If one were to spend time at an amusement center, playing nothing but Skee-ball to earn 10,000 tickets for a prize, it would feel a lot like Skee-Ball on the Nintendo Switch. The games might be quick but the sheer amount of tickets needed is monumentally staggering. It’s a struggle even just to break 100 tickets cumulatively earned. Nothing actually costs that much in the actual game, but the feeling remains.
Skee-Ball on Nintendo Switch is brought to you by Ocean Media, the worldwide rights holder to any Skee-Ball branded video game. In fact, the same Skee-Ball app available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store is pretty much the same as the Switch version. The difference? The $19.99 Switch version doesn’t have in-app purchases, unlike the $2.99 mobile version.
The game, which looks a notch too simple on first glance, actually recaptures the feel of a Skee-Ball cabinet. Ocean Media did not rely on flashy icons and effects, and instead opted to keep things simple and faithful. Paired up with sound effects that only an arcade cabinet can produce, the game is surprisingly convincing even if just for a fleeting moment.
Controls only consist of stick+button combo, along with touch screen compatibility on handheld mode. Tossing the ball with a controller is as simple as holding the ZR button while waiting for the power meter to fill up, and letting go to release the ball. The stick is used to change the ball’s position… and that’s about it. Touch screen control is self explanatory – move the ball with your finger and flick it away to see it go. The speed of your flick determines how far the ball goes. Regardless of your preferred control scheme, it’s easy to get into a rhythm and maximize your points for optimal ticket output. It’s a bit monotonous, really.
For those expecting motion controls to simulate the movement, fear not. Vedran Klanac, Ocean Media’s CEO, confirmed on Twitter that motion controls will be implemented later via an update. He attributed the omission to Nintendo’s specific requirements for developers when utilizing motion controls.
And just like its graphics, the gameplay itself is effective and simple. Other than the fact that it’s Skee-Ball (that’s already pretty self-explanatory), the game’s other modes are simple twists on the classic concept. Games like Speedball, Call Your Shot, Hangman, and Horse provide a much needed variety from the 9-ball default while still keeping its roots grounded.
What the game needs, however, is something to break the monotony. The game’s paltry ticket output ensures that you will have to grind for hours just to purchase and unlock new cabinets and game modes. Leveling up slightly increases your ticket output, but that also requires more tickets. You need tickets to earn more tickets but you can’t earn more tickets unless you get tickets. It’s a vicious cycle.
Every once in a while a random challenge will pop up, giving you the opportunity to earn more than your usual ration. These challenges present random tasks such as scoring 20 points three times in a row or earning an exact total of a specified amount of points. Successful completion nets you different items such as score multipliers and extra tickets.
But when you don’t have a challenge to boost your progress? Hold on to your attention because you’re going to be mindlessly chucking balls in exchange for pittance. It’s a slow grind just to unlock something, and from there on it’s another rinse and repeat to the next unlockable. Playing with others might be fun for a while, but the novelty will wear off sooner than you expect.
Though if you can get through the ticket and progress slog, Skee-Ball for the Switch is actually a clean experience. There are no fancy bells and whistles – it’s straight up Skee-Ball without any impurities. In-game rewards might be pitiful, but ask yourself: when you play Skee-Ball, are you playing it to have a good time or are you playing it to stay there for a long time?
Note: Ocean Media provided a copy for review purposes.