Hay is for Horace
Everybody 1-2-Switch! has had a troubled history according to rumors from last year. Reportedly, Nintendo wasn’t even sure how to market the game after receiving overwhelmingly negative feedback in their testing sessions. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when it was announced that the game would be dropping on Switch this month.
A collection of extremely silly party games that make heavy use of the Switch’s motion controls, this game definitely isn’t for everybody (1-2 Switch!). However, I’m pleased to report that if you go in with an open mind, there’s fun to be had here.
Everybody 1-2-Switch! is hosted by Horace, a humanoid figure with a rubber horse mask on his head. What lies underneath this horse mask? No one knows, and perhaps it’s best that we don’t find out. Needless to say, the vibe of this game is apparent right off the bat as a man in a tacky horse mask invites you to come party with him. You’re either totally on board with this silliness, or you’re going to check out immediately.
The main mode of the game has players compete over a series of smaller games to see who can get the most points. You can choose between 20-minute, 40-minute, or 60-minute sessions, depending on how long you have and how hardcore your Everybody 1-2 Switch! desires are.
If you don’t have time or you don’t feel like taking part in a longer session, then you’re free to play one game at a time. Not all games will be unlocked right at the start, but as you experience them in those longer game modes, they’ll become available for individual play.
There are 17 different games that you can choose from, and each game also has multiple variants that will change up how it feels and plays while keeping the basic premise intact. While some of the games allow you to compete as an individual, the primary focus in Everybody 1-2 Switch! seems to be on team-based competition. Players can choose their teams themselves, or have Horace randomly decide how to divide everyone.
This is definitely a party game that’s intended to be played with large groups, and it technically allows for up to 100 players at a time. During my demo session, I got to play a couple of games with eight players, and some with twenty (which is probably more people than I can ever reasonably hope to invite to play games in my home).
First, I got to try out two Joy-Con-based games with a slightly smaller group of just eight players, each holding one individual Joy-Con. One of those games was “Balloons”. In this one, each team was assigned their own balloon (with an unsettling design) and was tasked with pumping it up to a certain size.
Players hold their Joy-Cons horizontally and physically pump it up and down using the motion controls. After each pump, the balloon gets a little bit bigger. However, if it gets too big, it will pop and your team will lose. So, you’re trying to make it bigger than the other team’s balloon without going over the limit. (You can use the on-screen grid lines to try and judge exactly how big it can get before popping.)
“Balloons” is a very simple concept, and is reminiscent of party games you’ve probably seen before, namely the Balloon Burst mini-game in Mario Party. What makes this one stand out a little is the fact that it’s team-based. In order to win, you’re going to have to communicate quickly with the other members of your team. Mostly, you’ll be shouting things like “a little more guys, we can do this” and “STOP STOP STOP IT’S GONNA BLOW”. Inevitably, one person is going to think, “I can squeeze one or two more pumps in, no problem,” and then pop - the balloon explodes and everybody (1-2 Switch) laughs. I don’t know if it translates well to written impressions, but I promise this game has the power to make you smile, and it served as a great ice breaker for my room full of strangers.
Next up, I played another competitive team-based game called “Hip Bump” in which players take on the roles of rabbits, trying to knock their opponent off of an arena into a vat of carrot juice. (Yep, it’s another one of those games.)
“Hip Bump” exemplifies the kind of weird physical activity that Everybody 1-2-Switch! is going to ask you to take part in. Players hold the Joy-Cons behind their backs and one at a time, one member from each team will head up to the front of the room. There, they’ll stand facing away from each other, on display, inviting ridicule from their friends. (Don’t worry, everyone will have equal opportunity to be ridiculed while playing.)
After a countdown, the competing players will simultaneously bump their hips backwards at each other while trying to pay attention to the on-screen positions of their characters. You’ll need to bump faster and flick your wrist more accurately in order to knock your opponent off first. It’s also possible to achieve a ‘counter move’ if you hit your opponent right after they hit you, rewarding you with a stronger push. However, I found it pretty difficult to actually make that happen intentionally. “Hip Bump” felt a little more luck based and a little more of an excuse to make yourself look silly in front of a crowd. To that end, it absolutely succeeds.
