In many ways, Snipperclips is the perfect proof-of-concept for Nintendo’s Switch. It isn’t much of a technical showcase, but it’s a wonderful advert for the console’s flexibility as a multiplayer and social device. It’s easy to set-up (just split the Joy-Cons and go) and perfect for an impromptu gaming session: you don’t need a lot of space, it’s simple to explain, and the inviting aesthetic works well on both TV and portable screen.
Snipperclips’ real strength, though, is its elegantly expanded core idea and its canny understanding of the joys of structured social play. There’s an immediate appeal to its slightly daffy, ad hoc brand of collaborative puzzle solving, and its central paper cutting mechanic can be explained and understood in 30 seconds, ensuring there’s a wonderfully low barrier to entry. And that’s important, because you’ll want to experience Snipperclips with others if possible.
Snipperclips features 66 physics-based puzzles, 45 of which can be played alone or co-operatively with two-players, and 21 co-op puzzles designed for two to four players; there are even three competitive mini-games to round things out. Each single-screen puzzle has a unique objective – fill a tank with water, get a frog to a pond – but rarely an obvious one. That elusiveness works a treat, immediately opening each stage up to vigorous scrutiny and, in multiplayer, frequently lively discussion.
Always central to each solution, however, is Snipperclips’ compelling paper-cutting core: to clear each stage, you’ll need to hack away at the game’s two on-screen characters to create specific shapes that can be used to manipulate the environment (a hook to hold a platform in place, perhaps, or a spike to pop a balloon), with success demanding imagination and a willingness to experiment.
Creating specific, and progressively more complex, shapes is simply a matter of positioning yourself over your partner and hitting a button to snip away any overlapping areas. You can fashion more precise shapes by adjusting your height and body rotation. Paper cutting is a delightfully satisfying anchor for the game; the expressive animations (and faintly erotic moans and giggles) make it consistently amusing, and the convincing paper physics gives the whole thing a pleasing tangibility.
It’s a wonderfully adaptable central idea too, lending itself to all sorts of creative applications. Snipperclips’ sense of progression is expertly judged throughout, and its increasing cerebral and organisational demands never overwhelm. Early on, solutions merely require a few basic snips – fashioning a groove in your partner’s head to carry a ball, for instance – but as things escalate you’ll need to start thinking in multiple layers of subtraction, cutting out shapes to carve other shapes, and so on.
What’s admirable about Snipperclips’ design is that, even as the difficulty ramps, it never obfuscates the simplicity of its core. Rather than muddying the paper-cutting action with needless contrivances, it escalates the challenge simply by placing greater demands on your creativity. It remains accessible for its entire duration, and that’s crucial to ensuring that it holds its multiplayer appeal.
As a solo experience, Snipperclips never quite comes into its own. It’s engaging enough as you puzzle out solutions and experiment with different forms, but it’s just a little too mechanical to feel properly joyful. It doesn’t help either than the basic solo setup (which forces you to control two characters at once) can quickly lead to frustration. It’s far too easy to confuse characters and make a mistake – which, with no level-wide undo function, can be deeply irritating during the more time-consuming stages.
Gather a few friends together though and the niggles around solo play are largely alleviated. With more people involved, Snipperclips’ focus moves away from inward contemplation and quiet precision toward rowdy collaboration. It’s not quite a party game in the traditional sense, but it’s certainly more knockabout than you’d normally expect a puzzle game to be.
As a multiplayer experience, Snipperclips is less about finding solutions and more about constraining the communal chaos long enough to execute your plans. Success demands strong communication, with laughs ensuing when it inevitably breaks down. It’s not easy to operate effectively together, especially when the screen is a jumble of toppling bodies and confetti, but there’s a real sense of accomplishment when your scattershot experimentation and flabbily synchronised coordination eventually bears fruit.
The only real shame is that there’s not more of it. You can easily blow through Snipperclips in a couple of hours, and even less time if you’re playing solo. And that’s a problem because the game really struggles to incentivise return visits, largely due to its unexpectedly restrictive puzzle design. While Snipperclips’ freeform central premise suggests a more open-ended puzzler, it isn’t as flexible as you might think.
Snipperclips shines brightest in its opening levels when your objectives are at their simplest; here you’ve a reasonable degree of freedom in the way you complete tasks, and the game’s potential as a sandbox puzzler is best met. As things progress though, solutions become more rigid, allowing for only very minor deviations along the way. As such, it’s pretty much a one-and-done experience, and even the rowdy multiplayer loses its thrill when all you can do is repeat the same process over and over.
That leaves Snipperclips’ competitive Blitz mode to bolster the game’s longevity. Here, the basic paper-cutting core is given a more aggressive twist, and each mini-game – hockey, basketball, and sumo wrestling – gains a more frantic edge as you attempt to undermine your opponent’s efforts by hacking them to pieces. It’s all fine and fun, with each game’s inevitable descent into frenzied snipping good for a few giggles – but these aren’t the kind of activities that you’re likely to return to again and again.
While it lasts, Snipperclips is unquestionably worthwhile, both as an imaginatively designed puzzle game, and as strong showcase for Switch as hub for ad hoc social gaming. Snipperclips is smart and witty, and its focus on on-the-fly creativity makes for an inclusive, unexpectedly engaging multiplayer game. It’s a little insubstantial, and rather too limp as a solo endeavour, but there’s real heart to its raucous, collaborative core. If Switch’s underlying ethos inspires more games like this, then there’ll be no complaints here.