Having covered bullets and time, EnjoyUp's pint-sized yet madly challenging 99 series of score-attackers aligns its focus on the third staple of classic game design: movement and the limitations thereof.
Over the dozen or so stages of 99Moves, players are dared to make it to the end of a gauntlet in as many moves or fewer. It doesn't sound very fiendish — there's a lot of wiggle room just shy of 100, right? — but the game's challenge certainly bumps up against the boundaries of sanity through brazen level design, making that tally awfully precious in later stages.
Once moving, see, you cannot stop. A tap of the D-Pad (or face buttons) sends your ugly little guy careening off in that direction, and to get through to the end requires a hint of cunning and an ounce of cat-like reflex to find the critical path.
99Moves is far from forgiving in the sense that stages can appear downright mean in design; often unpredictable and claustrophobic, there's a lingering feeling that at any moment the world will turn on you — and frequently does — by sending forth a rogue oblong. Failure to adapt to the stage's changing patterns will cause the ever-present move tally to plummet from all of the corrective action, and knocking into too many obstacles will kill you just the same; oftentimes the only choice for survival is to memorize the stage's machinations.
As 99Moves is driven by high scores, players are rewarded for brushing up against obstacles and reaching the end with moves in the bank — the more, the merrier.
This series certainly isn't one of the prettiest on DSiWare — its retro veneer calls back to an awkward-looking era — but if nothing else the simplistic designs allow players to pay most attention to the game's mechanics. Considering 99Moves is all mechanics and busy level design, a simplistic look is somewhat appreciated.
For players of a certain persuasion there's plenty of love to go around for EnjoyUp's latest: costing about the same as a few plays at your local arcade, 99Moves offers a rock-hard retro challenge. But just the same as the coin-munchers of yore, one person's challenge is another's cheap trick. 99Moves doesn't do a great job at differentiating the two.