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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Arms is a cartoon-style boxing game where fighters punch each other with long extending arms made of springy coils. There's no bloodshed or serious injury; defeated characters are simply knocked out. Play is focused squarely on fighting, though part of the fun is derived from playing with others in the same room and the social interplay that results. The single-player portions of the game shouldn't prove too hard for kids within the target audience, but finding success against humans locally or online depends largely on skill and practice.
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What's it about?
ARMS borrows elements from both boxing games and traditional fighters, but the end result is something all its own. Choosing from a roster of ten fighters, players step into themed three-dimensional arenas, controlling their fighter from a third-person perspective just over their shoulders. Its primary shtick is that each fighter's arms -- or, in the case of Twintelle, her pigtails -- are actually coils that can extend several yards, allowing players to punch opponents more than halfway across the ring. Players can also swap out their character's arms between rounds, with choices ranging from traditional boxing gloves to boomerangs to elemental energy blasts. The action is spread around a handful of modes, including a short one-hour story mode that helps acquaint players with basic fighting mechanics, local party play, and online bouts. Some fights can involve more than two fighters, and some bonus modes alter objectives, including one in which players can slam dunk their opponents through a basketball hoop, and another in which players need to punch to bump, set, and smash a volleyball. Regardless of mode, players can choose whether to play using motion controls -- where they make punching movements to fight -- or standard button-based gamepad controls.
Is it any good?
There's a lot of potential in this fighter, but players will need to rely on Nintendo to roll out plenty of free post-launch content to make it worthwhile. Arms' combat mechanics are solid. It doesn't take long to learn how to punch enemies, throw them, or take advantage of unique elements within each arena, such as parked cars or glass containers. But there's also a good deal of strategy and skill involved when selecting the sorts of arms you might want to use against specific opponents and working out when to dash, block, and attack. A skilled player will always have an advantage over someone relying on mindless aggression, which ought to help the game appeal to seasoned fighter fans.
That said, some players may not take to the motion controls, which can be finicky if your movements aren't precise and measured. Using standard gamepad controls (by sliding the Joy-Cons into the Switch's charging grip) is a good alternative, but in doing so players eliminate some of the charm of the experience, which is founded on players physically throwing punches in the real world. What's more, the content available at launch seems paltry compared to other modern fighting games. Just ten characters, a handful of arenas, a single-player mode that most players will finish in under an hour, and a system for unlocking new arms that dishes out rewards too slowly. Free DLC -- including new characters -- promises to expand the game in a manner similar to how Nintendo's Splatoon grew during the year after it launched, but at the moment Arms is a fun game that seems a little light around the midsection.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Do you find you get more keyed up playing Arms using the game's boxing-style motion controls -- which require realistic punching movements -- versus its standard gamepad style controls?
Talk about what it's like to play games in groups rather than alone. Is it important to "win" games when playing with friends or family when playing, or is it more about the social experience, joking around, and creating good memories?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.