their best of ranking simply because it was a foolish marketing decision on Nintendo’s part. Even now, if you want to pick up this nearly eight year old title, there is only ten dollars that separates it from the same price point as Pikmin 4, Super Smash Bros or nearly any other title that isn’t Tears of the Kingdom. Just baffling from top to bottom.

Everybody 1-2-Switch

The real winners are people who saved their money and bought literally anything else.

Now, here we are, leagues away from that starting date, and we have a new title on our doorstop: Everybody 1-2-Switch! This game lives in a cloud of infamy from the drop due to how it’s been handled during development. Rumors and quotes from people inside say that it’s dreadful, it’s pointless and it’s something that should have been canned well into the process. As the game started to appear, there was a suspicious lack of screenshots, videos or anything to detail what the game was about. The most any of us saw was a twenty minute video about a week before release of Nintendo getting a bunch of streamers together to play, which is a skewed view and we all know it. You give me a free plane ticket, accommodations and exposure for my channel and I’ll smile and have fun like there’s a gun to my mother’s head. It didn’t sell me in any way as to the authenticity of the game.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that Everybody 1-2-Switch! is a massive, massive improvement on all points from the previous game.

Everybody 1-2-Switch scores

Screenshots automatically black out any photos, but they can’t remove that sweet score.

Everybody 1-2-Switch! is one of the first times I feel like Nintendo has taken cues from fans and also the outside world and incorporated it into a sequel. Not only is the game half the price of the original, it has everything better going for it in terms of replay value, engagement and genuine levels of fun, and that takes an astonishing amount of insight and understanding. There are clearly issues within (which we will talk about in detail), but I feel like this was actually a smart move forward, and I would be interested to see more.

First and foremost, Everybody 1-2-Switch! has the right tonality for the type of game imagined here. Whereas 1-2-Switch just felt like a neverending carousel of games to choose from without purpose, the choice to create a more competitive, party game environment makes it immediately more engaging. While there’s something lost by not just picking minigames willy nilly, making players step into a team mindset and create a healthy level of “let’s do this” adds more weight to things. Let me explain: with 1-2-Switch, I could play against my kids and that was about it. No adult I ever met wanted to play the game of pretending to shave with a JoyCon or conducting semaphore more than once, not when every other Switch game was available. The long form appeal of 1-2-Switch was dead in the water.

Everybody 1-2-Switch cast

An ethnically and culturally diverse group of friends ready to fight to the death.

The competitive nature, on the other hand, makes players more excited to try and do their best and to flex on their friends. It sounds horrible (it is, in a humanistic aspect), but it created a better atmosphere for wanting to play and to play again. Win three games to be the champion, and toggle on the “bonus chance” rule if you want the other team to steal a point when you get too far ahead. It’s very Mario Party in that way, but it’s par for the course for Nintendo. Temper expectations for the timing as well: though there’s three different “game length” modes, the twenty minute game can seriously be done in about ten if you have small teams, so it’s not even a large time sync.

Allowing players to use smartphones as controllers is just a good move by Nintendo and also seems like a creeping sense of guilt about the current state of JoyCons. Not every country offers free repairs on these colorful timebombs and a new set is still about seventy bucks MSRP. Not to mention trying to get a bunch of JoyCons together for a group game sucks and making sure all buttons are working and the batteries are actually charged is more daunting than it seems. By comparison, every man, woman and child appears to at least have access to a smartphone, and it’d be nice to know that kids are snatching their parent’s devices to play games together and not to get inducted into QAnon via YouTube cartoons.

The bold claims are a bit wild, but the concept of one hundred people all getting together to play a Nintendo game at least feels on brand for everything we know and love about Nintendo. While it feels a tad implausible, it’s got the right vibe to it, and the exciting potential of being able to wrangle that many bodies in a singular gaming event at least appears to be a great concept. Naturally, this is for the smartphone only approach: players using Joycons exclusively will be limited to eight contestants, which is still substantially more JoyCons than I have access to. It’s clear Nintendo wanted to swing for the fences at least in terms of allowing multiple folk to get into this experience.

phone rules

Important rules posted each time because a shocking number of people don’t know simple phone game rules.

There are significantly fewer games in Everybody 1-2-Switch!, which feels like it could go either way in terms of enjoyment. The original sits pretty with 28 different mini games, but some of those mini games are Wizard (shake your JoyCon like a magic wand) or Air Guitar (thrash about like a middle aged dad). You can’t be distracted by a number: I definitely remember being excited for those bootleg 100-in-1 carts on my NES when I was a kid, and then playing maybe three games because they were all clones and broken hacks from an undisclosed country.

Everybody 1-2-Switch! keeps it tight at 17 titles, and these are broken into three categories: only Joycon, only smartphones, and mixed controllers. Choosing a game mode can and will lock out some games, so the most you’ll ever have to choose from at once is thirteen (four smartphone only games). You’ve got a full gamut here of titles, from ridiculously simple (Jump Rope, Musical Chairs) to more involved and creative (JoyCon Hide & Seek, Color Shoot), but there are ones you’ll have to get used to playing. If you start a JoyCon only game, you will be doing Balloons at least once. 

