‘A Switch Surprise’ is a series of articles discussing games that I think should come to the Nintendo Switch. In this piece, I’ll be talking about Saber Interactive’s Spintires: MudRunner.
The Nintendo Switch currently has a few racing games in its library, but none of them are hyper-realistic. This title isn’t really a racing game, however, it is quite realistic and is a big hit with fans of driving simulators. Spintires: MudRunner is quite an interesting title, since everything about it involves a whole of patience and self-control because it moves so slow. But, somehow, it makes trudging along in a huge off-road behemoth at 5MPH through dirt and mud seem very fun. I can say that for a fact—I gave it a 9/10 in my review of the PC version. Something tells me I would enjoy it even more if it came to the Nintendo Switch.
Spintires: MudRunner has a relatively simple concept, but it’s the execution that really makes this game so enjoyable. Your overall objective is to take the wheel of several different off-road vehicles in the untamed wildlands of Russia, delivering cargo like logs to specific points in various open-world maps. On paper that may sound boring, but as I said in the previous paragraph, the experience is quite interesting despite progressing at a typically slow rate. For those of us who are into simulators, there’s just something that’s so satisfying with being able to get behind the virtual wheel of these big machines and trudging through the harsh Russian terrain. It’s definitely not something most folks get a chance to do for themselves in real life, so why not take advantage of it when it’s in game form?
The developers have done a great job at modeling each of the maps. There are dense forests, marshy swamplands, unstable rocky mountain cliff sides, soft ground that you can accidentally dig yourself into—so many natural obstacles, just like in real-life. It’s amazing how a game that lacks any form of explosion or real ‘action’ and moves at a snail’s pace can still be so exhilarating. I think what also happens to make this game so interesting is that its open-world dynamic gives each player the ability to forge their own path. There are multiple ways to reach the objective point in each of the maps, so your own journey will be different from mine or another person’s (unless you decide to follow a walkthrough or something). This can be said for just about any other open-world title as well, so it’s nothing new, but it’s still interesting particularly because of the genre that Spintires is a part of.
Spintires is a game that requires time and patience. That’s why having it portably would be great.
There have been quite a few driving/racing simulators, but Spintires is one of the few that is purely dedicated to off-roading. Due to it being tied exclusively to this type of driving, the developers were able to make the physics system very complex and realistic. If you try to take an overweight truck across uneven terrain and it tips too far over to one side, it will fall over and you will lose your load. Not only that, but you will have to find a way to get that truck back up on its tires yourself, which will involve getting into another truck (that must be powerful enough) and driving over to the wreck to attempt to hoist it back up. For those of you who don’t like games that ‘hand-hold’ the players, you can pretty much say that Spintires was made for you.
Everything about this game involves learning from trial and error. Completing one of the tasks might actually take 10 minutes if you know what you’re doing. But, all it takes is one little mistake which can cause you to spend 50 minutes trying to fix. So, that ‘short’ play session has now suddenly turned into an hour (that’s been filled with frustration and anxiety). This brings me to the main point of this article: why I would love to this game on the Switch.
Due to how slow and monotonous Spintires is, I think it would be right at home on the Switch. This really isn’t a title where you can hop in for 10-20 minutes and try to get something done. You more-or-less have to slot some time out to play this. With that being the case, a Switch version would definitely benefit from that hybrid functionality. Even if you can’t complete a task right away, you could at least make some progress when you get the chance; let’s say during your commute or waiting in a long line. There’s definitely still the very real possibility that you’ll make a mistake that will add several minutes (or hours) to your playtime, but at least you can manage it piece-by-piece if the game can be taken along with you any and everywhere.
I hope you can see why it would be fun to play Spintires on the Switch. But, there’s still the question of how likely is it that it would even come to the system? Actually, the question has been addressed by the developers already. The answer is featured on an FAQ thread that’s on the publisher’s website. It’s simple, and to the point—there are currently no plans to bring the game to the Switch. Now, that’s not a flat-out “no”; there is a bit of hope. That answer was given all the way back in late August and the game was released in October. There hasn’t been any further word on the matter, but I do think the possibility is there. Nintendo has been very supportive of different studios of all sizes. On top of that, the Switch has already received games from both Spintires’ developer and publisher (Saber Interactive and Focus Home Entertainment, respectively). The icing on the cake is that the game is already on PS4 and Xbox One, so it’s not as if bringing it to a console would be something a new. All of this does make the situation a little bit more favorable.
What’s probably the biggest hurdle with bringing this game over to the Switch is making sure the experience can remain the same as the other versions. This title isn’t super-demanding form a visual perspective (although the presentation is really beautiful), but I’m sure running the physics system does take a lot of computing power on its own. The Nvidia Tegra inside the Switch has put on quite the show so far, but it still has its limitations with being a mobile chipset. Still, I’m sure with some tinkering Spintires could be brought over with its gameplay intact, even if the visuals have to take a hit. The question is, would the developers/publishers be willing to invest in all the extra work that would be required to fine-tune it for the Switch hardware? Considering the massive popularity that the system currently has, I think it’s safe to say their efforts would not go unnoticed. Still, only time will tell how this situation ultimately turns out.