Now, you may be asking: “How can Everybody 1-2 Switch! support up to 100 players if you can only have eight Joy-Cons connected to the Switch at a time?”. Well, that’s where the game’s smartphone integration comes into play. Some games will need smartphones in order to work, while others can be used with Joy-Cons or smartphones simultaneously.
Anyone familiar with the Jackbox Party Pack games will know how this bit goes, and now Nintendo is getting in on the fun too. When a smartphone enhanced game begins, players will be able to easily scan a QR code or enter a web address in order to join. Depending on the game, players may also be able to join in as audience members simply to root for their friends. (Keep in mind that Everybody 1-2 Switch! isn’t recommended for streaming with players in separate locations because its games are pretty dependent on timing and in-person activity.)
One of the games that definitely requires a smartphone to work is “Color Shoot”. In this one, all players become fashion designers tasked with finding items of a specific color, such as royal blue or seashell pink. Players will need to take their smartphones and look around the room to find objects that match the color shown on the screen, then take photos of them with their cameras. The closer your object is to the color presented, the more points you’ll get.
“Color Shoot” was one of the cleverer, more unique games I experienced. (It reminded me a little of Nintendo’s less than beloved AR game Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder on the 3DS, which also required you to take photos of things in your environment.) This one shows off another way in which Everybody 1-2-Switch! can get you to move around. Rather than just telling you to jump or spin in place, it requires you to think and interact with the real world in a way that most video games don’t.
Next, there’s the aptly titled “UFO” in which you need to compete with the opposing team to summon aliens the fastest. You do this by holding your smartphone with thumbs pressed firmly in place and moving it in a specific pattern. For example, you might be asked to raise your arms up and down or wave them from side to side. The challenge is that you’ll need to do so in a specific rhythm, on time with your fellow teammates. The team that’s able to sync up the best and perform the movements the most accurately will bring down a UFO and summon aliens to them faster.
I might just be very out of shape (I am), but I have to say that “UFO” was somewhat tiring to play. Holding your phone tightly and performing repetitive motions over and over can make your arms feel sore quickly. This may be part of the challenge, but I didn’t find it that inviting. “UFO” is cute enough, but I don’t think it has quite the staying power of some of the others.
Finally, I got to check out “Quiz Show”, a trivia game that you can use your smartphone to interact with. This one can be played on teams or as individual players. In “Quiz Show”, a series of questions will appear on the TV screen, along with two possible answers. You’ll be able to select the A answer or the B answer via your phone. Of course, you’ll be rewarded for getting the question right and punished for getting it wrong, but you’ll also get more points the quicker you press the button. Just knowing the correct answer isn’t enough; you’ll also need fast thumbs.
“Quiz Show” is a pretty standard multiple choice quiz without many bells and whistles, but I’m most excited about the option to create your own custom quizzes. With this, you can develop questions about video game trivia, your own personal friends and lives, or anything else you can imagine. Another mode even allows players to come up with questions spontaneously that will be thrown up on the TV as you’re playing. I always appreciate when party games give you customization options so you can tailor things toward your group.
After my time sampling a few of the games in Everybody 1-2-Switch!, I’m left with some important questions. Does the game still work as well with smaller groups, or even with only two players? Will these games hold up over time, or will their gimmicks get old after a few plays? I can’t make that determination without having played the full game, so it’s hard for me to give it a full throated endorsement.
However, I do think that Everybody 1-2-Switch! deserves more credit than most people are probably willing to give it when compared to other modern party games. For example, in the Jackbox Party Pack series (an obvious inspiration), many of the games depend on the players to be funny. If you’re unable to come up with a quick, clever answer, it can drain the energy from the room and potentially result in players feeling bad.
With Everybody 1-2-Switch!, there is no requirement whatsoever for players to be funny. Instead, the games themselves are funny. The actual activity you’re participating in is the part that’s going to make you laugh, which I think is arguably a more impressive achievement.
Whether or not Everybody 1-2 Switch! will hold up for many hours of play I can’t quite say, but I promise that if you get a group of people together for this one, you are going to be laughing. How hard and how long you’ll be laughing for, you can judge for yourself soon. The full game drops later this week, on June 30, 2023.