The Switch software library is weird. It has epic technologically-astounding games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It has wonderful, quirky indie games like Snipperclips and Untitled Goose Game. Then there are amazing older games like Katamari Damacy and Resident Evil 4. Sitting alongside all these gems and curios are mobile/tablet games that have been tweaked or updated to work with a controller.
The eShop brings all these examples together, like an estranged family at Christmas time. It makes placing certain titles in context difficult. Let me explain.
Anthill is a port of a lovely iOS game from 2011. It was made by Image & Form, the creators of the SteamWorld series, so you know right off the bat that it’s going to be excellent.
The basic tower defence-style gameplay involves making pheromone trails for ants to follow. You lead your worker ants to food, and your fighting ants to attack other bugs (thus producing food). There are other units to unlock along the way, such as flying ants who can go on bombing runs and spitting ants that fire projectiles. The more food you collect, the more ants you can create. This all ties into the goal of stopping enemies that approach from the side of the screen, bent on destroying your anthill.
It’s all perfectly formed and presented nicely. There are upgrades to apply to your units, which you can earn by scoring highly in each level, and there’s a nice variety of enemy types. You also get the occasional boss battle, adding substance. We found ourselves being surprisingly challenged by a lot of the levels; it has a deceptive streak, which is always welcome.
Thing is, Anthill supports portable play only. Try and dock the game and it’ll flash up a message asking to undock it. It’s all fingers here, folks – use the touchscreen to lay down lines of pheromones, hold down a line to erase it; pinch to zoom out and scroll about the play area.
That’s fine. I can’t see myself playing it on the big screen, but it does make buying the game on Switch a difficult decision.
For a start, the touchscreen on the Switch probably isn’t as good as the touchscreen on your phone or tablet. We downloaded the iPad version of Anthill to test it and we much preferred it in this format. The playing style suits a larger screen, and the responsiveness of the touchscreen made a big difference.
The Switch is also a little awkward to use as a touchscreen device. We ended up uncoupling the JoyCons when we played, but then we were just left with a heavier, thicker, tablet. If it wasn’t for the Switch Lite, it would be hard to recommend. That said, if it wasn’t for the Switch Lite, this conversion probably wouldn’t exist at all.
This makes Anthill a difficult game to score. It’s well made, full of character, and has plenty to offer. It reminded us of the days of Peggle and Flight Control when smartphone games cared about more than just getting you to pay incremental amounts of money for gems. Switch Lite should make a beeline. Everybody else should consider the iPad version instead.