101-in-1 Explosive Megamix

You know things are going wrong when Sudoku feels like a refreshing change of pace; it's almost enough to make you wonder why you're not just playing Brain Age.

Publisher: Atlus
Genres: Multimedia, Puzzle
Price: $19.99
Multimedia: 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Nordcurrent
US release date: 2009-04
Developer website

Let's say for a second that 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix is a good game. Generally, it's not, but let's say that it is. If we operate on this assumption, then we can assume that in the time that one spends with it on the DS, it's a good time. It's absorbing, it's addicting, it's all of the things that a humongous collection of minigames should be. In fact, it's so good that those who play it are utterly compelled to play it, unlock more games, play it some more, unlock more games, unlock the expensive top tier of games, play those, try and best various high scores, and so on. The format lends itself to addiction, and done right, or even adequately, the instincts of people to collect will draw them in and force those players to make room for another short-term obsession.

Say all of this is true, and say also that one of these players spent a solid week and a half of straight play unlocking every single minigame in the collection. Now, this player lives with someone else -- this someone might be a spouse, might be a child, might be a roommate, it doesn't matter. What matters is that this someone else becomes interested enough to pick up that DS and give the game that has given the player such pleasure a try.

Naturally, this someone else will select "New Game" at the title screen, wanting to get the full experience in the same way that the original player did. This makes perfect sense, right? Well, it would, except that by selecting "New Game,” this new player unwittingly erases everything that the original player has done.

And yes, this is where I drop the pretense, and say that yes, that player was me. It is so easy to erase the progress that you make in this game that, if you happen to buy 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix, it will be you, too.

101-in-1 Explosive Megamix is a minigame collection for the Nintendo DS made available in the States by the fine folks at Atlus, which makes it that much harder to point out just how many ways in which this particular minigame collection is flawed. The idea of it is so obvious it's actually kind of a surprise that there aren't more of these floating around, especially on a casual-friendly format like the Nintendo DS. What developer Nordcurrent -- for whom 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix is their first effort, it should be noted -- does with the game is simply put together as many simple little games as they can possibly fit onto a single cart, allowing for tons of (mostly stylus-based) play experience without the necessity of commitment to any one of them.

The first hint that something might possibly be wrong here shows up before you even pick the first game to play: most of the games are locked from the starting gun. If a game has "101-in-1" in its title, shouldn't there be 101 games to choose from right off the bat? Still, it's a defensible design decision in that it gives the player a concrete reason to play these games -- namely, to get more games. As you win the games, you win coins that allow you to buy new games. So, you play the new games, win coins to buy more games, and so on.

What kinds of games are we talking about here? The games of 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix are mostly simple knockoffs of flash games that you've played at some point. There's one called "Aquarium" that involves a fish swimming around trying to eat the smaller fish while not being eaten by the bigger fish. There's one called "Sushi" that involves flicking a spear-like knife at rolling pieces of, yes, sushi. There's an odd little attempt at something called "Basketball" in which you flick the ball from the bottom screen into a hoop at the top of the screen. There are darts, there's sumo wrestling(!), there's Sudoku (of course there is), there's even a game in which you build a house of cards. There really are 101 games on the cart, and they're all actually fairly unique at least in terms of visual style.

The playtime you'll spend with them, however, gives the opposite impression; there's very little that's different about these games at all. There are games where you flick things, games where you avoid things, games where you draw things, and games where you tap things. And there's Sudoku, which actually kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. You know things are going wrong when Sudoku feels like a refreshing change of pace; it's almost enough to make you wonder why you're not just playing Brain Age.

Most of the games are functional, but as is to be expected in a compilation of this magnitude, some of them are just broken. If you're going to create a minigame based on stylus-dragging, the stylus should actually drag the object in question. For some of these games, dragging the stylus is more like a suggestion, guiding the object but never giving the player any sense of control (this seems most pronounced in a street-racing minigame but shows up elsewhere as well). Still, even if a game is broken, difficult, or just plain boring, there are enough games here that you can just move on to another one.

That is, you can until someone writes over your one save game. The annoyance of this particular misfire cannot be overstated; one can't help but think that most anyone who would actually buy a "Megamix" like this one could have done without, say, Sudoku for the sake of a functional save game system. If you can guarantee that you won't have to experience the tragedy of a killed save game, 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix is a functional enough time waster, even if it never achieves (or, really, even aspires to) to be anything more than that.


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