It is sometimes difficult to remember the time when games like Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros. were impressive and unique. Once the height of video game quality, these classic titles have become so simple that anyone can copy them. Just recently, Google managed to convert its logo into a fully playable version of Pac-Man in honor of the game's 30th anniversary. Despite this, the classics still remain the classics. There have been countless attempts to make to copy Space Invaders or Tetris, but people tend to go back to the originals. Game Hits! 4 Games in One is a great example of why that is. A collection of four familiar-but-different classic games, it shows exactly why it isn't enough to simply copy favorite games.
The first game is Maze Munchers. See if this one sounds familiar. You play as a robot trapped in a maze with four other, more evil robots. This maze is filled with small dots that your robot collects while trying to avoid the other robots, who wander randomly through the maze. Occasionally, you can grab energy points, which cause the robots to change color and allow your robot to temporarily defeat them for extra points. I'm sure you've gathered that this game is Pac-Man. As far as Pac-Manclones go, it's acceptable. The game's challenge feels slightly toned down, but if you're looking for a quick Pac-Man fix, it does the job reasonably well. However, it lacks the high-quality level design of the original. The mazes in Maze Munchers are more straightforward and bland, the energy pills last too long, and the "ghosts" are slower and less intimidating. In most ways, it is a step back from Pac-Man.
The second game is Highway Hopper. You take control of a tiny robot, but this time, he's trying to get from one side of a robot river and robot highway to a bunch of robot platforms on the other side of the robot — err, I mean screen. As you've figured out, Frogger is the name of the game here. The gameplay is almost identical, right down to the occasional bonus power-ups that appear on one of the robot platforms. Power-ups occasionally show up somewhere on the screen. Some slow down the traffic, some make you invincible to one hit from a robot car, and some speed up your little robot. The gameplay is simple, and it's an acceptable Frogger clone. Perhaps my only complaint is that the controls are finicky. Your movement speed is smoother and less controlled than the old 8-bit frog, so it's easier to step off platforms or in front of cars when you didn't need to.
Game Hits' next offering is Space Shoot. In this case, Game Hits is taking its inspiration from one of the first game classics, Space Invaders. You control a tiny spaceship that moves along the bottom of the screen while a swarm of slowly descending aliens emerges from the top. Your goal is to shoot all of them before they reach the bottom, while avoiding the occasional alien rush or laser blast. Space Shoot is another straightforward clone. All the basics of Space Invaders are there, up to and including the tiny defensive platforms at the bottom of the screen that are slowly whittled away by alien fire. Every so often, a giant UFO flies across the top of the screen, and if you shoot it, it drops a power-up, which ranges from extra lives to brand-new weapons. One weapon, for example, is a shuriken that pierces enemy formations, allowing you to damage multiple foes at once. Another is a powerful laser that kills anything it touches in one hit. These only last for a few moments, but probably not before you manage to wipe out half of the alien invaders.
The last game is Falling Bricks, which is just Tetris. Unlike the other games, it doesn't even have a "robot" façade to pretend otherwise. You drop shaped sets of blocks from the top of the screen to the bottom, filling an entire screen with blocks in order to make them vanish and earn you points. If you can fill more than one row with a single shape, you get more points. There's really not more to it than that, and you've probably played Tetris at least once in your life. It is the best of the four games on the collection, but that is more a testament to Tetris' timeless gameplay than quality design in Game Hits!. The visuals are plain and easy to see, but the music is really bland. Since you can pick up versions of the game like Tetris DS with significantly better soundtracks and more variety, it's hard to justify buying Game Hits! just for Tetris, even if you're looking for a DS version of the classic puzzler.
The games feel significantly toned down in challenge from their classic counterparts. Even if you increase the level to 10, it still feels like everything is slower and easier than most previous versions of the game. While this isn't particularly a bad thing if you're just looking for a way to waste some time, it limits the game's long-term appeal. If you really love getting high scores and challenging yourself, Game Hits! probably isn't the game for you. It's a very solid title for bus rides or short trips because each game is easy to pick up and play, and even easier to turn off at a moment's notice.
Each of the games has four play modes: Battle, Challenge, Cooperative and Standard. Challenge and Standard are single-player modes, with Challenge being a slightly more difficult version and Standard being the regular, basic game mode. For example, the Challenge mode in Falling Bricks tasks you with clearing out a bunch of pre-placed blocks marked with stars. In Space Shoot, the enemies have slightly different and more intense patterns. In Highway Hopper, the vehicles and ships move faster and alter direction. These challenges are not enough to add a lot of difficulty, but they're a nice change of pace. Battle and Cooperative are multiplayer modes. The Battle mode challenges players to get high scores and defeat the other player. In Maze Munchers, you're not just competing to get the highest score. Grabbing an energy point also turns your opponent into a viable target, adding a dangerous element to the game. Cooperative mode puts two players in the same arena and challenges them to defeat the opponents. It's a fun idea but too straightforward, and it remains clear that most of these games were not designed for cooperative play.
When it comes to graphics, the first thing that needs to be discussed is the user interface. The menu screens aren't very attractive and not easy to navigate. Nothing is labeled, and a lot of useful information is only available in the manual. It doesn't detract from the gameplay, but it leaves a very bad first impression. The games look OK, but the graphics and art design are bland and the robot mascot character looks like a budget clone of Bomberman. The best-looking game of the lot is Falling Bricks, and that is because it is identical to Tetris. The soundtrack is boring, and considering the repetitive gameplay, it's annoying to hear the same tedious songs over and over again.
Game Hits! offers lesser versions of four classic games in one convenient package. The games hold up reasonably well, but there's little done to improve upon the originals. Game Hits! isn't a really impressive collection, as you can get collections like Namco Classic Collection or Tetris DS, which contain better versions of the same games and provide a lot of bang for your buck. When you can get the real Pac-Man or Frogger for the same price, their lesser cousins just don't have the same appeal.
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