A Switch exclusive, “Arms” offers the kind of whimsical, party game-style fun that Nintendo (NTDOY) excels at. That’s not to say that “Arms” is a perfect title, though.
It does have shortcomings, especially when it comes to its single-player mode. But its local and online multiplayer options and spring-inspired character design make it the kind of approachable game you’ll enjoy playing with friends on your couch and online.
Getting into the swing of things
Fighting games are a staple of the gaming industry. But getting the hang of a new fighter always takes time. And if you take the fight online, you better be an expert, because button mashing isn’t an option against a snarky 11-year who can beat you in less than a minute while talking smack about your “momma.”
Which is what makes “Arms” such an impressive offering. I
t’s easy to jump into and difficult to master. That’s because rather than having to memorize the right sequence of button presses to pull off a massive 40-hit combo, “Arms” comes down to four major moves: jump, dash, right punch and left punch.
With the Switch’s Joy-Con’s (controllers) built-in motion sensors, you can quickly throw a punch with your right hand, and your on-screen character will immediately replicate the motion. Throw a fist out and curve your hand inward, and your spring-loaded punch will curve along with the movement.
You hold your left and right Joy-Cons in thumbs-up mode and tilt them left, right, back or forward to move around the ring. To dash and jump, you have to press the left and right shoulder buttons.
But “Arms” fighters’ springy, uh, arms, mean that while you can throw a punch across the ring, you have to wait a split second for your fist to return before you can fire off another haymaker. During that time, you’re completely vulnerable to incoming blows.
While “Arms” motion controls are fun and approachable, seasoned gamers will probably ditch them in favor of using a more traditional control setup using the Switch’s Joy-Con grip or Pro controller, both of which offer tighter movement and control over your characters, especially when fighting online.
Bright, bold, beautiful
“Arms” is a Nintendo franchise through and through, and nowhere is that more obvious than its design. Colors are bright, the action is smooth and the game’s 10 stylized fighters have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Punches land with a satisfying crack, powered-up hits explode against your opponent and grabs look utterly devastating. What’s more, each of the game’s stages come complete with different obstacles, which means you can’t just walk in with the same game plan for each bout.
You can equip each character with dozens of different types of Arms (fists) that offer a variety of special effects and features. The Boomerang arm, for instance, fires a boomerang when you throw a regular punch, but power up your arm by holding the jump or dash button and it’ll launch a cyclone.
Being single is lame
Unfortunately, “Arms’ ” single player options can feel repetitive over time. There’s no story mode to speak of, which is a letdown, considering how interesting each player looks. Instead, you can fight in a Grand Prix to unlock the game’s online Competitive mode, or battle against the AI in Fight and Team Fight modes or play “Arms’” take on volleyball and basketball in V-Ball and Hoops modes.
“Arms” really comes to life is online, though. There you can take on opponents in competitive ranked matches or random party matches. Offline multiplayer modes are just as fun, and will likely be the reason you break out “Arms” during parties.
Jumping into the ring
“Arms” is one of Nintendo’s tentpole games for the Switch, which means it’s incredibly important for the company. The good news is that it’s a joyful, must-have experience whether you’re playing online or with your best friends in your apartment.
If you’re looking for a deep single-player mode, though, “Arms” isn’t the game for you. Sure there’s a Grand Prix option, but it’s not engrossing enough to keep players coming back.
If you’re a Switch owner and looking for a slick, unique game to take a break from “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” then “Arms” is the way to go.
What’s hot: Beautiful visuals; unique weapons to wreck your opponents; wonderful online modes
What’s not: No single-player campaign; motion controls can hinder your performance in competitive modes
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