Nintendo's worldwide unveiling of the Switch in January was a strange thing to watch. Having followed the progression of the console since it was known simply as the mysterious 'NX', I had lots of ideas in my head about what exciting features the Nintendo Switch may have, and the games yet to be announced for it.
What I wasn't prepared for was the announcement of HD Rumble. Perhaps it was because I was tired from watching the show live at two o'clock in the morning, but the sight of a Japanese businessman waving a Joycon around insisting he could feel the number of ice cubes inside it didn't fill me with much confidence.
I was worried that #Nintendo had done another WiiU: filled the console with expensive gimmicks that wouldn't be of any use to the average gamer. Upon purchasing my own Nintendo #Switch system in March, I was happy to discover I was wrong. HD Rumble quickly became one of my favourite features of the Switch, and I'm excited to see how it is used in future titles.
Here is a list of some of the games I have played which I felt best utilized the technology. If you wish to test out the HD Rumble feature for yourself, or wish to demonstrate it to friends, these are the games I would recommend you try!
I'd bet that if I were to poll Switch owners on what they considered the best HD Rumble experience on the system, 1-2-Switch would take the top spot. Specifically, the 'Ball Count' game is probably the closest we have to the original 'ice cube' demonstration.
Being able to "feel" balls rolling around in the Joycon controller might not be worth the price of 1-2-Switch alone (I still believe it should have been a pack-in game), but I've successfully used it to convert people who doubted the potential of the technology.
There are a handful of other titles with decent HD Rumble offerings, such as 'Milk' and the subtle 'ticks' of the safe in 'Safe Crack', but 'Ball Count' is definitely the HD Rumble king.
2) Mario Kart 8: Deluxe
Mario Kart 8: Deluxe is Nintendo's first blockbuster title to use HD Rumble, and it definitely enhances the gameplay experience.
Rather than being an in-your-face example, #MarioKart uses HD Rumble more subtly, adding some "bursts" of rumble when you drift, boost, or pick up a coin (if you listen closely, the controller vibrations produce a sound similar to a coin dropping!), as well as providing extra "texture" to the controllers when riding through grass or dirt.
While playing Mario Kart 8: Deluxe, I found I barely noticed the HD Rumble after a while. This isn't a criticism of the feature in this game; instead of using rumble in an overpowering and potentially distracting way, Nintendo opted to use more subtle effects that seamlessly blended into the gameplay experience.
I think it works perfectly.
Tumbleseed is a particularly interesting example of HD Rumble on the Switch for two reasons.
Firstly, it's a game that uses HD Rumble to directly improve and enable gameplay, rather than simply being an enhancement to the experience. Tumbleseed is a game where you raise or lower each side of a horizontal bar across the screen to roll a seed around obstacles.
As you might imagine, this is a game where small movements and precision are key. The HD Rumble of the Nintendo Switch means that every individual turn of the seed is communicated to the player, and you really get the sensation that this game wouldn't be possible (or at least, anywhere near as impactful) without the HD Rumble technology.
Secondly, it provides a precedent about the ease of development on the Switch, and the ability for any developer, including indies, to make full use of every feature on the console. We are not in a WiiU situation any longer; HD Rumble is inspiring the imagination of game developers, and the technology is not beyond the reach of those outside of Nintendo's own studios.
Tumbleseed gives us a glimpse into a whole new world of gaming feedback. Instead of recreating a world through visuals and sound, a developer can help the player learn about how experiences feel.
Overcooked released a few days ago on the Nintendo Switch, and it is filled with small yet innovative uses of HD Rumble.
The opening scene depicts a post-apocalyptic landscape where a giant meatball monster approaches, broadcasting intense rumbling to the Joycon. Chopping food is met with short, sharp bursts of rumble. Washing plates provides a "wave-like" motion. Carrying containers filled with liquid makes you feel it sloshing around in the controller...
None of these are distracting, but they are always noticeable and have yet to lose their charm. In a game where speed is everything, and things can go wrong at any time, the addition of HD Rumble effects adds to the feeling of chaos and activity on the screen.
Overcooked is overall a fantastic way to show people unfamiliar with the Switch both the appeal of the out-the-box multiplayer functionality, and the HD Rumble technology.
This list contains only games I have personally played, and I am aware there are other excellent uses of the HD Rumble technology.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Blaster Master Zero, and FAST RMX are all games I have repeatedly heard positive comments about regarding their use of HD Rumble, and I am looking forward to trying them out in the near future to experience them for myself!
The Switch is still a young console, and there is a lot of time for further innovative uses of HD Rumble to emerge. I believe based on what we've seen so far, these are likely to emerge primarily from Nintendo's own efforts, as well as from indie developers.
What do you think of HD Rumble so far? Let me know in the comments!