Test 1: The Party
For my first real test of the Switch, I invited some friends over on launch day with promises of pizza and local multiplayer shenanigans for Nintendo's newest console. Largely, it was a big success. There are not many four-player titles on the Switch at this stage, so we played largely Just Dance 2017, Super Bomberman R and Nintendo's own 1-2 Switch.
Here is where the Joy-Con's come into their own. Splitting them down from a complete controller into two halves means that with my two Joy-Con controllers I actually had the ability for four people to play Bomberman and Just Dance, and this was done with a minimum of effort. Battery life on the Joy-Con controllers is good, although some games will insist upon you attaching wrist straps for the Joy-Con, and some will ask you to take it off. These wrist straps are quite tricky to attach/detach quickly, which broke the flow of the game.
Generally, though, the Joy-Cons are a revelation. Because they have so few usable buttons -- just an analogue stick and four face buttons -- games are encouraged to be fairly simple for a lot of separate players. This eases comprehension. It's a mark of me getting old that not all of my friends played Bomberman growing up, but they all got the idea: this button for bombs, the analogue stick to avoid bombs.
The Joy-Cons do have a couple of issues, however. They can fit a little weirdly in smaller hands, which you get used to, and we encountered a single issue of a left Joy-Con losing its sync, but this was nearly four metres from the docked console, when my friend decided to compete in a 1-2 Switch swordfight all the way down my corridor, to refill a drink. I have a fairly small living room, with sofas just five feet from the TV, and experienced no syncing issues.
Verdict: This is great for local multiplayer. The game's so far as simple and nuanced and the Joy-Cons are bright, sturdy and hold their charge well. The price of asking might be a bit steep if this is the only thing you want to do with your Switch, but I had a lot of fun regardless.
Test 2: Solo Play
The next day, I got deep into Zelda (our review will follow soon) and spent several hours playing it. I tried several controller configurations, and found that the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is the best for long sessions of single-player titles, although I also used the Joy-Con grip controller at length and didn't have too many issues… but I've got some concerns.
Primarily, this centres on the distance of travel on the Joy-Con analogue sticks. It feels like super-precise movements would be quite tough with the Joy-Con controller, and this could make several actions in the game harder. Considering a Pro controller is £70, this grates.
I loved the freedom to move around with the console however. I had to run some errands on Saturday, and it was as simple as sliding the Switch out of the dock and locking Joy-Cons to the side to switch to Handheld mode, and then I was able to take the console anywhere I wanted, whether this was on the tube, to the toilet or even to bed. I found the occasional bit of poorer performance when playing with the handheld, but never anything that impacted my enjoyment of the game.
Verdict: This was the primary draw for me, I travel a lot for work, and the prospect of packing one of these up for a press trip was strong. However, I've found that when I'm playing the Switch I'll carry it around the house with me, playing a brief bit of Zelda while I wait for a pan to boil in the kitchen, playing games with my partner in bed during a lie-in, passing the Switch between us as we play.
The Switch is a strong games machine, and it fills the niche that many people didn't even think existed. It's not perfect, and there are just a handful of games available for the console at the moment, but there's a lot of promise here. It's a machine that seems to fit how people want to play it, letting you take it to work for a quick bash at a AAA title during your lunch break at work, or on a plane. It's attention to detail as a hybrid will likely win it a lot of fans.
However, if Nintendo leaves you completely cold, and the idea of taking your games away from the TV or monitor and out into the real world isn't for you, you probably won't enjoy the Switch. For me though, the Switch is the first Nintendo console that's ever really clicked, and I'm sincerely hoping Nintendo embraces the machine and the tremendous amount of third-party support pledged so far for the console continues. This is something special, a must-buy for several reasons despite the comparatively low amount of grunt compared to a trusty PC or one of the other consoles on the market.