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Resident Evil's Nintendo Switch debut brings horror to your bedroom

Resident Evil's Nintendo Switch debut brings horror to your bedroom

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Resident Evil Revelations

I’ve always been a fan of survival horror games, and there’s only really one way to play them: late at night, alone, in a dark living room. But with today’s release of two Resident Evil games for the Nintendo Switch, the equation changes a little.

These two games, Resident Evil Revelations and Revelations 2, have actually been on handheld systems before; the former was developed for the 3DS, and the latter got a heavily compromised port for the PS Vita. The Switch versions, however, are far better than previous iterations — and it just so happens that portable Resident Evil makes for a perfect spooky bedtime story.

Resident Evil Revelations was seen as a return to the series’s horror roots upon its release in 2012. It uses a similar over-the-shoulder camera to Resident Evil 4, and — in a series first — you’re actually able to move while aiming your weapon. The majority of the game, though, sees you play as Jill Valentine on a claustrophobic, creepy cruise ship populated by some monstrous passengers.

The cramped environments were a good fit for the 3DS, and the visual fidelity is much improved on the Switch. Revelations does have chapters that see you take control of other characters in more open environments, however, and these don’t hold up nearly as well. This is partly because they tend to be closer to some of the action-heavy, terribly written lower points in the series’s recent history, but also because the game’s origin as a 3DS title becomes a lot more apparent. The 3DS was a lot better at rendering claustrophobic corridors than wide-open spaces, and Revelations’ limitations are even more obvious at a higher resolution.

Overall, Revelations is a solid Resident Evil game that delivers on its promise of blending slow-paced scares with reasonably modern action. And while it’s been rereleased on everything from the PS4 to the Wii U, the Switch version is the most compelling yet — provided you play in handheld mode, preferably in bed, definitely with headphones. This is not a game that looks good on a TV; the Switch’s screen is a far more appropriate canvas. (The game also performs a lot more smoothly in portable mode, often struggling to maintain 60 frames per second when docked.)

The same can’t entirely be said for Resident Evil Revelations 2. Originally released in 2015 for PC and consoles, Revelations 2 is a much more technically accomplished game, and it’s actually one of the most visually impressive titles I’ve seen on the Switch. When docked, it runs in 1080p at a steady 30 frames per second, while looking essentially identical to the PS4 version. It’s a much better fit for TV screens than its predecessor.

I say “predecessor,” but Revelations 2 doesn’t have much in common with the original Revelations. The sequel has an entirely separate storyline and was initially released in four episodes, with each seeing you swap between four different characters. Revelations 2 keeps the same over-the-shoulder perspective, but it’s a little more consistent in its mix of exploration and shooting. Although it’d probably get repetitive if you tried to burn through the whole thing too quickly, its bite-sized structure and entertaining writing makes it well-suited for a quick play before bed.

And yes, as with the first game, Revelations 2 is scarier and more immersive when you play it in an intimate setting. It’s not quite as clear a difference as with Revelations, since it does look fine on a TV, but its newer technology serves as a strong proof of concept for what Switch horror games can be. Playing a reasonably high-end horror game like Revelations 2, with the screen inches from my face and the sound pumped into my ears, honestly feels like an entirely new experience because of the Switch. However, that experience can be marred somewhat by some seriously long loading times; they make reloading upon death a lot more frustrating than it ought to be.

Resident Evil 7 unexpectedly catapulted the series back into cultural relevancy this year, boldly reinventing its survival horror tropes and throwing away many of its conventions. In this light, the Revelations games feel like a bit of a throwback. But for anyone who never checked them out on other platforms, they’re absolutely worth playing on the Switch. Despite their spinoff status, both Revelations games play like smart remixes of the main series’s most identifiable elements. While their plots are separate, they share the common thread of blending the trigger-happy action of more recent games with a more explicit and tense take on horror.

The Switch is the best way to play both of these games — especially if you take it under the blankets.