Release Date: April 21, 2009
"Mini-games" has almost become a dirty word thanks to a gradual overpopulation of the genre. This is mainly due to the DS and Wii, which seem to lend themselves to the style of play more than any other consoles. As you'd expect from this saturation, the combination of the words "wacky" and "mini-games" in a press release almost immediately sets off alarm bells that tell me to put the game back on the shelf and walk away without looking back.
And yet there was a time when I loved mini-games. Each one seemed new and fresh, and they were a great way to pass some time on the train, with friends, or in bed when struggling to fall sleep. My enjoyment of them peaked with the launch of the DS; the tactile control system and a simple series of short games were a brilliant combination that was ideal for the medium. Warioware and the mini-games in Super Mario 64 really showed what the DS could do, and it's encouraging to note that in popping 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix into my DS for the first time, this was the memory evoked.
Of course, it doesn't just dump 101 games into your lap right off the bat. Starting with a simple 10, you have to earn credits for the remaining 91 games by winning the initial smaller sample. Each one seems to last no longer than a minute and, from the brief time I've spent with the title so far, the selection seems suitably varied. It's nice to think that in the space of a few trains stops, you could have dunked some basketballs, played a few rounds of air hockey, cleared a couple of Sudoku boards and forced a frog to eat its body weight in flies. They're all simple enough to be picked up by anyone, and most will be self-explanatory enough to just jump into, but a short explanation is available for the more complicated ones. There's probably nothing in this title that couldn't be found on many Flash game Web sites, but how many people load up their laptops for some gaming on the bus?
In terms of difficulty, the mini-games are a bit of a mixed bag, and at some points, this is due to the DS control system, which isn't responsive enough to deal with quick taps. You'll master plenty of the games the first time around, while others will still elude you after a good 15 minutes (this may sound a short amount of time, but bear in mind that each mini-game is only supposed to last 60 seconds!). It's also a pretty bad early sign that there's no download play available with the built-in multiplayer. Expecting you to purchase two copies of the game for the multiplayer segment is a move that backfires badly, as that would be a genuinely great feature for the game to laud over genre competitor Warioware Touched.
101-in-1 Explosive Megamix is graphically quite impressive for what it does. Each mini-game has a different artistic style that varies from being overtly cartoony to surprisingly detailed, which adds to the sense of diversity that it offers. Sadly, the sound does not follow suit, and the music can be charitably described as "repetitive," but inevitably involves a quick turn of the volume switch for extended playthroughs. Thankfully, none of the mini-games that I've encountered thus far seem to rely on sound, so nothing is lost. On the subject of lucky escapes, I also haven't found any mini-games that involve blowing into the DS microphone, which will be a relief for anyone who uses public transportation and has received odd looks while playing The Rub Rabbits.
Early impressions of 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix suggest that this collection could go a long way toward repairing the damage to the mini-game name. A lot of the offerings play like Internet Flash games, but what's to stop the DS from providing such bite-sized portions of entertainment? Although it isn't going to set the gaming world ablaze, time will tell whether 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix lives up to its mission in the long run, or if the specter of repetition will dull the title's initial sheen.
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