Christmas is my favorite holiday. Spending time with loved ones, Christmas music, houses lit up with lights and decorations, and the joy you feel giving a gift to a loved one. All of these things make me appreciate my life and the people in it.
Typically, my family gathers for the holiday at my home. With the meal preparation left to my wife and brother, I happily prepare the post-feast entertainment. This is usually varied: tabletop games, movies, video games,etc. This year I looked to the Nintendo Switch for some fun and enjoyable game playing.
The games I wanted to play needed to meet a few requirements: I wanted them to be family friendly, accommodate 4 players, in either split screen or single screen, and be genuinely fun. After sifting through the Switch Library, I found two possible candidates, Mario Kart 8 and Snipper Clips. Mario Kart 8 allows up to 4 players to play simultaneously via split screen, while Snipper Clips allows up to 4 players to play simultaneously on a single screen.
On a basic level, Mario Kart 8 is a go-cart racing game. Nintendo, recognizing this was the 8th game in the series, has surpassed previous iterations of this series through superior gameplay and incredible graphics. What makes Mario Kart special and repeatedly fun are a few features: an immense roster of Nintendo characters as your racer, inventive race tracks, combat, and the ability to customize your Kart.
The overall premise of the game is to race Karts and beat your opponents using powerups. Using a speed boost at the right moment, spawning a piranha plant to eat enemies that get too close, and launching turtle shells to knock your opponent temporarily out of the race are all examples of gaining an advantage. Using these powerups often leads to hilarious outcomes.
A typical race begins with each player customizing their cart. Once everyone has selected their options, they and a host of computer players line up at the starting line. When the whistle blows, the race begins. As you begin zipping around the track, you will see shiny question mark boxes on the track. If you can steer your Kart into one of the ? boxes, you will gain a powerup to use against your foes.
Each track has its own personality, appearance, and strategy. There are a total of 48 different race tracks, such as: Thwomp Ruins,Toad Harbor, Twisted Mansion, Shy Guy Falls, Dolphin Shoals,Electrodome, Mount Wario, Bone Dry Dunes,Bowser’s Castle, Rainbow Road, Moo Moo Meadows,Cheep Cheep Beach, and Dk Jungle. These tracks feature jumps, speed bursts, parachutes, and obstacles to avoid. They weave up and down from high vantage points that you parachute down from, to underwater tunnels, and even outer space. Many tracks also include alternate routes.
The game also features a battle mode. The battle mode consists of a track that allows players to race around, find powerups, and attack each other. The game starts with all players, including computer players, at different locations on the track. Each player has five balloons on the back of their Kart. When a Kart is hit, the player loses a balloon. When the battle begins, each player races around the map with the sole goal of acquiring powerups to pop their opponents balloons.
Mario Kart 8 is hectic, easy to play, and looks gorgeous on a 1080 or 4k screen. In order to play 4 player, you must have 4 controllers. It can be 4 joy cons, or any mix of joycons and Switch Pro Controllers. The controls are simple enough that a relatively inexperienced person is able to jump in and quickly learn the basic mechanics of the game. Each of the modes features a ton of customization, if you want to race or battle with only turtle shells enabled as powerups, you can do that.
After the crowd seemed to have their fill of Mario Kart, we moved on to Snipper Clips. Snipper Clips is a puzzle game that can be played single player, but is truly made to be played cooperatively. Snipper Clips also requires 4 controllers to play 4 player on the same screen.
You begin the game with four characters onscreen. Each character is shaped like an upside down pacman ghost except with legs and feet. In order to solve the puzzles, you will need to cooperatively trim each other down to the shape that will help solve the puzzle. The puzzle might simply need you to trim each other down to fill in a shape onscreen. Or, you might need to create shapes to manipulate characters and items on screen. If you trim someone too much, you simply have to cut out all of the player’s shape so that they respawn as the original pacman ghost shape.
To trim each other down, you need to spin your character around and then cut part of another player’s shape out. Getting the exact shape, without any extra shape, requires teamwork and an eye for precision. It also requires a good deal of patience, problem solving, and complete cooperation. However, sometimes the cooperation would break down, erupting into a clipping war where each player would chop each other out of existence repeatedly. This seemed to happen often, and last for some time, to peals of laughter.
As the game progresses, it becomes more complex, and requires more creativity to solve the puzzles. It becomes increasingly more important to accurately trim each player down to the exact shape needed.
Mario Kart 8 and Snipper Clips are a blast to play. Playing these games with family together in the same space is what makes the experience special. There was much laughter, cursing, and happiness playing these games. We swapped players in and out so that everyone had the opportunity to play.
I am extremely impressed with the Nintendo Switch and the versatility the system affords. Creating a mobile device that can also be played on a 1080p or 4k tv, with 4 players split screen must have been quite the task.
There was much joy to be had racing around tracks and solving puzzles. What Nintendo does best is create game experiences that are incredibly fun, easy to play, yet remain challenging or interesting enough that you want to play more.
Matt Drought lives in Milwaukee. His last article for us was a review of Diablo 3: Rise Of The Necromancer.