G-STYLE's latest import from Japan, Moke Moke stars a mysterious race of flying, forest-dwelling fuzzballs known as Moke. Combining the evolutionary advantages of sighted moles with the whimsical utility of those novelty helicopter hats, the Moke spend their time whizzing around the forest in an eternal contest to see who among them can hoard the most treasure. The resulting game is an endearingly chaotic, extensively customizable scramble for jewels that's perfect with friends - and surprisingly fun solo.
Moke Moke plays a bit like a cross between Balloon Fight and Chasing Aurora, with the flying mechanics, fluttery controls, and single-screen stages of the former, and the treasure-hoarding, playground-chase gameplay of the latter. You pilot your Moke like a woodland whirlybird, repeatedly tapping the A button to fly upwards and steering with the D-pad, while the B button whips out your Moke-mallet. Control is purposefully floaty and takes a bit of wrestling with to get where you're going, and feels almost exactly like Balloon Fight. Unfortunately, there's nothing like that game's "turbo flap" button here, and getting around is a much more thumb-cramping experience as a result. The ability to sink like a stone by holding down on the D-pad is a welcome improvement, though, and dive-bombing for gems feels great.
At its most basic, Moke Moke's gameplay consists of flapping your Moke around the screen for a set amount of time, picking up treasure and taking it back to a communal goal, all while bashing your three opponents with a hammer to steal their bounty or keep them away from yours. It's fast-paced, frantic, and fun, but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If there's one thing the Moke have down to a science - besides smacking the stuffing out of each other with mallets - it's variety. There are six separate game types available to play, either individually or in four pre-set "Battle Cups" combining different game types into three to five round tournaments.
After you've got a taste for the Normal mode, you can try Runaway Goal, where two Moke on a team carry the goals on their backs and run away from two more Moke who are desperately trying to deposit their riches in the mobile Moke banks, with roles swapping every 30 seconds. Or Treasure Run, where there's no goal and just one piece of treasure to fight over, and Moke earn points for each second they manage to hang onto the jewel. Color Change places fruit around the arena, and each time a Moke touches a piece, it takes on that Moke's colour; every ten seconds, players earn points for all the fruit that's marked as theirs as a new banquet is laid out. Hold the Bomb is the Moke Moke version of hot potato, and Golden Goal is a variation of the normal mode with a sporadically appearing bonus goal that multiplies the points of any treasure thrown in it.
Some of the Moke's pastimes are more entertaining than others, of course: Runaway Goal and Color Change are original and a whole lot of fun, while Golden Goal and Hold the Bomb are more pedestrian variations on the theme. Still, they all have a frenetic energy and party potential that's reminiscent of a two-dimensional take on Super Monkey Ball's competitive mini-games.
In each mode, there are seven levels to choose from, and though the background sadly never changes, each stage boasts a unique environmental feature that can really change up the game. There're soap bubbles that require rapid button presses to escape, gusts of wind that blow your Moke around the course, Moke-consuming back holes, teleporters, cannons, and more.
After the action's over, Round Bonuses are doled out to players for things like attacking or flying the most in a match, and these substantial point bonuses can often tip the outcome of a close game. The awards are fun, but they do take a rather long time to go through, and the ceremony can't be sped up. Round Bonuses can be switched off, however, for anyone who wants a quicker (or more skill-dependent) route to the winner's podium.
In fact, there's a long list of customizable options in Moke Moke that would make any Super Smash Bros. fan proud. Along with turning Round Bonuses on or off, you're free to set the number of rounds, time limits, which power-ups and types of treasure will appear, and even the AI level of each individual computer controlled Moke.
And while playing Moke Moke alone is a lot more fun than you might imagine, its many modes definitely feel like a portable party waiting to happen. Happily, it supports up to four players, each of whom will need a copy of the game on their system. We'd love to see Download Play available - even for a single mode - but the price of entry for four copies of Moke Moke is still less than a movie ticket, so convincing a few friends to take the plunge with you shouldn't prove too difficult.
Moke Moke is also a pretty good show in terms of presentation. The graphics are simple but vibrantly coloured, with cutely animated sprites and crisp fonts that call to mind the glory days of the Game Boy Advance. Much like the Moke themselves, the music is mischievous, sylvan, and bouncy, and fits the game perfectly - the only thing missing is a more satisfying 'thwack' when your mallet meets a Moke.
Moke Moke is a great example of DSiWare done right. It's simple, fun to play, looks and sounds great, and costs about the same as a cup of coffee. The intentionally floaty control will turn some people off - and anyone who finds Balloon Fight clunky should steer well clear - but if that's not an issue for you, Moke Moke is a blast. It's especially worth checking out if you've got a few furry friends to battle it out with, but the gameplay variety and extensive customization options give solitary players more than enough reason to Whack-a-Moke.