Perhaps it's the timing of WayForward's release of Vitamin Connection, but the game feels cathartic in a way that few other games could possibly imagine. As a global pandemic threatens millions, a game where players go into the bodies of various people and things for the sole purpose of wiping out bacteria feels incredibly timely. That said, had Vitamin Connection been released at any other time, it would still be every bit as charming and fun. The Nintendo Switch exclusive is absolutely unlike anything else on the market at the moment, and its charm is the kind of thing more games need.
Vitamin Connection puts players in control of Vita-Boy and Mina-Girl, a pair of vitamins on a mission to protect the various members of the Sable household from invading bacteria forces. In true video game fashion, the game's scope expands as the game goes on, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. The microscopic heroes travel throughout the bodies of the Sable family by way of their Capsule ship, which is shaped like a hybrid between a Joy-Con controller and a pill.
As players travel throughout the bodies of these characters, they'll have to use the Capsule Ship's abilities to travel to problem areas of the body. Once they arrive in each problem location, players must take part in a number of different Sub-Games. Sub-Games are wildly different from the rest of the gameplay, with activities that include dancing, ping-pong, mazes, and more. Once each Sub-Game has been completed, they can be selected from the main menu, where players can try to beat their high scores, giving the game a bit of extra replay value. The Sub-Games are one of Vitamin Connection's weirder inclusions, however, which is saying a lot. Some of them fit nicely within the game, while others (particularly the dance segments) feel a bit out of place. However, even when they don't fit, they're still fun.
The idea of traveling through a body might sound nausea-inducing for some players, but the game is heavily stylized and the locations are a lot of fun. WayForward clearly enjoyed finding weird and unique ways of making these areas memorable, and that's never more apparent than when encountering a new character tied to each location. Supporting characters like Pro-Biotic, Elec-Tron, and DJ Dog-Bone and Yung Wan are one of the biggest joys in the game, and add a lot of humor to the title.
The game's audio is one of its strongest assets. The music is catchy and charming, and players will no doubt have the game's songs stuck in their heads days and weeks after playing. The levels feature a mash-up of various genres, from J-Pop inspired fare to hip-hop to gorgeous piano instrumentals. The music is all over the place, but it all works really well. The voice work isn't quite as strong, but that aspect of the game doesn't have anything that truly stands out in a negative way, either.
Vitamin Connection's controls are mostly strong. The Capsule Ship auto-propels through each area, but additional movement is handled with the left control stick, while the right stick fires the Vitamin Beam. ZL and ZR allow players to tilt the ship in various directions, which is critical for navigating through difficult spaces. Players can also use the Joy-Con motion controls to tilt the ship as well, but players that aren't fans of that particular control method might want to stick with button controls. If there's one area where the controls don't work quite as well, it's the Capsule Ship's claw. Pressing in the right stick activates the claw, which can then grab and move certain enemies and items. Unfortunately, sometimes it can pop out unintentionally, and that can be problematic when it happens in a tightly-confined space. All in all, the claw is one of the few frustrating parts of the game.
Nintendo hardware has always resulted in unique and quirky titles. Unfortunately, while systems like DS and Wii offered a number of third party offerings built from the ground up for the hardware, development costs have made third-party exclusives few and far between these days. Vitamin Connection bucks that trend, with a game that only seems possible on Nintendo Switch. From the Joy-Con-shaped capsule ship to the way the game utilizes the system's hardware in a number of meaningful ways, Vitamin Connection feels like a later DS game, in the best possible way.
Vitamin Connection is the kind of unique game that only comes around so often. With its quirky visuals, amazing soundtrack and fun gameplay, Vitamin Connection is charming in a way that few other games can truly manage. Some of the Sub-Games don't fit the concept as well as the others, and the claw can be a bit frustrating at times, but the game's overall package is truly something special. Nintendo Switch owners in need of something bright, cheery, and cathartic would do well to check this one out.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Vitamin Connection is now available on Nintendo Switch. A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.