Developer: Real Arcade
Release Date: November 10, 2008
The DS version of Tropix is more or less an exact port of the PC/mobile title, consisting of a compilation of various mini-games with a few twists thrown into the presentation and menu, obviously this time out with the added incentive of touch-screen controls on the system. While it's not quite a Wario Ware experience and the mini-game selection is pretty limited, it's also decent enough to try out and can certainly offer up a pretty good distraction from the other titles available on the DS.
When Tropix begins, you're given a small island to care for and various games to play that you can earn money from. The idea is that you'll take this money and improve on your island in three different categories, basically leveling up your island and allowing you to move on to the next. There are a few different items that can be purchased with the cash you earn, and while the selection is definitely limited, it's certainly a unique approach to keeping players entertained for longer than usual. As you fill up the various stats for your levels, you'll also begin to unlock other mini-games, providing even more incentive to keep going. It helps that the game is also very portable friendly, allowing you to stop and save your progress whenever you feel the need, so you never feel like you need to rush through a game or two just to squeeze in some progress. It's very easy to work around the system instead of trying to rush to the end of a certain section.
As far as the actual game selection goes, you can pick from a small group of titles, including Beach Bash, Cascade, Coco Bowl, Jungle Jump, Parasail, Puffer Popper, Solitaire, Water Words, Sandoku, Shell Game and Trijong. It's certainly not a huge selection, but aside from the somewhat bland bowling title, they're all fun enough to check out. Most of these are similar in fashion to existing casual titles, and while something like Cascade isn't nearly as fleshed out as Bejeweled, it offers up enough of a similarity to entertain players familiar with the core game. Obviously with the inclusion of a Sudoku-style game, there's going to be a little something for everyone here, and even something like Jungle Jump will appeal to players who enjoy a little more action from their mini-game selections. These aren't titles that you'll be sitting down to play for hours on end, but the difficulty scales up the more you play, and the titles can certainly offer up some form of challenge for most players.
As you advance in levels or stages with the various mini-games, you'll start to earn the sand dollars necessary to improve your island pad. That's about all the gameplay offered up here, and while it would have been nice to see a little more support in the form of some multiplayer options or unlockable games, it's hard to complain about what you get for $20. It turns into a bit of a grind toward the end, and you'll end up having to replay quite a few games over and over again to earn the cash necessary to outfit and complete your various islands before moving on. Obviously the idea of mini-games is that you'll actually want to replay them again and again, but being forced to do so is a bit of a chore at times.
Graphically, Tropix isn't impressive at all, which is something you'll most likely notice from the outset. Whether it's from porting PC visuals to the small screen or simply working within a certain budget, the game is rather unsightly when it offers up anything in the 3-D realm. It is a bright, colorful title, and I'm sure it'll at least attract the eye of younger gamers. It's also easy enough to make out what's going on when you're playing the various games, so at least everything works.
The controls are pretty much spot-on, and using the touch-screen is definitely intuitive. The menu navigation feels a bit off, and it's sometimes difficult to figure out how to switch from one game to another, back to your island, and then to shop for items. It doesn't occur so frequently that it becomes frustrating, but it does get a bit tedious. Every game offers up some type of touch-screen-specific control method, and every one of them is responsive enough and works well.
The sound, on the other hand, is largely forgettable and not all that impressive coming out of the tiny DS speakers. There's a certain wash in both the FX and music that makes them both sound a bit tinny, and you'll probably want to turn off the music at some point.
Basically, Tropix for the DS is a passable, but small, collection of mini-games that'll appeal to a pretty large group of players, but it's hardly something that you can get excited about playing, especially since we've already seen all of these mini-games in some form or another, and most likely under different names. Still, the added incentive of building up island after island for your small creature inhabitants adds a bit more incentive to keep playing, and for $20 price tag, it's hard to feel ripped off by the limited content. Ultimately, I'd want to get a bit more out of my mini-game titles, but I'd say that you could at least give Tropix a rental instead of picking it up, just to see how it plays out for you.
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