It’s taken WayForward Technologies venturing out of its licensed game comfort zone to remind us of what’s possible with the Switch’s HD rumble and motion tracking capabilities. Vitamin Connection is a cutesy co-op side-scroller that largely succeeds as a sugar rush full of precision shooting and minigames that’ll have you and a friend riotously liaising out loud.
Casting two players as Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl, it’s your job to captain the microscopic capsule ship and eradicate all the bacteria plaguing the bodies of a typical suburban family. The premise might be basic, but I was constantly surprised at Vitamin Connection’s dedication to story here – especially since it likely could have worked well enough as a linear set of stages. The person playing Vita-Boy takes control of the left-side Joy-Con, handling the physical movement of the ship on screen, while Mina-Girl uses the right Joy-Con horizontally to aim shots and rotate the capsule to dodge enemies and obstacles. This you do across six glitzy worlds that test your ability to communicate and coordinate.
The maze-like levels themselves offer up a good amount of variety, whether it’s via spider-like blobs that keep dropping from above or platforms that shift simultaneously with the ship’s movements. Getting from the beginning to all of the three vital organs you need to heal always keeps you on your toes, and your ship acquires new skills – such as the ability to grab and manoeuvre blocks – as challenges grow tougher. Healing is done by completing a handful of minigames that help break up the constant shooting and will test you and your partner’s timing. Most, like the one where you must navigate a path without touching the buzz wire, are fun to perform. Others, though, like the simple grabber game, feel like an afterthought. It’s a shame that not all are of equal quality.
Despite Vitamin Connection clearly being built around co-op (the capsule ship itself is the shape of a Joy-Con, for heaven’s sake), there is a solo mode included that tries to pose players with its own degree of difficulty. Here, rotating is done using the ZL and ZR triggers while you still watch for traps and deviously placed enemies, but much of the previous challenge is suddenly removed. Navigating around evil bacteria becomes a cakewalk, and minigames that once relied on interaction quickly ring hollow.
Even still, when playing through Vitamin Connection as it was originally intended, it offers up a huge helping of charming two-player fun. Learning to handle the capsule ship is challenging but fair, most of the minigames see you contort the Joy-Con in interesting ways, and the strong emphasis on story is an appreciated extra touch. If laughter truly is the best medicine, why not do so with a friend?
Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl’s bacteria-busting efforts are all in service of the Sable family, with each chapter seeing you venture inside the anatomy of an individual member in need. This story is told through quirky, animatic cutscenes that are fully voiced to help give the adventure an unexpected extra layer of polish.
Vitamin Connection gives a strong shot in the arm to the niche genre of motion-controlled Switch games. Just be sure to pick up and play as a pair.
Genre: Side-scrolling shooter | Format: Switch (tested) | Developer: WayForward Technologies | Publisher: Limited Run Games | Price: £15.14 | Release: Out now