You’re given a bag of sweets. On the outside they’re a bit misshapen or broken up, but at least they’re brightly coloured, there’s a big variety of flavours and there are plenty of them, right? The first one doesn’t taste quite right. Neither does the second one. Nor the third. Half the bag has to be thrown in the bin when all is said is done, with a further quarter left in various states of non-consumption. Now, wouldn’t that bag of sweets have been so much better if it had been only a fraction of the size but consistently delicious? This exact logic can be applied to Nordcurrent’s latest release on DSiWare, 40-in-1 Explosive Megamix.
For a while this mini-game collection has its moments, but they’re so rare that it’s more likely that it’ll be remembered for the inadequacy that makes up the rest of the package. Many of the 40 included distractions suffer from a whole raft of issues: poor controls, tutorials that omit vital information, obscene challenge levels destined only to frustrate and artificially expand play time, ridiculous win conditions, lack of general care, limited animation and only a small amount of music. Some are too restricted while others outstay their welcome, lasting for three minutes when one would suffice.
Touch controls in particular often fail to work until their idiosyncrasies have been recognised: things have to be done a certain way, and if they’re not, tough. A museum escape scenario where you must draw arrows to match pop-ups would be more enjoyable were it not blighted by an interface that implies that the directions are to be sketched in a tiny circle in centre screen. They’re not: large strokes across the entire screen are required, or the inputs are not acknowledged. Overcome this and the mini-game is fun, if not ground-breaking — but why should players have to battle around things like this to gain enjoyment?
Even in mini-games that control well, there are still the issues of difficulty spikes and incomplete help screens, which in the worst cases leave players without any idea what they’re doing until they accidentally stumble upon a solution. Guide a frog up a river, avoiding all obstacles, while scoring points. How? The answer is to brush right next to passing hazards without touching them, but nowhere is this mentioned.
Other games change the rulebook part way through, which on one hand retains interest but on another mistreats players and amps up the challenge to punishing heights. One stage involves a girl kicking zombies to death, alternating left and right to knock down the flows of the undead; already reasonably, though not unfairly, demanding as the speed increases. Then suddenly more monsters begin tipping down from windows on the top screen as well, harshly tightening up the timings and space to move around in.
Unlocking the 40 games is, mercifully, not a tough task. 10 are ready to play from the start, with further episodes purchased with points earned, though irritatingly there is no indication whatsoever of what you’re buying until you’ve lumped up the desired virtual currency. They’re awarded whether a game is won or lost, which is a good job when faced with the scores necessary in some levels. A good portion of them beg for tallies so high that they’re laughable when matched with the control, difficulty or tutorial issues. Some stages even punish when something goes wrong: an early game subtracts the same number of points whenever a crow steals a piece of corn as are awarded when one of the birds is shot down, which is both demoralising and prevents progress. The developers expect perfection in players’ performances when they themselves have fallen far short of the mark.
It’s pretty likely that anybody that endures 40-in-1 Explosive Megamix long enough to grab all the games will do so not by completing every task but by playing the more competent games repeatedly instead. Throw 40 mini-games at a wall and a few are bound to stick: bouncing a clown on a pogo stick to collect stars, playing whack-a-mole with monsters with buttons and stylus, smashing flower-gobbling dinosaurs from atop a pterodactyl and matching ingredients for a potion-mixing witch all offer comparatively decent diversions.
Why have these stages, plus a few others, been weighed down by so much poor content? Nordcurrent would have done well to slice the fat from the package and focus on a smaller number of mini-games. Several of the better asides could have been polished up and expanded with endless modes, or multiple levels, with little extra thought required. The big, marketing-aiding number would be lost from the title, but it might have resulted in an entertaining product.
40-in-1 Explosive Megamix delivers a varied collection of games, but very few of them hold much semblance of quality. Had more emphasis been placed on quality than quantity then perhaps things would be different, but as it is it just leaves a bitter taste.