While Zelda: Breath of the Wild may have been my main goal at the recent Nintendo Switch event here in Melbourne, ARMS was most definitely next in line for me to get my hands (or should I say arms) on. ARMS was one of two games at the event (1-2-Switch being the other) which truly showcased the potential of the Joy-Con controllers, and the powerfully fun party aspect of the Nintendo Switch. While 1-2-Switch nicely settles as the Switch equivalent to Wii Sports, you might assume ARMS would take the place of Wii Boxing. However, ARMS felt much more like someone took Punch-Out!, put it in a fluoro arena and gave everyone Slinkies for arms!
To play, the Joy-Cons are detached from the base unit and held, one in each hand, in a thumbs-up pose. From the moment you pick up the petite Joy-Con’s, attaching them to your wrists with the provided strap would be a prudent move. Punching is mostly achieved by moving one’s hands in an obvious punching fashion, with the position of one’s fists contributing towards techniques, such as character movement, blocking, and even the direction of blows by simply curving your punch slightly in a ‘hook’ fashion. Other buttons are added to the mix, to allow for jumping and dashing.
Coming to grips with the controls was easy enough, but they do require a certain amount of thought; just waving your hands around in the air wont work for ARMS, and casual gamers might not have it as easy. As impressive as the tech inside the Joy-Con controllers is, I still have to admit I found them to be hit and miss at times on responsiveness. There were several times I threw an accidental punch when I’d intended to move, leaving me standing miles away from my arch-nemesis Luke (I mean… opponent Luke). This turn saw me again thinking I’d moved forward enough to set off my Flurry Attack only to spend multiple seconds flailing both my and my characters arms around like an inflatable wacky tube man in a car dealership, both of us failing to hit anything.
“I was able to give Luke a Slapamander right hook whilst applying a direct Popper to the face!”
Each of the 5 available characters have their particular strengths and weaknesses, making your character choices more calculated than random; particularly if you’re up against a seasoned gamer like I was.
Characters can also swap out standard boxing glove fists for other armaments, including Slapamander and Trident that change the way you throw standard punches. As an added bonus you’re also able to equip alternating gloves. This was great because it meant I was able to give Luke a Slapamander right hook whilst applying a direct Popper to the face with the left!
Having both reached a reasonable familiarity with the controls and an understanding of the character options available, ARMS quickly became a legitimately fun game and I found myself wondering about future sequels, ARMS 2: LEGS, perhaps!
All jokes aside though this doesn’t fully quell my concerns. As fun as it is I still wonder if ARMS will be just another short lived party game, or is it moving just a little too far into the other side of the camp of being too complex and multi-layered to be a party game? There were times I rapidly found myself wishing for more buttons to better control the chaos. There’s also the fact while ARMS doesn’t require you to have two sets of Joy-Con’s to play, I personally feel you’ll get the most out of the game this way. So it’s fair to say ARMS will see you making additional Switch accessory purchases should you want to properly enjoy it with friends, which could be enough to turn some gamers off.
ARMS is set to launch sometime in 2017; we’ll have more on the title as it becomes available!