Wingspan (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Board game, Card Game
Developer: Monster Couch
Publisher: Monster Couch
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Wingspan (Switch) – Review

Site Score
7.7
Good: Solid gameplay with strategic depth
Bad: Counterintuitive controls
User Score
9.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

After bringing us a successful PC version of Stonemaier Games’ Wingspan, developer Monster Couch has brought their version of the board game to the Switch. We’ve taken a look at the PC version of Wingspan before, but the prospect of taking the game everywhere with us is very appealing. Does the handheld version of the digital bird sanctuary game hold its own or are you better off caring for our feathered friends on the tabletop? 

Story

As Wingspan is an adaptation of a board game, there is no story arc present here. The game sticks to the basic premise of players being tasked with building a bird sanctuary, just like in the original version. 

Graphics

Wingspan’s beautiful watercolor art is more than likely something that draws people into the game, and we were happy to see faithful recreations of the illustrations that made the original game stand out. These are all slightly animated as well, adding another layer of immersion. Juxtaposed against this is a cluttered interface, which detracts somewhat from the elegant visuals. Additionally, the tutorial features a character that doesn’t share the same art style as the rest of the game, something we encountered in North Star Games’ Evolution as well. We hope this doesn’t become a trend for digital board games, as it hurts the overall presentation. Your mileage may vary on this of course, and although player avatars are presented in a slightly different art style as well, the difference between these and the overall look of the game is less striking. 

Sound

A game of Wingspan is accompanied by soothing, relaxing music interspersed with bird calls. This low-key soundscape perfectly fits the atmosphere of the game. Although the music isn’t the most exciting or engaging, we wouldn’t have things any other way. There is a surprising amount of voice work as well, with a voiced tutorial and informative snippets about the various birds. 

Gameplay

Although Wingspan is a relatively recent release, it has quickly cemented itself as an essential addition to the collection of any self-respecting board game aficionado, earning an impressive 8.1 out of 10 on BoardGameGeek. The digital version of the bird-watching game attempts to emulate its cardboard sibling and does so to a reasonable degree. The objective of the game is to compete against other players and create the best bird sanctuary. Whoever scores the most points wins. Points are earned in a variety of ways, such as by hatching eggs, playing cards and completing specific side goals.

Like any good board game, Wingspan offers a rule set that is elegant and provides strategic depth, but is also accessible to newcomers. Admittedly, your first few games might feel a bit overwhelming as there is a lot to take in but once things click, you’re looking at a fantastic adaptation of the avian tabletop title. Admittedly, the game’s tutorial could have been handed a little better. It’s relatively short and doesn’t take you through the entirety of a game, instead relying on you figuring out things for yourself. There are a lot of elements to juggle, such as having multiple decks and a non-static turn structure, and not everything is very straightforward from the get-go, so we can’t fault newcomers for feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Of course, once you’ve gotten to grips with the core mechanics, either through taking your time with the tutorial or simply by familiarity with the actual board game, the fun really begins. Wingspan is a game that gets progressively better as you figure out synergies between the various cards and develop new strategies that allow you to optimize your bird sanctuary. Optimization is key here as there is very little interaction between players, apart from resource sharing. Player interaction is often a key element in board games, either through coöperation or through your actions directly affecting other players, but this is almost completely absent in a game of Wingspan. The absence of the social aspect of a board game is often very noticeable in a digital adaptation, but due to the solitary nature of the game, this is less the case here. 

There’s a decent amount and variety of modes present here. Apart from engaging the AI for a normal game, you can also play a special variant called Automa, which is a solitaire-like take on the game. If you decide to take Wingspan online, you can do so in real-time, which is what we imagine most people will do, but there is also an asynchronous mode. This allows you to take on players worldwide regardless of time zones, playing a bit like a chess game from a distance. In this mode, each player has 24 hours to take on their turn, before the game moves on to the next turn. In this mode, you can play up to 10 games of Wingspan simultaneously, offering an interesting take for diehard fans. Aside from these modes, you’re naturally still able to take on your friends through local multiplayer as well. An average game of Wingspan will take roughly half an hour to complete, so the game is perfect for short but sweet gaming sessions. 

It’s obvious that Monster Couch put in a lot of effort to bring a comprehensive edition of Wingspan to the Switch. That’s not to say that the Switch version is better than the real deal, as there are a few design flaws here that really hurt the overall gameplay experience. The interface feels very cluttered, with a constant overload of information -something that is especially apparent in handheld mode, given the smaller screen size. Also, the amount of button confirmations required to perform actions feels a bit counterintuitive as well, as you’re often required to press different buttons in order to perform a single action. This sometimes results in accidental mistakes during play, something that won’t happen if you’re playing with physical cards. In this regard, the PC version is probably superior, but the prospect of being able to play the game on the go might sway you towards the Switch version instead. 

Conclusion

Although the Switch version of Wingspan has a couple of flaws and doesn’t quite live up to the real deal, you’re still looking at a good adaptation of a fantastic board game. As soon as you make the click with the core mechanics, you’ll be drawn into the game. The strategic depth means no two games will be the same, and the asynchronous online mode means you’ll be able to get a game in no matter how busy your schedule is. Add the gorgeous visuals and relaxing music and you’ve got a game that surpasses its flaws to deliver an experience well worth getting into.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Wingspan (Switch) - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats


No Comments

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.