I do love coming back to good games. A Monster’s Expedition is a wonderful game, and it’s wonderful to revisit on the Switch. You have an idea in your head about games like this, which you might not play for many months at a time, and the second go round is always about filling in the gaps.
What I remember about A Monster’s Expedition, for instance, is how nice it feels to push down trees: a funny, brisk little shove, a plonk, a thud. But I forgot how good it feels to roll them into place, the little thrum of the harp – or maybe it’s piano keys, I’m forgetting already – when you step onto the new island. And the way the surrounding mist teases distant things, windmills, lighthouses, a giant diamond ring? And then rolls back, brain-fog cleared.
What I also remember is the comedy, which is consistently funny in a gentle kind of way, describing strange human objects from a monsters-eye view. And the way the game is purposefully slow, letting you dangle your legs in the water of any island’s edge, grab a coffee from the odd machine, and reset your island – which is essential in any good Sokoban game (Sokoban is the old Japanese crate-pushing game that the classic Pokémon boulder puzzles were based on, and also what A Monster’s Expedition, and others from developer Draknek, is based on too). But you forget the quickness of it.
A Monster’s Expedition is actually a speedy, responsive thing when it wants to be. You mash that button and watch trees fling and tumble, and you dart across them to the next puzzle in line, and that quickness is like a pressure valve, a sudden release, a click of the fingers because – ah! – you’ve got it. This game is so easy to play, and that’s so hard to do. And takes such an incredibly smart team to make.
And again, what I do remember from the first go is thinking how perfect all this would be on the Switch, and for once I am remembering correctly. The thing about handheld consoles, which my classic Switch mostly is these days, is that they go especially well with anything laid back. I mostly play my Switch lying down, across a sofa or on a bed, and lying down isn’t conducive to tense games or technical stuff. It’s conducive to pootling, noodling, drifting about. (This is why, I like to tell myself, the handheld-only Switch Lites all come in the softest of colours, the sunrise pastels, while the ones you play on a big fixed screen are all danger red, combat blue and highlighter-warning yellow.)
You do these things with a coffee on the table, a magazine you always enjoy looking at and have been meaning to read, but probably won’t just yet, maybe a blanket and a monstera plant just in shot, if you’re going for the full cottagecore, hygge-tumblr catalogue shoot. Trimming weeds in Animal Crossing, talking to himbos in Fire Emblem, nudging little spearmen around the islets of Bad North are all examples of the appropriate, Sunday morning activities you can undertake on the Switch, to which the perfect, supremely satisfying tree-plonking in A Monster’s Expedition can now be justly added.