Platform: Nintendo DS/DSi
Publisher: Atlus USA
Players: 1 – 2 (Wi-Fi)
Rating: E (Everyone)
With 101 in 1 Explosive Megamix for the Nintendo DS, Atlus reaches a new low. A new low price point, that is. Retailing for a mere twenty dollars, this is a great deal for value conscious gamers on the go as well as any fan of mini-games galore. This budget priced collection (of yes, 101 different mini-games) is addictive and amusing, absolutely offering up some of the best fun you'll have on the handheld without a licensed character in sight. Designed for pick up and play action (and often quite challenging), it's a near perfect diversion for those otherwise dull commutes, waiting rooms or anywhere else you can tote that DS or DSi.
The no-frills presentation gets you right into things with ten initially unlocked mini-games. Some are simple variations on familiar “classic” arcade hits with platforming, puzzle, shooting or driving elements. Other games look super easy but can be ridiculously baffling until you get the proper stylus motions and/or timing down. While you can skip the games that give you grief, the only way to unlock new games is to match or top each high score. Of course, you can simply replay the games you like over and over until you slowly can rack up points and coins, but where's the fun in that?
I'll admit that more than a couple of the games initially threw me for a loop. For example, it took me a while to figure out the right way to flip those blasted basketballs into the hoop the very first game. However, by the time I went back to try my luck, I'd already completed around 50 or so other events. Another game, Diamond Box, has you rotating a box in order to retrieve a gem yet manages to remain quite tricky even when you figure out what to do. The juggling or flipping games that require extreme precision will be the most pesky for less skilled players, but the more you play, the better you get (even when you still don't notch that high score).
Reaching or topping a high score for the first time nets you a ton of bonus coins, so unlocking everything shouldn't take more than a few days or so for the average gamer. I liked the throwbacks to childhood gaming memories such as the sliding tile puzzle Fifteen, Dragon Jigsaw, Space Memory (a Simon homage) and Sudo Master, a randomly generated Sudoku board where the faster you finish, the higher your score. A few games require you to turn your DS or DSi on its side such as Crazy Burger (a fast food version of Tapper), Hurdles (a Track & Field inspired runner) or Skateboarder (sort of a one life Skate or Die).
Some of the hilarious settings many of the mini-games take place in definitely add to the fun factor. Romeo's Plan has you attempting to catapult a lovestruck avatar into the arms of his plus-sized Juliet, Log Runners pits you against a hefty grizzly in a log rolling challenge, and Noisy Neighbor riffs off games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band in a much simpler timed tapper. There are a series of brief space shooter or space-based challenge levels that might make a decent stylus-based full game at some point. The games I enjoyed the most, Shuffler, Flying Fruits and Winter Fishing are all excellent for racking up a tremendous amount of points in a short time. Progress is automatically saved after each mini-game so you don't need to back all the way out to the title screen or remember to record your progress.
The credits list Nordcurrent as the developer and a lone programmer named Sergej Kravcenko, so I'm guessing he also did much of the game's whimsical art. While the visuals may remind some of you of those annoying “Punch the Monkey, Win a Prize!” Flash-based games, the colorful, comical cartoon style fits flawlessly. Even when you're playing a game you're having trouble with, you'll more than likely wearing a wide grin. There's a looping main theme that's a bit grating if you stare at the menu screens too long, but some of the mini-game tunes are catchy while they last.
There's also Wi-Fi play for two, but with only a single review copy of the game, I ended up sharing it “hot-seat” style with a few friends who all had a blast taking turns trying to beat my new high scores on a few events. Overall, the twenty bucks this costs is money well spent thanks to infinite replay value. While you don't get any bonuses for unlocking everything, there's more than enough here to keep players of all ages quite entertained. A quick click around the Internet shows that sometime this October, Atlus will be publishing a Wii version featuring a different format and mini-games called 101 in 1 Party Megamix, so keep an eye peeled for that one, folks. If it's as fun as this collection, Nordcurrent might become something of a household name among those looking for some Euro-style party action without eardrum busting beats, overly huggy party people or waving glowsticks.