Review: Mixed Messages (DSiWare)

Activision's DSiWare debut leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Mixed Messages could be classified more as an experience than an actual game, since there's actually no clearly-defined goal. You basically just alternate typing sentences and drawing pictures to try to match each other in an attempt to keep the original message intact. As you can probably tell from the title of the game, that's generally not what happens. In fact, the more players that take part in the game, the more mixed up the ending message generally turns out to be. And while that's supposed to be what makes the game so much fun, it ultimately ends up making the entire experience more tedious than anything else.

Up to 21 players can take part in Mixed Messages, with players taking turns passing the DS system around to each other. The first player writes a sentence and then passes the DS system to the next player. This player then has to draw a picture based on the first player's sentence. The DS is then passed on to the next player who must come up with a sentence that matches the picture the second player drew. This process repeats through as many players as are available and then the game puts everything together and allows you to scroll through the entire creation to see how mixed up the original message became throughout the entire process. Fun, right?

There's really not much to each function. Typing the sentence in is basically accomplished via a tiny touchscreen keyboard similar to the one that's used by the DS operating system itself. The drawing function isn't much more complicated, as it's basically just a handful of drawing tools that include a thin pencil, a thick pencil, two erasers, and a trash can tool. While it might have been nice to have access to at least a few colors, in truth, it probably wouldn't have helped the overall experience anyway. The lack of any type of goal just makes playing the game feel pointless and doesn't really give the player(s) anything to look forward to at the end of the entire process.

The visuals in Mixed Messages are pretty much what you make them. The majority of the presentation is text-based, with a set of alphanumeric keys to type in your sentence and a handful of basic art tools to draw the pictures with. If you're rather artistic, you might be able to get some impressive artwork out of the package, but for most of us non-artistic talents, the experience will be laughable at best. As with many DSiWare titles we've seen to date, Mixed Messages' visual presentation is somewhat on the lightweight side.

You'll get to know the music in Mixed Messages quite well since there is only one variation that basically repeats itself off and on throughout the entire experience. It sounds like a tune that might have been rejected from an earlier Crash Bandicoot title and doesn't seem to fit in with what's going on in this title whatsoever. It's also so short in length that it repeats early and often. If you have any type of hearing at all, you'll likely turn the volume down on this one after only a few minutes of play. It's honestly that repetitive and grating.

Conclusion

We'd love to say that Mixed Messages becomes more fun with more people playing, but the simple truth is that it only makes the wait for the inevitable outcome even longer and more excruciating. About the only advantage to having more players is that it will give you more time to forget about how insignificant your meager contribution to the overall experience truly was. That is unless you're the last player to have a turn and in that case, you have our sympathies.