Review: Game & Watch Collection (DS)

A blast from the past or something best left forgotten?

If you are a Nintendo fan living in North America, you probably remember the heavily publicised launch of the Club Nintendo program last December. Additionally, if you were a big investor at the time, you were probably hoping that you had enough recent Nintendo products to afford the coveted Game & Watch Collection -- a Club Nintendo exclusive. If you did not have the opportunity to get it at the time, then perhaps you’d like to find out if the 800-coin (approximately $800 of Nintendo products) game is worth your while.

The Game & Watch Collection, as its name would suggest, is a collection of three games from Nintendo’s first series of LCD handheld games. These generally featured a non-descript person doing any number of mundane tasks: such as cooking or maintaining a greenhouse. Others featured very linear platforming or other more goal-oriented tasks, but almost all of the handhelds had a distinct charm.

Due to the graphic capabilities, all characters and objects moved in pre-set frames of animation. A collection similar to this was released a while back on the Game Boy colour/advance; these could be brought by the average Joe, not like this indirectly expensive three-game compilation. Nethertheless, they are all fun, and unlike their Game Boy counterparts, are dual-screen like their original titles.

That, however, does not save the game from being entirely overpriced relative to its true value. But before we immediately criticise the game for its price, let us analyse the contents: the games Oil Panic, Donkey Kong, and Green House; and the alarm feature that was included in all of the original Game & Watches. Once selected, each of these games can be played in either A, B, or Time modes. Game B is harder than Game A, and that’s about it – they’re otherwise identical. Certain actions earn points, which will increase the pace a little, until the player reaches the next 100-point milestone where the game slows back down.

Should the player fail at completing the task at hand, they will earn a “miss.” In most cases, three misses equal game over. Manage to get 300 points without missing, and the player will enter “chance time,” which multiplies the points until a miss happens. Time mode might have people thinking of time trails, but it is actually what would display on a Game & Watch if left idle; it plays a demo of the game while the time is displayed, and if an alarm is enabled, a beep will go off at the appropriate time.

As far as specific gameplay goes, let us analyse every included game for a closer look. First on the list is Oil Panic, which some may recognise from Flat Zone 2 in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Oil Panic tasks the player with catching drops of oil falling from a pipe in the ceiling in an attempt to keep the building – a gas station, – from burning to a crisp. This scenario is conceivable because, at this particular gas station, burners and teapots are constantly turned on directly under oil leaks.

Obviously, these burners could simple never be turned off – life as we know it would cease to exist instantaneously (just trust us here). Of course, the player’s receptacle – bucket in this case – is certainly not bottomless: it will only hold three drops of oil, and any more will cause an overspill. To empty the bucket, the player must toss the oil out the top-floor window for their co-worker to catch and dispose of it. Unfortunately, there are two windows, and the co-worker constantly shifts from one to the other, which means there is always the chance of dumping oil on the wrong side – right onto the head of a customer, too. The game’s mechanics are well balanced, and it is a joy to play – certainly a welcome addition to the package.

Next up is Donkey Kong – the best of the bunch. Much like the arcade game, an average fellow must take on the job of saving a damsel in distress by climbing up girders at a construction site to take on the primate at the top. After jumping barrels being thrown at him (for points), the player may flick a switch that puts a swinging crane hook in motion, which the player can grab on to so that they can try to remove one of the cables suspending the girder that Kong is on. By removing all four, the player will topple the ape from the top of his structure – awarding points en mass. Miss while leaping for the hook, however, and the player will crash to the bottom – resulting in a miss. Likewise, getting struck by a barrel will also add to the miss counter. The game is essentially a very simple platformer that is nearly as fun as its arcade counterpart.

Last on the list is Green House; of all of the games, this is probably the one that requires the most constant attention. The player is a horticulturist who must spray insecticide on hungry insects that wish to gobble the flowers. On the top screen, worms climb across a strand of ivy to get to one of two flowers on either side of the screen. A single blast of insecticide will take care of the worm for a measly point, but more strategic players should opt for the multi-point option of waiting ‘till just before the worm takes a bite out of the flower.

On the bottom screen, where the spiders dwell, the scenario is mostly the same; they slowly creep down a web to consume plants flanking the screen. The difference lies in the fact that, unless a spider is right next to the plant or its home, a single blast will not kill it – blasts on the web’s midsection will just push the spider closer to its home. Despite the simultaneous bug hunting, this is actually the easiest, and dullest, of the bunch. It’s not bad, just average.

The graphics are obviously nothing to write home about, but that’s the point; this is meant to invoke the feeling of nostalgia. The inlayed levels of the original Game & Watches are replicated colourfully and accurately, the frame-by-frame animations are matched perfectly – a sublime enhanced trip down memory lane, albeit with uninspiring menus. The accompanying presentation component, sound, is incredibly primitive yet quintessential Game and Watch; the beeps and screeches of the originals are ever-present. The alarm is a marked improvement from the originals – no more barely perceptible beeps that fail to wake you up! Once activated in time mode, the alarm will be primed and ready to blast out a wakeup call with its superior DS speakers.

Conclusion

Needless to say, we think that Game & Watch Collection is a simple yet fun game that pays true homage to three classics. However, there is one major criticism: the price. You’ll be set back points from $800 of merchandise for these three fun and thoroughly enjoyable games, but you could easily find them elsewhere for a fraction of the cost – the collection needed to be more substantial. Still, with saved high scores, a backlight, a better alarm, and not much else to purchase right now, one could certainly do worse than to buy Game & Watch Collection. But, considering the other exclusive games Japan has seen, it might be worthwhile to keep your coins in the bank until a potentially better game comes around.

Ultimately, Game & Watch Collection has three dual screen games faithfully recreated, but the high pricetag is a massive deterrent.