Time is a very valuable commodity. At least that’s what people say, but there always seems to be time for sneaking a quick little game of something between tasks. 99Seconds seeks to fill those blips in your life, and perhaps a few more, with a classic dodge ‘em style of gameplay.
The Wii U version of 99seconds is fundamentally equal to its DSiWare predecessor. As a clock ticks down from the titular time limit, the goal is to move your block character, V-99, around the screen, dodging an armada of black shapes coming from all directions in order to rack up the highest score possible.
The point counter climbs as long as everything stays in motion. Collide with an object and action stops in a flash of red until V-99 is moved back into the clear. The screen can also be frozen at will by holding down any button, giving V-99 a chance to slip out of an imminent crash. While scoring suspends itself in both cases, however, time continues relentlessly ticking. When zero is reached, the next hit will end V-99 for good.
While it sounds quite constricting, there are ways to struggle against the clock. Glowing dots will appear to add 9 seconds to the remaining time, while icons of V-99 will ad 99,000 points to the score. Since points are primary here, both power-ups are treasured, and the game can be a tug-of-war against careful navigation and a reckless abandon to reach a dot before it disappears.
The setup feels quite addictive at first, but things begin to lose steam with prolonged play. The main Arcade mode throws 28 “levels” at you, each featuring a different sequence with different shapes. While their order seems to be mildly randomized, the relatively short length of a session means they’ll become familiar pretty quickly; increasing the difficulty does not increase the number of levels, either. A large pool of situations to randomly draw from each game might keep the excitement up longer; otherwise, short bursts of play are recommended.
The Wii U version of 99seconds does add a few welcome touches. Online leaderboards are available, which will make a big difference to score junkies who enjoy seeing themselves in lights, and may provide a lot of motivation for them to become an expert in every nook and cranny. Off-TV play is supported, with the GamePad screen blaring the timer at you in big numbers when playing normally.
Multiplayer is also added to the game. Up to 5 players can participate co-operatively in Arcade mode or go against each other in a single-screen, one-hit-kill Survival mode. The latter can be easily seen providing a bit of fun as players endure a bullet hell and try to push each other into destruction, but it's also lacking in enough variety to fill an entire evening.
When it comes to presentation, 99seconds keeps things simple with a retro feel. It has a unique charm, but also feels a bit like a Flash game in the way it animates; some colour choices for the text can also make the final score report a bit difficult to read. The music has that techno-space vibe that serves in the background well, while there’s also a voice that states the name of the game and announces “Extra points.” or “Extra time.” as you pick them up. It adds a bit of an arcade flair, but might also grow old for some after a while.
Although it includes leaderboards and multiplayer options, 99seconds on the Wii U still doesn’t effectively bring much that's substantially new to the table. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it remains competent in what it does for as long as it does it. Those who enjoy utterly dominating a gaming experience and showing off their high scores will likely be content in the challenge alone — others, however, might find their time spent with the game shorter.