- “Among Us,” a mafia-style roleplaying game from InnerSloth, has managed to become one of the most popular games of 2020.
- “Among Us” premiered on the Nintendo Switch, marking the game’s debut on consoles.
- Pairing “Among Us” with the fastest-selling console this generation seems like a match made in heaven — unfortunately, that’s not the case.
- The Nintendo Switch port of “Among Us” is a clearly inferior version of the game, worse than PC and app versions.
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It’s amazing to think that in only a few months, “Among Us” has gone from an obscure party game about beans in space to one of the biggest hits in years. Blame it on the pandemic, the election, or whatever you like, but it turns out that people really love stabbing their friends in the back, and then shoving their other friends out of airlocks.
“Among Us” debuted as a free app on iPhone and Android devices in early 2018, and a paid Windows PC version followed not long after. This has made the game accessible not only to gamers, but also to Twitch streamers, who have turned the game into a viral juggernaut.
But even with that audience, the game’s PC and smartphone exclusivity has still locked out a sizable number of potential players. It was only a matter of time before the title made its way over to the other side of the gaming pond — consoles.
Although PlayStation and Xbox players are still waiting for “Among Us” to land on their devices, Nintendo Switch players got the chance to start playing earlier this month.
At first glance, “Among Us” and the Switch seem like an obvious pair. Not only does the Switch give you a variety of control options, as well as the chance to play it on a big-screen TV, but the Switch has a massive playerbase — nearly 70 million units sold and counting. It’s one of the best-selling consoles of all time and the fastest-selling console of the generation. By nearly every metric, the Switch seems prime for another megahit.
Sadly, though, this isn’t the case. Although “Among Us” is currently the top-selling digital download title on the Switch, this is due entirely to the game’s past popularity. The truth is that the Nintendo Switch version of “Among Us” isn’t that good — at all.
Players will notice the flaws right away when trying to join a game
When you boot up “Among Us” on the Switch for the first time, you’ll be greeted by the same minimalist title screen and server list that’s in the PC and smartphone versions. But even here, the game shows its flaws.
In the time I spent playing, the server list repeatedly showed me games on every map except the one I selected. It’s also harder to get into a game before it fills up because selecting a server with the joystick takes more time than just clicking or tapping it. The game also has a strange quirk where you can’t scroll through servers with the joystick — if you go too far down the list, you just start highlighting things you can’t see on screen.
Of course, the server screen is just a small part of “Among Us.” What about the tasks, the many minigames that fill most of your time in-game?
The Switch’s controls make some tasks in the game more enjoyable, while others fail miserably
The tasks are a mixed bag. Some, like using the telescope or clearing leaves, work amazingly. The rumble features built into the Nintendo Switch’s controllers give many tasks a satisfying tactile response. Even after nearly a dozen times doing it, I still get a kick out of the heavy vibration that comes with shooting garbage out of the airlock.
Playing in docked mode also gives you access to motion controls, which come in handy when destroying asteroids or sorting fossils. Tasks that only take one click can be completed faster than ever by just pressing the A button. And some tasks, like entering codes or connecting wires, can be done quickly with the Switch’s touchscreen.
But the touchscreen can only be used by taking the Switch out of its dock and playing in handheld mode. This means that if you want to enjoy the game on a bigger screen, you’ll have to endure the many tasks that gamepad controls don’t work well for.
Connecting wires means selecting each wire individually with the left stick, and then slowly dragging them with the right stick, which is tedious. Selecting numbers or buttons to enter codes takes ages. And if you thought swiping security cards was annoying with a mouse, just wait until you’ve tried doing it by spinning a joystick at exactly the right speed.
The gamepad controls do help in other ways, though. Being able to bring up your map at any time just by holding the L button is so much better than having to press Tab or tap an icon. And walking with a joystick is just naturally easy.
Chatting is frustrating, which ruins the best feature of the game
The most celebrated feature in “Among Us” has always been its fast-paced and tension-filled “Emergency Meetings.” If you’ve been accused of murder, giving yourself an alibi as quickly as possible is key.
Unfortunately, chatting on the Nintendo Switch doesn’t work at all. When you tap the text box to start typing, a keyboard appears and covers the entire screen — you can’t see what others are saying until you’re done typing. This drags every conversation to a standstill, as players ask the same questions over and over again, not knowing that they’re all repeating each other.
This might be fine if the Switch made typing easy. But unless you’ve hooked a USB keyboard up to your console, you’ll be typing using the Switch’s on-screen keyboard, one of the clunkiest interfaces around.
Depending on how you play, you can type in three ways: using the joystick to select letters, which is slow; using motion controls, which is imprecise and sloppy; or using the touchscreen, which is just awkward.
Yes, playing on a smartphone means that you’ll have to type using a touchscreen too. But unlike my iPhone, I’m not at all used to touch-typing on the Switch’s screen, which is just a bit too big for my thumbs to reach across comfortably.
And since “Among Us” is a crossplay game — meaning that you can play with friends who have the PC or smartphone version of the game — this puts you at an immediate disadvantage. Not being able to type, accuse, or defend yourself as fast as others will mean that you’re always going to be drowned out in a conversation.
You also can’t turn off the chat censor as you can in other versions. And for some reason, the censor will also sometimes block out the names of actual places in the game — like below, where it took issue with me typing the word “Admin.”
If you want to play the Switch version and type fast and freely, you’ll have to buy a USB keyboard or use a Discord chat. And at that point, why not just play the PC version?
The bottom line: Stick to the smartphone app or PC version
“Among Us” can be an amazingly fun game, and if you’re playing with friends, the Switch version still holds some of that magic. I can imagine that if you spend a decent chunk of time playing it, you’ll eventually get used to the Switch port’s quirks.
But it’s less portable than the smartphone app and less intuitive than the PC version. Ultimately, though the game’s most devoted fans might love having a new way to play, there’s no denying that the Switch port of “Among Us” is worse than any other version.