Hot on the heels of October's 99Seconds comes a Wii U eShop version of 99Moves, which like its predecessor had origins as an EnjoyUp Games DSiWare title. For the most part, this is a simple port, but what changes there are offer mixed results — some of them are definitively positive, such as the improved resolution and frame rate; others, like the multiplayer modes, aren't compelling enough to warrant more than a quick look. Where the game succeeds most is in what seems to be its original vision: to deliver a short, simple, old-school gaming experience.
99Moves' 12 stages all follow a simple formula: guide player character V-99 through twisting, labyrinthine configurations filled with various obstructions using only "99 movements." V-99 will automatically go forward in whatever direction it's currently facing, but changing that direction using the pad or analogue stick will cost you one of the eponymous moves. Having 99 chances to change direction might seem generous, but the marathon-length stages and fiendishly close quarters ensure you'll be forced to veer out of the way more times than you expect. It's relatively exciting, arcade-style action that succeeds because it's simple, and optional touches that add to the challenge — like dangerously placed items, and the fact that that you gain points when V-99 precariously grazes the edges of the map — make for an endearing replication of gaming's early years. The levels do a remarkably good job of rewarding strategy, too; looking ahead to see how you can avoid obstacles in the least amount of moves will almost always yield a positive result.
With that said, the core concept does present a few baffling flaws that might have benefited from a little more foresight during development. Many of these flaws stem from the game's commitment to the number 99, which — since it allows a relatively high number of player actions — necessitates much longer, broader level design. Some of these levels can really overstay their welcome, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the title would be better suited to a smaller number of movements in order to reduce level size and allow for more detail-oriented design. This issue is compounded by the movement speed of V-99, a necessary evil to accommodate the huge levels and frequent obstacles; since there are no checkpoints, the slow-as-molasses tempo is probably meant to cut down on frustration as you can more easily navigate around the claustrophobic environments while going slower. Still, a "speed up" button might have helped things considerably here.
EnjoyUp Games made a few changes to 99Moves in its transition to Wii U, including increased resolution and frame rate, but unfortunately the cumulative effect of the port's differences is less than stellar. Take the multiplayer modes, for example, which effectively reproduce the same 12 levels in the normal campaign for up to five players using different rules, such as "race" and "survival." It definitely feels like an afterthought, especially since these levels were designed around single-player action to begin with.
Then there are seemingly arbitrary changes like the size of the red "core" in V-99's middle portion, which represents the actual collision detector for the character — V-99's arms, legs, and even head can slide through objects with no problem, but bump into anything with the core and you'll take damage. In the original DSiWare release, the entire body section of V-99 was marked red to reflect its sensitivity to collision; in the Wii U eShop version, it's reduced to a tiny square area in the centre of the body section. This may seem more convenient, as it effectively allows the character additional wiggle room in tight spaces, but even with the improved resolution you'll struggle to see the tiny red dot — especially when playing on the GamePad — meaning it's harder to tell when you're about to crash into anything.
Aesthetically, this game is in line with its arcade inspirations. Simple, intuitive graphics, pleasant electronic music, and buzzy sound effects all contribute to its appeal. If there's a caveat, it's to brace yourself for the annoyance of the garbled voice recordings that announce various things like the title and each time you collect a power-up. It's kind of funny at first, but hearing the accented voice say "99Moves" when you're booted back to the main menu definitely wears out its welcome after the 99th time.
99Moves offers up a brisk trip through 12 levels of arcade-style action, and that's what it does best — its claustrophobic levels requiring quick reflexes can be quite exciting if enjoyed in small play sessions. There's a nagging feeling that something's missing, however; the core concept sidesteps a few obvious improvements that could have increased its appeal, leaving the levels feeling a bit long and slapdash considering their small number. In addition, the changes made from the DSiWare original offer mixed results, from the middling (the new multiplayer modes) to the confusing (V-99's reduced hit box). If you're in the mood for some bargain-priced old-school fun, you could do a lot worse than 99Moves — but don't be surprised if you find yourself thinking up ways the game might have been improved as you play.
Doesn't look bad. I heard 99Bullets is the best. Hopefully that will get the Wii U treatment as well.
Definitely worth the £1.34 it was on sale!
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