Tagged: Nintendo 3DS

Dig out your AR Cards, the 3DS has a new puzzle game

While VR constantly seems on the verge of exploding into the next big thing, AR continues to be a seldom seen diversion. I blame it on cameras: the Vita and 3DS have the worst cameras but that’s where interesting AR games keep happening.

The latest is the one you see above, Bubble Pop World, out now on the 3DS eShop for $4.99. For all the flashy features the video shows they don’t really explain how the main puzzle-popping mechanic works. It seems to be a mix of Bust-a-Move and Poppit! with the ability to move around the 3D model and insert the next colored blob wherever you’d like.

It’s got 120 puzzle and arcade levels built in with the ability to create and share your own via QR codes (another maligned AR technology!) as well as 8 underwater themed minigames. I’ve still got some cash left in my Mario Wallet (or whatever they call it on the eShop); I may have to give this a shot!

Done Playing: Crash City Mayhem (3DS)

crashcity2  crashcity1

Across five releases over the last sixteen years Climax’s Runabout series has stuck to its own inexplicable genre. Wacky Mission-Based Arcade Racer? Multi-Objective Driving Adventure? Vaguely Open-World Pedestrian Criticism Simulator? Stylistically it embodies everything a boy could love about 90’s anime: absurd and thin plots that require lots of fast driving, ridiculous stunts and millions of dollars in property damage. Crash City Mayhem definitely holds true to the series style but it also sticks to its gameplay at the risk of completely confounding modern players.

Unrelated to anything in the previous games, you play as an ex-spy-turned-courier who gets mixed up in a plot to steal an outlandish spy car. Across six missions you find intel on the car, wind up stealing it, tail a female spy who’s after it herself and ultimately save the day and get the girl. The plotline is only slightly more nuanced than a “three guys walk into a bar” joke but it’s all the setup the game needs.

Once the mission starts you’re off on a high speed race to reach whatever objective markers the stage prescribes. All six missions are set in the same world with barricades and starting points that keep it feeling different but familiar. It’s a good thing, really, as there are loads of shortcuts and alternate routes that only make sense on certain missions. It’s far from an open world but there’s enough breadth to keep you wondering if each side street offers a faster path to your destination.

Many of the 15 vehicles you unlock are novelties like the tank and scooter but all handle uniquely enough to suit your driving/crashing style. In a particularly specific callback to the original game you can even fine tune handling, downforce and brakes to tailor each vehicle’s performance. You steer with the circle pad or D-pad and pretty much every button can be remapped for manual shifting, rear view, gas, brakes and handbrake. There’s a good sense of speed that sometimes hitches the framerate and physics as realistic as you’d like for a game where an F1 car can plow into a city bus and send the wreckage flying.

crashcity4  crashcity3

Playing all six missions in a row would take less than hour so the game abruptly reveals its dark secret to meter your progress: missions are unlocked as you complete old ones on harder difficulty levels. There are five difficulties for each mission, the first three giving you slightly less time or requiring more targets to be found. Finding hidden bonus icons and breaking jump, speed and property damage records help unlock new missions and difficulties. You’ll also unlock 20 items to equip that add goofy trinkets like a musical horn to your car or really useful things like a jump or nitro. The combination of vehicles and items add just enough variety to deaden the sting of grinding missions. Who wouldn’t crack up at the sight of a guy on an “H-David” motorcycle wearing a panda hat that conceals a smaller panda hat underneath? The engrish, the screams of overly-critical pedestrians and the unyielding surf rock tunes are hallmarks of the series and great at defusing your frustrations.

Those frustrations run highest on the Impossible and Legendary difficulties requiring you to complete the mission objectives while also causing $1,000,000 in damage or no damage whatsoever. Causing damage is like a vehicular Price is Right game; managing your damage versus dollars, looking for just the right things to hit without going over. Causing no damage at all is definitely the game’s most punishing challenge. The H-David bike is required for this one but even with its slimmer frame the 3DS’ tiny screen and the game’s draw-in cause some unfair failures. Sitting through a drawn out loading screen and mission intro every time you restart doesn’t help either.

Climax’s adherence to the Runabout style is appreciable as a fan but sixteen years on it isn’t making itself very approachable to anyone else. The peculiar genre is unlike anything in recent memory to draw comparisons to and the slapdash feel of the series — which was tolerable, even endearing in the 90’s — looks shoddy nowadays. Even I had a hard time getting back into the groove of things but I wound up having about sixteen hours of fun, frustration and nostalgia with Crash City Mayhem. I’d rather have played it on a console but the portable platform and $20 price (at retail or on the eShop) seems like the best way to dip a curious toe into this long-running and obscure series.

I don’t think I’ll record much more but I posted a few videos of the game on YouTube if this text still doesn’t explain well enough.

Nintendo Picks old NES games as ‘Best of 3DS’

So I got some 3DS cash for Christmas and I’m pokin’ around the featured categories on the eShop yesterday and I see “The Best of 2012” and figure I’ll take a look. ‘Oh wow, Dillon’s Rolling Western was a 2012 release?’, I think. ‘Oh right, Sakura Samurai, that looked pretty cool and maybe — wait, what!?’, I’m interrupted mid-thought as I’m suddenly seeing Super Mario Bros., a Sonic the Hedgehog game for Game Gear, a handful of Game Boy games and even Metroid! Yes, the red hot new release from 1986 which did come out on the 3DS eShop in 2012 but completely does not count for a “best of the year” list. I also take odds with Colors 3D and Petit Computer which are more productivity apps than games.