Everybody 1-2-Switch games

Hope you’re ready to do this at least twice, because Color Shoot never comes alone.

This is one of my major issues with Everybody 1-2-Switch! For some reason, no matter what, you end up playing certain games almost in a patterned loop the longer you play. I installed this game on both my main Switch and my Switch Lite, and, both times, the first game I played on the JoyCon mode was Balloons and Balloons 2. Likewise, the first smartphone game both times was Color Shoot and Color Shoot 2.  These moments that indicate that the randomizer isn’t exactly random irk me, because I want everyone to have a unique experience when playing a game like this. Knowing that I’m either incredibly unlucky or that there’s a fixed play cycle takes the magic and mystery out of the game. It’s like looking behind the curtain and not finding a wizard, but a seventeen year old part timer taking huge vape hits and checking his phone instead of assisting in the experience.

The games are also fluffed out a bit in this way, and that comes in good and bad waves. Several games have level one and two, giving technically more gameplay but also more repetition, and I always played number two after number one even if I tried my best to stop the spinning wheel on another game. I mean, yes, you like having the challenge of learning the fundamentals for new players and then upping the ante, but, in a short game, you know that two of the four games you’ll play will be the same game twice. It’s a bit boring and frankly frustrating if it’s a game you’re seriously done playing.

Everybody 1-2-Switch balloons

And when one player is terrified of balloons popping, you can imagine this makes the game less fun.

Yet I don’t hate the 17 game limit, and there’s a few good reasons for that. One, Jackbox puts out a new set of mini games each year, usually five to six, and no one gives them grief about it because they’re funny, involved and create content online. Nintendo is CLEARLY trying to chase that and do it in their own way that works. Have you ever tried to play Jackbox Party Packs with children under the age of twelve who aren’t good at using a smartphone? Nowadays, almost every game has a massive entry barrier of being able to type, draw and basically be fluent in using a smartphone. Maybe I shouldn’t play Murder Trivia Party with my children, but work with what you got.

Everybody 1-2-Switch!, by comparison, keeps the bar low and fun. The Quiz Show game is lightning fast but also incredibly simple, so kids can easily outwit you in identifying which picture is a cherry. Ice Cream Parlor is more about memorization than knowing anything about ice cream, so selecting the right flavors in order is simple to do on a smartphone. Color Shoot, despite my griping, is rather exciting and can raise good arguments about copying someone’s picture to get the right color palette on the screen.

And yes, other games are pretty over the plate: Musical Chairs and Statues are different flavors of the same movement and gesture games. Squats is exercise disguised as an activity. And you’ve got Samurai Sword Fight and UFOs as the necessary “act goofy as hell to win” titles for people who like laughing too hard to pay attention. The only game I actually take umbrage with is Hip Bump because the likelihood of you damaging yourself and someone else is HIGH when you’re competitive.

I don’t have a choice, Horace, you sent me a photo of me in my home, this is a hostage situation.

My other mild issue with the game is Horace. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why Nintendo thought a horseheaded mascot was the right call for this game. The horsehead “lol random” idea has been dead and buried for a long time, and it stands as the sole truly baffling moment of the game. If there had been other indicators – asking players to dab to confirm their teams, having a mini game of doing the “Harlem Shake” – I could say that everything was a tone deaf relic of days gone by. Instead, you have a perfectly competent package of titles and some good actions and then this relic from the early 2010s standing there, MCing everything, and being utterly terrifying. My only guess was Nintendo had a bet going that they could resurrect horsehead masks, and time will tell if they were right.

Everybody 1-2-Switch horace

We can all hear the “or else,” right?

Everybody 1-2-Switch!, despite some repetition and odd choices, feels very reasonable and enjoyable. Get a few folks together, harass the horse host as a group, and then fight in some really good natured, simple ways. This is that lower tier of gaming that many of us didn’t expect out of Nintendo, but they delivered it with the genuine polish they add to everything. It’s glossy, appealing, accessible and inoffensive. It’s got a better entry barrier than some and a much better retention power than others. In short, Everybody 1-2-Switch! is a rare party game that I would actually bring to a party. Even if I knew no one, there’s a great chance I’d find someone who’d be willing to play, and I bet it’d draw in even more.

Graphics: 6.5

Easily the weakest aspect of the game, the use of stiff human models coupled with an unsettlingly animated horsehead humanoid makes this the Uncanny Grand Canyon, but the cartoonish nature of the backgrounds and setups save it somewhat.

Gameplay: 8.5

A shorter number of games means more concrete ideas instead of vague gesture notions, resulting in better variety overall and better execution of the tasks at hand. Strictly a party game, this works well in small or big groups, which is impressive.

Sound: 7.0

Rather generic soundtrack but it gets the job done. Horace clearly wants to host a gameshow in the Netherworld and I think he’d do a great job. The kid who hosts the Statues minigame was inspired by Squid Game.

Fun Factor: 9.5

I couldn’t believe how much I played and how much I want to keep playing. Nintendo landed on a really solid party game and I think it has longevity and potential for future sequels. I’ll absolutely keep playing this one into the summer.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Everybody 1-2-Switch! is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Everybody 1-2-Switch! was provided by the publisher.