Here it is, chums: Nintendo’s latest console remodel is finally out. Is it a welcome addition to the Switch family? Is it a worthy successor to the fabulously robust 3DS? Is it, in fact, neither? All will be revealed…
Whatever you opt for, they’re all equal in comfort. Nintendo’s Switch Lite boasts a grippy matte finish that perfectly complements its rubber analogue sticks, along with satisfying, reliable buttons and a triumphantly returning d-pad. I’m also pleased to report that, for the most part, it continues to feel comfortable during more rigorous play sessions - unlike even the New 3DS XL.
That comfort is further enhanced by the absurd weight of the console. It really only becomes apparent that you’re using a handheld in something like an FPS, where the offset nature of the sticks becomes a slight issue (more on that later), but regardless, it does feel robust in that signature Nintendo fashion.
How about that smaller screen, current Switchers? Well me ducks, I can honestly say that this is visually the best handheld I’ve ever used. Booting up Link’s Awakening for the first time sent echoes of nostalgia all through my rotting, sagging flesh and coloured my day with whimsy. It doesn’t auto-change the brightness like big brother, but it’s still plenty clear, crisp and girthy nonetheless.
So the design be grand and the screen be lovely, but that doesn’t really matter if you’ve got nothing to play on it. Yours truly has been testing the Switch Lite with the aforementioned Link’s Awakening, charming Stardew Valley, handheld staple Tetris 99, and the brutal DOOM to really put the console through its paces.
For the most part, I’ve been very impressed. How can this dinky little thing run the frantic, exploding-head wonderment of DOOM (2016)?! That’s a fantastical achievement in itself, even if the small form factor and offset sticks make aiming slightly difficult. Yet it’s that small size and maximum portability that makes me smile so. Having Stardew on the go is worth the price of admission alone if you ask me, but account for that massive and expanding library of third-party hits alongside Nintendo’s own bigguns and the potential for bank account destruction is supreme.
Yet all that good does come paired with some rather corpulent bad. It’s been well publicised that this is, in fact, a Switch that doesn’t switch, yet it still seems like a bizarre decision. For games like Stardew and the rest of the indie cannon it’s fine, but will Nintendo’s Breath of the Wild sequel have the same emotional impact on a smaller screen? Only time hath the answer. You can add the endless battery life debate to the fire as well (I’ve managed probably four hours tops so far), and the lack of Bluetooth headphones support is absurd in this ridiculously technological universe of ours.
Alas, you’ve reached the end. Well done. After a month in its company I say with much admiration that I’m glad to be back in Nintendo’s warm and ample bosom. I adore the cheaper price, portability, comfort and games library. Undeniably though, you will be making some rather large sacrifices in choosing the Lite over its conventional forebear. Much like this old bugger, consider your lifestyle and how often you actually play games. If, like me, you only really get to play on commutes, then the Lite is well worth the dosh.
If you've heard anything about The Outer Worlds it was likely in the same breath as some other properties, such as The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and even titles without a colon in their name like Mass Effect or Bioshock. Those games appear to have influenced the developers (Obsidian themselves having worked on some of them) but it would be disingenuous to claim there's nothing to set this new IP apart from the precursors that were instrumental in its construction.
As is the fashion, quests can be completed in a number of ways. If you aren't built for stealth or wish to avoid stealing, a silver tongue may grant access to restricted areas or there's the standard RPG trope of a quid pro quo arrangement. Failing that, most folks won't argue with a flamethrower. At least, not for very long.
Many of the faces you'll meet are exaggerated caricatures, some endlessly parroting the company slogan through fear of punishment, others holding a genuine belief in the propaganda. Whilst this could wear thin, it's well-written satire that’s wonderfully performed by the voice actors, and serves to illuminate the "real" characters that have a more prominent role. Parvati, a companion you'll encounter early on (and one of our favourites), is a pleasure to travel with, not only for her combat and passive abilities, but her wholesome, innocent charm.
Your party will often run into trouble, even if it's a conscious decision made only to test out the whacky Science Weapons hidden around Halcyon. Fights are fast and frantic with smooth gunplay, which will feel familiar to anyone who's played a recent Fallout or Borderlands, but they're over a little too quickly on the easier difficulties. On hard mode and, presumably, Supernova (where food, water and sleep become necessary) a bit of forethought is required.
Tactical Time Dilation is a more skill-based V.A.T.S which slows the action to a crawl, allowing you a few free shots to damage and debuff the biggest threats, while each companion has a special ability to both damage and stun foes. Utilising these abilities will give you an edge, though it's important to regularly update your loadout and use the correct damage types. Consumables can be mixed in with your standard health packs, giving short-lived bonuses to stats. So ubiquitous are these items, that we found ourselves using them before, during and after engagements, yet still our pockets were overflowing.
An, albeit minor, sticking point is the game’s Flaws mechanic. After taking enough of a certain type of damage, say, from a specific enemy or too much head trauma, you'll be prompted to accept or decline a Flaw, a permanent condition that negatively impacts your stats in exchange for an extra Perk. Up to four Flaws can be accrued on Normal Mode, while higher difficulties feature more. It's a great idea for those fully committed to the role-playing aspect, whereby too many encounters with a certain type of foe could trigger ‘anxiety’ (read: debuffs) when near that enemy, but the hit to your stats rarely seems like a fair trade as the Perks, whilst providing concrete benefits, are largely unimaginative.
With that said, there's nothing that really detracts from the experience as a whole and our biggest gripe is having to wait years for the inevitable sequel. The Outer Worlds is a better Fallout than Fallout 4 and the shorter runtime (around 20 - 30 hours) is offset by having more replayability than its contemporaries. The fact that it's also free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers is just icing on the cake.