Last weekend saw the second Global Test Punch (that’s a limited time demo to you and I) for Nintendo’s next first-party release on the Switch - ARMS. The motion control-friendly brawler looks like a natural evolution of the fondly remembered Wii Sports boxing minigame at first glance, but what’s it like to play? We trapped Liam and James in a room to talk it over.
Liam: As someone who is usually rubbish at fighting games, I somehow found myself in the unfamiliar situation of being one of the top players in a lobby at one point. Although great for the self-esteem, it wasn’t so good for getting into a match, as all the other players who could come close to matching my amazingness were otherwise occupied. Floating helplessly gets old fast, and while it’s cool that you can see how much real-time damage other players are taking in their separate battles, it would have been good if there was a proper spectator mode to pass the time.
James: I found the standard one-on-one battles bland but really important to get the hang of the game. Once you’re in there with more than one opponent, or a specific objective, things get hectic - fast!
Liam: I think I enjoyed the 1v1 matches the most, but it really depends on the quality of the opponent facing you. The modes featuring three or four players, while fun, could quickly get confusing, and they couldn’t beat the tenser battles one-on-one matches offered. Being backed into a corner with only a fraction of health left, only to emerge victorious thanks to some well-placed punches and flurry combos was awesome. Having multiple players in the same match made more sense in the more arcade-like modes, such as the one that has two teams trying to smash the most targets from opposite sides of an arena, or where a group of you would face off against an incredibly tough AI metal robot head creature.
James: Fighting those AI giant robots with about six ARMS each was pretty tough. Staying mobile and remembering to actually use the jump and dodge buttons was a constant struggle in that one especially. Some of the more specific custom modes worked better than others, I feel like the quicker characters had a big advantage most of the time. I didn’t play on a pro controller but the button mapping looked really odd…
I was surprised I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did.
Liam: I didn’t get a chance to try the game outside of motion controls either, which is a shame as I’d like to have seen how curving punches with a standard controller setup was going to work. I was surprised to find I was happy to forgo a more traditional setup in favour of motion controls for as long as I did, and for the most part, they worked quite well, with the only real issue I experienced being down to me forgetting to hold the Joy-Cons in the proper starting position.
James: So I guess the real test at this point is - does this demo make us want to buy it?
Liam: I can see this being a great party game, something to pick up and play for an hour or so when friends or family are visiting, but I don’t know if can see myself air-boxing solo in front of the TV very often, even for online matches with friends. In fact, using the motion controls anywhere outside of the living room is a definite no, unless you’re happy to be the crazy guy no one wants to sit next to on the commute to work. Unless Nintendo fail to deliver some form of Smash Bros. on the Switch in the near future, I can see this one passing me by.
James: For me, this was always an outside chance from both a competitive online play and a messing-about-party-style title - as you can see it sort of working in either camp but not really committing either way. It’s not as accessible as Splatoon 2 has been so far, from a similar amount of playtime from its demos, which makes me worry the barrier of entry will be too high to really get people on board and make competitive play interesting. That said, there is charm here, in an unashamedly Nintendo sort of a way, so something in the back of my mind whispers “Oh go on, get it anyway!”
What do you think of ARMS? Did you try the Test Punch? Will you be picking it up? Let us know in the comments.