Vitamin Connection (Switch)

Meet the Sable family.  Mom, Dad, an elementary school kid, a baby, and a dog.  When they get sick, it’s up to Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl to pilot a vitamin capsule inside their bodies to stop a bacterial infection…and maybe even save the world in the process.  Vitamin Connection is a Switch exclusive for one or two players.  You’ll use your Switch JoyCon controllers in unique ways as you steer the vitamin capsule through microscopic mazes while avoiding obstacles and defeating bacteria with your Vita-Blaster!  It kind of reminds me of a cross between Life Force and Irritating Stick, with some WarioWare style mini-games for good measure.

Each level represents a member of the Sable family.  One of them will get sick and you’ll need to pilot the vitamin capsule inside their bodies through mazes.  Rotate the vitamin capsule to avoid hitting walls or obstacles.  You can also fire a vitamin beam at enemies, but be careful as a meter will go down and you’ll have to wait for it to recharge to use the beam again.  At certain vital organ points in the mazes, you’ll have to play a mini-game to proceed.

These mini-games can be as simple as a Pong match or dance rhythm game.  Other times you’ll have to steer through mazes with different shaped objects.  Some games use the JoyCon in creative ways.  One game has you grabbing objects and avoiding obstacles, and if you are playing in two player mode, one person steers the ship and the other extends the grabber by moving their real hand toward and away from the JoyCon infrared camera!  You’ll win the stage by completing all the mini-games and exiting the level, but if you run out of energy in the maze or in a mini-game, you’ll have to start back over at the last save point, which is usually at the last branching path.

One of the best things about the game is the production values and personality.  The music is almost Katamari Damacy quality, and makes me wish I would’ve sprung for the special edition with the soundtrack.  Also, as you travel through the body mazes, you’ll meet other microscopic characters, and the voice acting is top notch.  Really gives the game a Saturday morning cartoon feel.  My favorite part is in the level inside the dog, you’ll meet up with some calcium represented by two dog rappers.  And as you play that stage, they’ll rap about being a Good Boy and other doggy tropes.

Unfortunately, the game isn’t perfect.  The main problem I had with the game is the controls.  Mainly with the claw.  After the first level, you’ll get a claw grabbing tool that you can use to move objects out of the way.  I never could get the hang of using this in single or two player mode.  It’s a shame, too, because you need to master it to defeat the last boss.  I did manage to beat it, but I really had to muddle through it.  I wish they would’ve omitted the claw mechanic altogether.  Also I feel the difficulty is imbalanced.  I had a hard time with some of the mini-games early on, but then breezed through most of the rest of the game after that.  And I wish you could switch control modes during levels.  When I was in handheld mode, it wouldn’t let me switch to TV mode to keep playing, and I also wish you could have a second player join in and drop out at any time, like a LEGO game.  You have to play it in two players as a separate file.  If there is a way to switch controls and modes mid-game like that, I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

I was worried the game would be too short, but after beating it, you open up a hard mode where you play as a different character, and the story is different, too!  Also, when you get all five hidden stars in a level, you’ll open up an extra bonus level.  And you can unlock and play the mini-games separately, too (love the title screen art on these).  So there is a bit of replay value to be had here.  Overall, Vitamin Connection reminds me of games from the late 90’s.  You know, stuff like PaRappa the Rapper or Mega Man Legends.  Like those games, Vitamin Connection isn’t perfect and has some flaws, but it has a lot of personality and heart like those games did.  And that’s something sorely missing from a lot of other games today.

Kid Factor:

Vitamin Connection is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Crude Humor and Mild Fantasy Violence.  Since you play inside people’s bodies, there is some bodily function humor here and there.  And you can zap cartoony germs with a beam, and defeated characters explode into dust.  But that’s about as violent as it gets.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may find it too difficult.  The two player option makes it great to play co-op with family and friends.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that there is a warning at the beginning of the game that tells you that this is a work of fiction and you shouldn’t freely give pills to people and animals if you don’t know what they are.  And that’s a good point, as the game does show a kid giving a pill to a dog, which is something a real kid shouldn’t do without parental supervision.  But the game also has the pill fixing a broken TV set, so it’s all silly and cartoony.  But as you play this game with your kids, it’s still a good talking point about medicine safety, especially with everything going on in the world right now.

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