Oh Nintendo. On one hand they’re pioneering Day One digital releases for retail games and on the other they’re saying a ROM dump of Super Mario Bros. is one of the best 3DS games of 2012. Is this list based on sales? User ratings? Who knows, but if Bird Mania 3D makes the cut then surely there were enough ports of hidden object and iOS games to fill out this list without dipping into Virtual Console releases. Anyways, there is some good stuff worth looking into on this list so check out all 25 entries below.

Re-Review: Art Style PiCTOBiTS (DSiWare)

Back in the days when I was writing for that other site I would post snippets of reviews here and link to them. As they’ve disavowed any knowledge of me I figured it’s fair game and since I just transferred PiCTOBiTS to the 3DS and reminded myself of this review, here ya go:

For a simple downloadable title there’s a lot of history behind Art Style: PiCTOBiTS. Developer skip started things on the Game Boy Advance with the ‘bit Generations’ series and have evolved the hallmark of simple gameplay coupled with arresting visuals into the Art Style series for the WiiWare and DSiWare stores. To date PiCTOBiTS is the most original and worthwhile investment on the fledgling DSi downloadable service, but it’s not quite enough to warrant upgrading from a DS Lite on its own.

That’s not to say it isn’t mind bending, puzzle game fun because this is some of the most frantic, perplexing and rewarding action I’ve yet encountered at the end of a stylus. In traditional fashion big colorful pieces come marching down the screen and it’s your job to turn their pokey angles into squares, rectangles and lines to clear them before they reach the bottom. You do this by touching a colored block at the bottom of the screen and then placing it along the downward path of the larger megabit pieces. Each stage starts you out with a few rows of blocks to work with but once they’re gone you’ll have to decide which megabits you clear and which ones you let fall down the screen to provide more color coded ammunition.

Clearing the megabits as fast as possible is challenging enough but to play the game well takes incredibly quick hands, and an even quicker intuition. Once you take out part of a megabit the game freezes while the pieces fly up to the top screen, giving you only seconds to line up more blocks underneath before the remainder of the megabit plummets to the ground. The quicker you clear megabits the higher your multiplier climbs, doling out more golden Super Mario coins in the process. Using the megabits strategically combined with the ability to place blocks anywhere on the screen (instead of simply stacking them up as in most other puzzle games) is half of what makesPiCTOBiTS so unique.

Holding true to the Art Style formula, the retro presentation is the other half of the package. With a cartoon cast or uninspired visuals the game would be little more than a forgettable knock off of 1989’s Quarth, but PiCTOBiTS packs as much Nintendo fan service as Super Smash Bros., both in its visuals and soundtrack. Each of the fifteen stages is based on an NES game, ranging from the ubiquitous Super Mario Bros. and Zelda to the more obscure Devil World, Baseball, and Wrecking Crew. The colored blocks that fill the screen represent little chunks of a pixel image from the game and also serve as your goal. Unlike the never ending flow of Tetris, once you’ve cleared enough megabits to fill in the image on the top screen you’re done. Colored blocks and a gray backdrop are all the graphics you get but combined with the music each stage inexplicably becomes the game it represents.

Remixing a song is a delicate balancing act; maintaining the sound that made the tune memorable in the first place while adding elements to make it a standalone piece. Japan’s chiptune group, YMCK, has done it perfectly here inPiCTOBiTS, adding nothing but equal parts 8-bit “blips” that fall right in line with the source material. It’s also interactive and as you progress through each stage new layers of melody build over the basic beat until the tune is in full swing, ratcheting up the excitement and drawing you beyond the puzzle game. On one of the final stages I found myself thinking of the massive green, white, and yellow megabits as Koopa himself, not just parts of the image I was creating. I was right there with Mario, jumping over fireballs and hammers even as my hand was moving colored blocks around the touch screen. It’s a sense of immersion that you very rarely ever get from a puzzle game and totally justified the $5 price tag for me, even if it’s not the most content-rich experience on the DS.

As good as it is, Art Style: PiCTOBiTS isn’t going to drive anyone to spend $170 on another Nintendo DS system. Playing straight through the fifteen stages is only going to take a few days of bite-sized play sessions and though there’s a lot of unlockable stuff, it’s not going to appeal to everyone. The music player, with seventeen tracks to unlock (each with alternate renditions) is only for the truly geeky and the Dark versions of each stage are so frantic and challenging that most players are unlikely to struggle through more than one or two. However, it’s pretty much inevitable that we’re all going to upgrade to a DSi at some point and no matter what has hit the service in the meantime, Art Style: PiCTOBiTS will always be one of my top recommendations on the DSiWare store.

Another DSi-to-3DS transfer video

We got 3DS XL’s a few weeks ago and I finally got around to transferring PictoBits and Aquia from Katy’s DSi to my 3DS. It went well once I figured out I needed to download a transfer app on the DSi as well. Then the Pikmin were all heave-ho about moving the games over and then it was done. The only thing that didn’t make it were the game saves but — oh well — now I get to play through PictoBits again!