Nintendo’s puzzle games have often slipped quietly in under the radar, small gems that can seem like experimental side projects from developers loosing their creative minds, rarely promoted with much fanfare despite quality wholeheartedly deserving of some center stage time. The relatively sparse lineup for the launch of the Nintendo Switch, however, has thrust one of these quirky downloadables at least partially into the spotlight, and though Snipperclips: Cut it Out, Together! doesn’t quite measure up to the standard of excellence set by many of its predecessors in both deviousness and content, the paper-cutting, physics-based gameplay still manages to present some unique and refreshing challenges that show off the potential for multiplayer on the versatile console, even if you and your friends end up just wanting to tear each other to shreds.
The basic idea of Snipperclips is a weird one, but those familiar with the carton-creating hero of BOXBOY! or Pushmo‘s booby-trapped block park won’t blink an eye. Players take control of Snip and Clip, two creepy/cute parabolas that have the ability to slice each other up when they overlap, and with this great power comes the great responsibility of using teamwork to solve the various tasks the science lab-like world throws at them. From popping balloons to trapping helpless fireflies in lightbulbs, escorting bird’s eggs to their nest or poaching fish from an aquarium, many of the assigned activities are simple in concept, usually requiring Snip or Clip to take a chunk out of their friend in order to form some sort of shape that will aid in the cause. The fun resides in the trial and error that happens along the way to figuring out just what will work. The rounded side of the oddy-built characters can cut a scoop out of the others’ head, while the more angular end is perfect for carving notches and creating sharp corners that may serve a multitude of purposes. An extremely brief tutorial sets up the simple controls, and within a few minutes players will be free to use them for good or evil however they wish.
Where Snipperclips excels is in expanding this freedom to the puzzles themselves, as how to solve stages is really only limited by the imagination of those perplexed by them. In fact, the game does so little hand-holding that part of each conundrum is not only sussing out how to complete the objective, but sometimes also determining what exactly the objective is in the first place. The petal-less head of a flower is sticking out of the ground, with a picture saying to water it, but there’s no water. So…what needs to be done? Discovering the purpose of a joystick hanging from the ceiling in a retro stage, or fending off UFOs until recognizing why they’re buzzing around in the first place will elicit some big smiles. Though none of the goals are overly stupefying, that a bit of poking and prodding is occasionally needed keeps the game intriguing from start to finish, especially when partnering up with a friend (or up to three others in the game’s special Party mode). The sometimes hilarious chatter that emerges from brainstorming both objectives and solutions provides a whole other level of entertainment (just remember: if you look around the room and can’t identify the dumbest person in the room, it’s probably you).
This cooperative multiplayer aspect is really what elevates Snipperclips from being just a fairly decent puzzle game to an often highly entertaining one. A joy-con turned sideways is all that’s needed for others to join in the fun, so right out of the box the Switch is ready for that friend to lend a helping hand. Though each of the main levels can be solved solo by switching back and forth between the two smiling weirdos, the pacing slows down and the experience can sometimes become tedious; experimenting just isn’t as fun when wrong buttons can be pushed that result in recut-forcing mistakes, especially when trying to find solutions that are overly reliant on the sometimes-wonky physics (trying to divert pink goo geysers so that some amoeba globs can sleep is a low point). With two people, however, there is a real fluidity to the experience, and what once was frustrating can seem like a goofy breeze.
Unfortunately, this breezy nature is also one of Snipperclips‘ flaws. For those who have played anything mildly challenging in the genre, the problems posed don’t really present much of a challenge until much later, and even then veterans won’t find their brains overly taxed. This is puzzle-light, clearly meant for a more casual crowd that won’t blow through the entire game in the couple of hours it will take most others. By the time the credits roll, pros will feel like things were just starting to warm up, as if those 45 main stages were just the beginning, a tutorial of sorts for all the different ideas at play, and Nintendo’s puzzle masters would could finally open up and unleash more devious designs. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the amount of content games like Pushmo and BOXBOY! exhibit (usually over 100+ levels) at a much lower cost to the consumer, but Snipperclips feels trimmed, regardless.
No effort was made to enhance the fluffy atmosphere with any sort of story, and though the visuals do charm with their clean, gradeschool-drawing simplicity, there also isn’t much memorable to them, no overall design that screams personality. Qbby might be just a box with eyes, but the starkness of his world had an allure this coloring book can’t quite match. As for longevity, some party games that utilize up to four players at once extend the humorous head scratching for a while, and some shallow competitive modes revolving around basketball (almost unplayable if you don’t lay down some cutting rules), fighting (if matches last more than 5 seconds of furious snipping, congratulations on your discipline), and air hockey (quite a bit of fun, actually, but still very basic) are present, but give off a vibe of being random last-second additions with no real thought behind them. Like with most entries in the genre, there just isn’t a lot of replay value to Snipperclips, making it all the more disappointing when there’s nothing left to do.
Still, despite the brevity, Snipperclips is fun while it lasts. The gameplay feels unique, but with that familiar Nintendo polish, and the freedom it gives players to figure things out on their own adds greatly to the appeal. Too bad the good times end up cut short.