I really try and find the good in each and every single game that comes across my path. Despite some inequalities in the time, resources and skill that independent developers face, I can see the effort, the vision and, usually, some qualifying reason to pick up the game. Even Vroom in the Night Sky was cute and unintentionally hilarious, if boring and pointless. So it pains me, physically, to have a game like Physical Contact: SPEED be my lowest rating of a title to date.
Since the title might confuse you into thinking of something else, Physical Contact: SPEED is a card game, nothing more or less. I don’t know where the Physical Contact aspect comes from, but it may have been a mistranslation. The developer/publisher, Collavier Corporation, has previously put out several digital titles on other Nintendo consoles with most of their success coming in Japan, predominantly for busy work titles, like coloring books. But make no mistake, this is a rendition of the card game Speed (sometimes called Spit or Slap in the West) and it’s hugely popular among Japanese kids. The objective is to take your half of the deck and slowly whittle it away by building up or down on card piles in the center of the table. There are four piles, and suits don’t matter, so long as the number goes in sequence (on an eight, you can play a nine or a seven). Aces go high or low, so you can make a full loop, and, when you run out of cards, that’s the game. Playing the same piles as your opponent means some fast thinking to get your cards down first, hence the name of the game, Speed.
From the very beginning, something was wrong with Physical Contract: SPEED. It took only a second to realize that I couldn’t use the Joystick. At all. The entire operations of the game were done with the buttons, including moving left and right. This is inherently non intuitive, and I was baffled that there wasn’t even the option to change this in the settings. The only settings allowed for control of the music, sound and game speed, and even that was a misnomer. The game speed is about the animation of the cards coming or going, nothing to do with the initial AI you may encounter. But I’m glad I could adjust the music, because it was LOUD. Some weirdly dynamic music is mixed into this experience, all of it feeling totally out of place. There’s a jazzy number, some futuristic gumball pop tune, all music that seems like it’s tailor made for “generic video game” situations, yet not a single song really works for a card game.
After the shock of the control setup, I gave single player mode a try. It took until level 13 before the opponent moved a card even remotely at the same time I did. I can’t tell if it’s a bug or just incredibly downscaled difficulty, but the AI usually wouldn’t put down a card at all until I was totally finished with my turn. Which defeats the entire purpose and drive of SPEED. I felt like I was just agonizing while playing against my grandmother in a game she vaguely remembers from her childhood but clearly can’t think of the full set of rules. So you wait, patiently, because yelling is going to make her cry and make you a bad person. That’s the AI. It’s my forgetful grandmother.
Two player mode in Physical Contact: SPEED is actually much, much worse than the single player mode. There’s a sliding scale to let you decide how fast the cards can be played, but it’s a single scale for two players. Which means one person can move fast and the other is molasses slow, or you can both be middling and just slow enough to make you audibly sigh in frustration. Also, rather than put one player at the top and the other at the bottom, SPEED puts the players on the left and right, so the cards are also sideways. But the controller setup remains static, which means you then have to remember that left is up and so forth. It was so incredibly awkward, and we just had to slowly put down the cards as fast as the game would let us. No one really felt like a winner afterwards, but at least it did move faster than the AI in the single player mode.
Winning matches in Physical Contact: SPEED nets you coins, which can then be used to purchase cosmetic changes for the game. The problem is, nothing is worthwhile. You can get a different avatar sprite, but they all look like a.) they were stolen from an Sega Genesis game and b.) they’re all confusingly inappropriate. You have things like skulls, killer bees and zombies, like they scraped the asset barrel from an unreleased Ghouls N’ Ghosts sequel that was deemed “not good.” You can also change the table and deck colors, but they’re all pretty generic. Flat colors and some semi-floral deck décor. I wasn’t exactly driven to keep playing in order to unlock them all.
As a final note, I think Collavier had the intention of being able to change the language of the game but forgot to figure out how to do it when you’re playing on the big screen. The language toggle button in the upper left hand corner is completely inaccessible without the touch screen. So you would think, since you can touch the buttons on the menus and such, you would be able to play the card game itself via touch screen, at least allowing for some variation. Nope. Entire menu is touch screen enabled, but not using buttons means you can’t play the game. But you can’t change the language without the touch screen. It’s not like there’s a heavy plot that needs to be read into, but for the love of God, why have the option and then only make it changeable through the most convoluted practice imaginable?
This is the eShop equivalent of knock off toys that you find at a flea market. Some poor kid or some befuddled parent is going to see Physical Contact: SPEED and think “that’s a card game that’s enjoyed by kids!” And, at only five dollars, they’ll jump and be so proud they added a new game to their Switch’s library. But there’s nothing redeemable about this. Unlike Othello, which requires a board and several pieces to enjoy, this is literally a card game that would be cheaper, smaller and more fun in actual card form. Since you can’t use the touch screen to play, there’s not even a weird justification about the weight of the cards or whatever weird fillabuster you might expect to defend this game. Physical Contact: SPEED is a wasted idea with poor execution and zero attraction. I’m deleting it after I finish this review. Don’t reward broken effort, especially by a studio who should know better.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to [email protected].
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