The previous entry in the Pocket Pack series, Words and Numbers, combined Sudoku, anagrams and more into a package that was perhaps too familiar to make much impact in the DSiWare ranks. Now the second compilation, titled Strategy Games, has arrived on DSiWare, and it's a far better combination than its predecessor.
The five games on offer this time are Checkers (also known as Draughts), Chinese Checkers, Nine Men's Morris, Gomoku and Reversi, most of which will be familiar to fans of board games and strategy games in general. Although they all share some characteristics, each is different enough to be worth a look.
All the titles can be set up to play in multiple rounds, with player versus CPU or hotseat play available for each. Three games offer variations on board layout and size too, and if you're unsure of the rules at any time then pressing X will bring up the Operations Guide to give you a quick refresher.
The CPU intelligence in each game is very good, posing a challenge even on medium with the easy and hard difficulties opening up the game to other abilities. Each game is playable in single machine hotseat mode, with Chinese Checkers supporting up to six players passing the machine around, with transitional screens telling you who's next as well as shielding the previous player's move until the new player is ready. If you don't fancy finding your friends' fingerprints all over your DSi, each game lets you beam a version of the game to another machine via Download Play, and there's support for players with individual copies of the game via Wireless Play too.
There are other welcome features included too, such as an autosave function that lets you save a match in progress for each one of the five games. This even works for hotseat matches, letting you resume against a friend later, though starting a new game will overwrite the existing save. If you're only playing solo, the lifespan is extended not only by the tough AI but by the inclusion of a trophy to be won for each game, although there are no tiered trophies sadly.
It's unlikely any entries in the Pocket Pack series will win any graphical awards, with a spartan style that borders on the plain. It's uncluttered at least, with the top screen displaying scores with the touchscreen devoted to the board at hand. The music veers between irritating and inoffensive, but can at least be switched off if you like.
Pocket Pack: Strategy Games is a more welcome addition to the DSiWare stable than its predecessor as it brings something fresh to the table: most of these games are new to the service, and although the graphics and sound won't wow you the tough artificial intelligence, autosave, Download Play and trophies help to beef up Strategy Games into a good package for anyone who fancies a sit down with something cerebral.