Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Snap Finger Click
Release Date: June 19, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Awkward'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 19, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Awkward is the ultimate test on finding out how well friends, couples, and family know each other as players are asked to answer increasingly uncomfortable questions in secret, while their companions try to guess the outcome.

The selling point of the Nintendo Switch, its ability to be portable one minute and a home console the next, makes it a perfect home for party games. In particular, the rise of the more non-gamer titles like Use Your Words and the Jackbox Party Pack series makes the Switch a logical platform since you can bring it anywhere with minimal setup required. With the popularity of those games, it should come as no surprise that a few other titles are trying to replicate the formula. What does come as a surprise, however, is how bad Awkward is at getting anything right.

In each of the game's three rounds, you'll be given a question and a choice between one of two answers. From there, others have to guess which answer you picked, and it'll be revealed whether or not the choices match. If you're playing with three or more people, you have the choice of pitting one team against another or having the game randomly select partners for each round. When playing with one other person, the goal is to see how many correct answers there are. If you're playing solo, you're simply answering questions to see how you stack up with other Awkward players who have also seen those questions.

At first, the affair can seem rather benign. You'll be asked something fair, like whether pineapples belong on a pizza or something gross, like whether you'd rather get rid of a lump of mold or a dead cockroach on bread before eating it. It doesn't take long, however, before the game gets into more personal stuff, like who among the players would make a better politician or which part of a person someone likes better. From there, things take a dark and serious turn. For example, you might be asked whether it's fine to date a person who's separated but still married or whether it's fine to whip animals if it means tastier meat. Some other topics include the death penalty, homosexuality, vaccination, and choosing to save one person's life over another.

The shocking questions would be fine if the developers were trying to go for a dark humor vibe, similar to Cards Against Humanity or Joking Hazard. In those games, similar topics are also brought up, but the answers and punchlines are so absurd that they elicit a chuckle. In Awkward, however, there's no hint of humor, and everything is asked at face value. Since everyone is told to answer honestly, this quickly creates situations that live up to the game's name. The questions aren't meant to give players pause and make them discuss the topics in a more serious manner, since subsequent questions show up pretty quickly. They're simply there for shock value. There's also no ebb and flow to the nature of the questions. A game may start with a question about abortion, and in the same round, pivot to a question about which character on "Friends" you most relate to. Much like the questions, it all feels chaotic for the sake of it.

If you can somehow deal with the frank line of questioning and argument-inciting topics, further frustration will come from the scoring system. You're presented with percentages for each team and player indicating how well that person knows others, but that's not the focus. Instead, the screen is filled with various renaissance paintings and arms that are meant to mimic Michelangelo's famous painting, The Creation of Adam. There's no explanation given for each painting, so unless you're an art major or are knowledgeable about renaissance art, the ranking will mean nothing. Further, there's no real winner declared at the end or any sort of fanfare for reaching the end of the game. You're simply shown the same thing as the other rounds and then taken to a menu asking if you want to go to the main menu or replay the last game.

Again, one can make the argument that Awkward's lack of real scoring and tangible winner is simply mimicking the loose structure of games like Cards Against Humanity. However, that circles back to the argument that games like this should provide a sense of fun when played in large groups. With questions that fail to elicit a grin even when talking about something normal, a lack of a clear scoring system only infuriates party members.

About the only good thing the game does is keep the rounds mercifully short. Even when stacked with six players, the game only asks about 3-4 questions per round before moving on. Despite an infinite amount of time to answer questions, the two choices mean there's little time needed to think about your answer. For those who prefer their games to not take up too much of their time, this is perfect.

As for presentation, this is about as bare-bones as you can get. The game is simply presented as a series of cards set against a wooden table, and the only graphical flourish is a paper cutout man who appears periodically with barely any animation at all. The audio only consists of something akin to elevator music, with the only voice samples being a slightly bored woman saying a word or short phrase when answers match. The same paper cutout man says "Awkward," when answers don't match. It's fine but also disappointing that none of the questions are read out loud — something the competition does in abundance.

Awkward is just bad. Its premise is paper-thin, and its questions range from boring to shocking without a counter-balance to turn testy questions into a form of dark humor. The presentation is nonsensical, and the game doesn't seem to have any purpose. Its only saving grace is that the games are short, but it only takes one time before your party chooses to play something more whimsical instead. Unless you want to bring down the mood of the party or instigate arguments, there's no reason to have this game anywhere near your system.

Score: 2.0/10

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