Review: 3D Game Collection (3DS eShop)

Win, lose, or draw?

Casual appeal and touch-screen controls have made Nintendo's recent handheld systems a perfect fit for digital collections of traditional games and puzzles, and that's the niche in which the rather generically named 3D Game Collection sits comfortably. With 25 games from Backgammon to Battleship, Solitaire to slide puzzles, there's plenty to keep fans of truly old-school gaming occupied, but inconsistent execution, a few duds, and an uninspired presentation keep this compilation from being as classic as the games it's based on.

After creating a user profile in one of the four available slots, 3D Game Collection drops you at a theme selection screen where you can choose between three environments to play in: outer space, a pirate ship-strewn Caribbean ocean, and a field of flowers. Each area has between 15 and 20 games, for a grand total of 55, though game types repeat across and even within the themes - there are two floral Jigsaws and two space-age Spot the Difference puzzles, for instance.

There's a good variety of game types among the 25 included in the collection, with the majority leaning towards the simple board game side of the spectrum. Versions of Connect 4, Backgammon, Ludo/Parcheesi, Checkers (both unadorned and of the Chinese variety), Mastermind, Nine Men's Morris, Battleship, and Dominoes are all here, and playing against the AI provides the simple fun you'd expect. Solo games include both Card and Peg Solitaire, Jigsaws, a card-matching memory game, MahJong, Sliding Puzzles, Spot the Difference, a Bingo variant called "Beano", and five-dice throw. There's a nod to pen-and-pencil puzzles with Sudoku and the closely-related Kakuro, and computer-inspired games with clones of Minesweeper and Bejeweled, a pipe-matching game, and the basic but engaging box-pushing puzzler Chest Mover Mania.

For the most part, these games are true enough to their source material to be dependably enjoyable. Being able to play a quick game of Ludo on the go is a wonderful thing, the match-three puzzle action is as enthralling as ever, and steadfast Solitaire is a perennial favourite for a reason. 3D Game Collection's implementation of the Spot the Difference game even succeeds where many similar efforts fail; by penalizing wrong guessing, it prevents the puzzles from becoming mindless tap-athons.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with collections, the standard of quality is uneven across the entire package, and a few games are brought down by design quirks. The Jigsaws leave no room for pieces other than on the board itself, meaning that a significant amount of the challenge comes from trying to organize a jumbled mess of pieces half-covering your picture. The Dominoes game, while fun, suffers from an unwieldy interface that requires sliding back and forth between your hand and the edges of the playing field. There are also a few total whiffs: the dice-throwing game Dice Five loses an awful lot in the transition to the digital realm, while the mind-numbing Beano proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that any fun to be had with Bingo stems from door prizes and pleasant company, and definitely not from the act of locating numbers on a card.

Another issue is that any sunk ships, cracked codes, or captured checker-pieces will belong to the computer, as there's no multiplayer support in 3D Game Collection. Some of these classic games are begging to be played with friends, and the ability to pass-and-play would definitely liven things up. It's also a noticeable omission because the AI can sometimes be infuriating, and lacks the good graces to refrain from routinely wiping the floor with you in solved games like Nine Men's Morris or 4 In a Row. Whether this is a deal-breaker for these games depends on the player: those in the know will relish the chance to force the computer's hand, while beginners will likely end up frustrated.

Help screens are on hand for each game type to bring new players up to speed on the rules, and every game has bronze, silver, and gold trophies to earn depending on your score. Some of the gold trophies have impressive conditions, and these will definitely extend the game's replay value for high-score hunters.

The "3D" in the the title speaks more to 3D Game Collection's platform than anything else, as nearly all the action takes place in two dimensions on the non-stereoscopic touch screen. Everything is controlled with the touch screen, and in most game types the top screen simply displays a scene from the chosen theme with a few game pieces in front. The exception to this is the Spot the Difference puzzles, where one picture is displayed on the top screen and the other on the touch screen. This looks nice, but actually creates a few problems, as the added depth in the top picture causes objects to appear in slightly different positions, and the wider field of vision leaves excess art on either side that can be distracting while you're perusing paintings for minutia.

Graphically, 3D Game Collection passes muster without really impressing. The game's three themes are represented well, and each of the three animated 3D scenes look nice, but the lack of visual variety among the space-, ocean-, and flower-themed games contributes to a feeling of repetition in the game. There's also only one musical track for each theme, and while the short loops are pleasant enough, they all wear out their welcomes relatively quickly. The sound effects are tastefully low-key, and help give games like Jigsaw a more tactile feel.

Conclusion

3D Game Collection isn't the type of game you'd rush out to buy, or even rush home to play. Rather, it's a straightforward pack of digital diversions meant to be broken out while in-between engagements, or curled up on a rainy day. Certain games fare better than others, and the high and low points even out to create an experience that's almost exceptionally average. For better or for worse, 3D Game Collection won't surprise anyone, and it's even less likely to excite, but players looking for a predictable, on-the-go fix of classic board game archetypes should have some fun with this collection.

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