Review: 35 Junior Games (3DS eShop)

Why buy one when you can have 35?

When it comes to games that put Nintendo enthusiasts on alert, compilations of mini-games are probably up there with movie licensed cash-ins. If a bold claim is made that a game offers dozens of games for the price of one download, eyebrows are raised and the final package will either be the greatest value ever offered to the world, or a disappointing mush of half-baked disappointments. 35 Junior Games does successfully find a middle-ground, to its credit, though would have been better as 10 Junior Games, give or take a few.

The first bonus for this game is that, after a count, there are indeed 35 games; that may seems obvious, but sometimes titles like these can be a bit deceptive or tricky with their names. In any case, the games on offer are split between Board Games, Card Games, Action and Puzzles. Board Games and Puzzles make up the bulk of what's on offer, which is understandable due to visual simplicity and formulaic rules making development easier; the Puzzle section is guilty of bending the 35 game rule by counting individual slide puzzles, though this just accounts for a few options. There are just four card games, while the Action section contains an intriguing mix of sport/arcade style games and some puzzle options that exist in this category, we assume, because of time limits and an emphasis on speed.

It should be pointed out that with a target audience of young gamers there are some over-simplistic offerings, though there are also stand-outs. Air Hockey and Kids' Pong are exactly what they sound like, where you use the stylus to move your paddle; despite a quirky view of your half of the field on the touch screen and the top screen showing the whole play area, the latter along with intuitive controls work well in both instances. Other categories have competent versions of games that could be revisited, such as an auto-generating Sudoku game, Freecell, Hearts, Kids' Chess — which seemed like normal chess to us — and some match-two action in Mahjongg, with 300 stages to choose from. With three difficulty levels also available in select games, there are options to suit most players.

That's not to say these offerings are perfect, with compromises of the format showing through. In some cases the games are one-trick ponies with no variation, or there can be minor annoyances such as tiles or playing cards that can be rather small and hard to distinguish; not mini-game breaking in these cases. There are then a batch of mediocre mini-games that technically do a job, but are uninspired and uninteresting; examples are Queens — basically a Professor Layton chess puzzle — and a number of options in the Puzzle section that either revolve around sliding tiles, swapping tiles or spotting the difference. These aren't broken as such, but feel dull and a tad inconsequential.

There were some games where we struggled to figure out what the heck we were supposed to be doing, possibly due to occasionally vague instructions — while we understood Mancala and Peg Solitaire, we struggled to make any real progress. The only true stinkers, of which every collection like this has some, are Darts and Fisherman. Darts is an abomination, requiring a flick of the stylus to launch a dart and being incredibly inaccurate and irritating in the process. Fisherman is bad for its sheer laziness; the screen shows a d-pad and face buttons, on which you must look for pink fish and quickly press the relevant button or direction — it's utterly redundant.

For a collection of 35 games, however, we consider this to be a decent record, with the earlier stand-outs salvaging the overall package. The biggest issue with this format is the aforementioned lack of polish or depth — with Sudoko and the basic Mahjongg title doing their best to avoid this problem — and young gamers are likely to feel the urge to jump around sporadically. Rather like going to a sweet shop packed full of dozens of options, it can be too distracting to focus on an individual game.

Still, cerasus.media deserves credit for those mini-games that have been done well or, at least, passably, even if 35 Junior Games may struggle to focus a young gamer and keep their attention. In that respect it isn't helped by relatively bland production values, which though bright and colourful aren't particularly memorable, while the music will eventually irritate parents or anyone paying attention; the 3D effect varies from decent to a little jarring, but that's what the 2D setting is for. Three save profiles are nice, for children who don't want to share or want to have their own name on the screen when playing against AI in multiplayer games such as Chess or Hearts; it's important to note that no local or online multiplayer is included.

Conclusion

Collections that throw together a large group of mini-games are often, at best, competent at many things while failing to excel in any area. 35 Junior Games follows that trend, but does avoid — with a couple of exceptions — too many failures in design. Some of the games border on being very good versions, while some will be lucky to get a passing glance from most. The long list of games and bland presentation will likely combine to restrict too much dedication from young gamers, but this is a title that, at the very least, offers some choice options that avoid the worst pitfalls of its genre.

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