Othello (Switch) review

Arc System Works

“You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys!”

That’s my favourite line of Shakespeare, that is. It’s from Act 4, Scene 1 of Othello, one of yer man’s great tragedies.

There are no goats in Othello for the Switch. And unless there’s an unlockable somewhere that I’m missing, there are no monkeys either. Just a load of black and white circles.

That’s because it’s based on the Othello board game, the (let’s face it, slightly dull) two-player strategy affair in which participants place small discs to try to cover the board in their colour.

Othello and Nintendo actually have a long history, believe it or not. If you thought The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Blaster Master Zero were the only Switch launch games harking back to Nintendo’s early days, you’d be as wrong as Iago was to instruct Roderigo to attack Cassio. Shit, sorry, that’s Shakespeare again.

A 1978 flyer for Computer Othello

In fact, way back in 1978, three years before Donkey Kong, Nintendo released Computer Othello, an arcade offering notable for being one of the very first video games the company ever developed.

Two years later, it released Computer TV Game, which was a home version of Computer Othello. So before the Famicom/NES even existed, Nintendo had a version of Othello you could play on your TV.

And you thought this review was just going to be me taking the piss out of a rubbish Switch game, but now here you are swimming in Shakespeare quotes and Nintendo history lessons. It’s impressive, I know. Give me money.

Othello on Switch has two options: 1P vs CPU and 1P vs 2P. The CPU has 16 difficulty levels, ranging from ‘Rubbish but somehow still better than Chris Scullion at Othello’ to ‘So obscenely good at this game it probably has an Othello bedspread, except the discs on it are black and yellow because it keeps pissing the bed at night due to its exciting Othello-related dreams’.

I’ll admit it, one of the reasons I’m not keen on Othello is that I’m bad at it. Not just bad, I’m fucking lousy at it.

Here’s how bad I am. I set up a two-player game where I controlled both players. I tried my very best to get player 1 to win. And yet every fucking time:

I used to think the game was random, but it can’t be random. If it was, I’d win at least half the games I played against myself. But it seems that by trying to win I actively fail.

So please do bear that in mind: this review is somewhat biased because, regardless of how well it’s portrayed on the Switch, I just don’t like Othello anyway.

The game, that is. The play’s brilliant. It’s about marriage, betrayal, racism and romance, and loads of pricks die in it.

It’s about black versus white, friend turning on friend, a battle of wits until one person is left. Ah, hang on. Now I get why the board game’s called that.

What I don’t get, though, is why you’d want to pay £4.49 for such a basic version of it, with no extra content to speak of beyond one-off games.

Just some nifty wee animations would have been nice. Maybe a little ‘history of Othello’ thing. Anything to justify dropping nearly a fiver on it instead of downloading one of the numerous free mobile versions out there (including the official one).

“The robb’d that smiles steals something from the thief,” proclaims the Duke Of Venice in Act 1, Scene 3. “He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.”

What he means is that  if someone steals something from you but you can manage to smile about it, it’s all good. If you spend more time moping about it, you’re only doing yourself more harm.

Othello on Switch stole precious time from me, time I could have spent playing Zelda or Shock Troopers or Shovel Knight instead, time I could have alternatively spent staring blankly at a wall.

But I can still smile about it, because I get to tell you it’s a bucket of dicks, and you get to spend your money on something better which isn’t a bucket of dicks instead. Something that actually DOES have goats and monkeys in it.

Othello (the game) is available now on the Switch eShop, priced £4.49 / $4.99.

Othello (the play) is available now on Amazon, priced £1.99.

In order that I could write this review, I received a free copy of the game from a PR. The content of my review and the opinions therein were in no way positively influenced by this.

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