It can be blamed on my weakness to biscuits, but every time that I look at an Othello piece I can’t stop thinking about munching on an Oreo. Their likeness to the sandwich cookie aside – creme filling sitting between two chocolate wafers – Arc System Works have brought the two-player board game to Nintendo Switch, broadening the selection that became available on the Nintendo eShop at launch.
The strategy board game has a muddled history where, once invented with the name Reversi in 1883, the modern version that most will recognise today was patented by Japanese salesman Goro Hasegawa as Othello nearly a hundred years later in 1971.
It has similarly become a game that has long been associated with Nintendo, as the company had developed an arcade version before porting it to their Computer TV-Game way back in 1980. Now, some 37 years later, it earns another place in the history books, as it helps to usher in home console gaming on the go.
With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild offering a grandiose open-air adventure and 1-2-Switch a differentiated party experience with an emphasis on locking your attention on whoever’s playing rather than the TV screen, Othello presents a refreshing change of pace – even if the game feels more than a little barebones.
For those less familiar with the challenge that Othello poses, the game is played by two players that take turns to place their tiles on the board – one player using white tiles, and the other black tiles. Where a keen strategic eye will come into play is that when you sandwich your opponent’s tiles between your own, their tiles are flipped to become your colour. And then, once the board is full, the player with the most number of tiles in their colour wins.
It is harder than it sounds, especially when players must consider horizontal, vertical and diagonal directions when placing their tiles to convert their opponent’s in the most devious way possible. Given that the game starts with four tiles – two white, two black – placed at the board’s centre, as the game unravels it can soon become particularly chaotic with each turn being more important than the last.
The clean if minimalistic game screen provides the chance to undo your last move or toggle whether hints are shown that indicate how many tiles you will convert depending on where yours is placed, while the accompanying music is typical board game fare – meandering if not particularly bothersome.
The only Singe Player mode available will let you play against a CPU opponent, with 16 difficulty levels to choose between – a somewhat extravagant step, given how tricky it can soon become on the easier levels. There is also only one Multiplayer mode, allowing you to face a human opponent.
Where classic tile-matching puzzler Tetris has been remixed in numerous ways over the years, Othello on Nintendo Switch simply lets you play the board game without the developer ever engaging their imagination to introduce new modes. Carrying a £4.49 (€4.99) price point, that becomes ever more a cause for concern when you realise that there are multiple alternatives on the App Store or Google Play, that are similarly portable on your phone and all available without spending a penny.
That soon made me lose faith in this lacklustre experience. There is some appeal to be found in the way that two players can take each other on by detaching the Joy-Con, but, given the simplicity in how the game is played out, it is far easier to use the touch screen for inputting each calculated move.
It is the limited scope that detracts most in Othello, with no concerted effort being made to sway you away from freemium alternatives.