In the world of tabletop gaming, Pandemic is a modern classic. Throwing two-to-four players into a world where four deadly viruses are on the verge of destroying humanity, you must work as a team to contain the spread while developing cures before it’s too late. Yes, the game is incredibly stressful, but there’s a magic that comes with working as a team and leveraging each character’s unique abilities in order to overcome this challenge.
Just like the viruses you’re trying to eradicate, the hit board game has spread to the Nintendo Switch? Is this version a plague on the console? Or a cure for your digital tabletop fever?
In case you haven’t played the board game before, let’s do a high-level breakdown of how the game works. Taking place on a map of the world, viruses of four different colours are distributed across a random set of major cities. Starting off at the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, your group of medics, dispatchers, scientists, researchers, and other specialists must coordinate their efforts in finding a cure for all four diseases. You’ll move around the map, treating diseases, building research centers, and collecting research cards that will be submitted to research centers that will form the cures. Be careful though, because if you run out of time or if too many epidemics break out, humanity is lost. No pressure.
The beauty of Pandemic is that it’s a cooperative board game. A concept that was once a rarity, this game is widely credited for popularizing the concept. The difference between saving the world and failing to do so will come down to your team’s ability to coordinate its actions and leverage the special abilities that each role possesses. For example, the Medic can remove up to three disease cubes from the board with only one action. Everyone else needs to burn one action per cube. Another great role is the Scientist, who only needs four research cards of the same colour in order to cure its corresponding disease while everyone else needs five. With the game being as tough as it is, it’s going to require everyone’s brain power and communication if the planet is to survive.
All of the thrills that come with the board game are still here on the Nintendo Switch. If anything, it might be amplified a bit by the nice graphics, tense music, and the convenience of not having to go through the physical version’s lengthy setup and tear down. While it’s largely a port of the version you can play on a mobile device right now, it does make the effort to scale for a larger screen and different control scheme.
Speaking of which, controlling your characters is not quite as intuitive as I would like. Controlling the camera with the right stick moves a bit too slow for my liking. No sensitivity options make it impossible for it to move any faster. I wish we had the ability to navigate the map with the snappiness and accuracy of the d-pad. Instead, you can only move across the map with the analog stick, which makes it a bit too easy to overshoot or aim at the wrong cities. Also, toggling between action types with the controller is not as intuitive as the touch screen controls on the mobile version. On the Switch, you can only use the touch screen for camera control.
The game’s most glaring omission is online play. Being able to save the world with friends all over the globe would have been fitting. Instead, this is only a local affair. I have ideas for making this work as a streaming game with friends, but it shouldn’t require me to Frankenstein my own solution to playing online with friends.
Pandemic on the Switch is an okay port of a phenomenal board game. The quality of the source material shines through this version’s quirks, including a distinct lack of online does take it down a notch. That said, unless you need to play a digital version of this game on a TV, you might be better off with the cheaper and easier-to-control mobile versions.
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