99 Moves (DSiWare) Review – “A Move in the Right Direction?”

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EnjoyUp Games’ next installment in the “99” series of games is another pick-up-and-play title aimed at quick, simple fun on the DSiWare platform. Somewhat similar to their other game, Abyss, 99 Moves plays like a cross between Snake and Boulderdash with puzzle elements. Does 99 Moves move the casual market on the eShop forward or backward?

To find out, let’s explore 99 Moves’ gameplay dynamics. Like Abyss, 99 Moves has 12 levels to get through. You can use the D-Pad or Circle Pad to change your character’s heading, but he will continuously move in the direction you indicate until you change it. Each time you change his heading, one of your 99 moves – hence the name – is used up. You need to try to make it to the exit in each level without using up all of your moves, and this entails navigating through labyrinths with moving obstacles to avoid. You will begin to accrue points the longer you avoid hitting obstacles, and you can also run over special power-ups that will grant you 99,000 points each. It’s simple and surprisingly fun, with such a low barrier of entry that just about anyone (and their grandmother) can get into.

99 Moves follows the series’ hallmark of simple, retro-style graphics and sound, and it gets the job done without being too overt. The game uses simple Atari-style graphics and sound, and it works in a charming way. However, it’s really all about the gameplay with EnjoyUp’s games, and there’s some solid fun to be had. The missions are fairly varied, and there’s a nice sense of risk-versus-reward in the multiple paths you can choose; usually you’ll know right off the bat which path is harder to get through, but you can be sure there will be a score bonus power-up waiting at the end if you make it through. The area where 99 Moves falls short is in its replay value; there really isn’t much of it here. This is an area where many casual games thrive; the fact that you can get so much gameplay out of such a small cost. However, given 99 Moves’ one-shot nature, it makes the $1.99 price point much less appealing. The game comes with 12 missions to get through, but once you beat them, there’s very little incentive to go back to them other than to reach the top of the offline leaderboards. However, unless you share your system with a friend or family member, you’re really only competing with yourself. If EnjoyUp Games had included some sort of online leaderboard system, or a level creator / random level generator, it would have gone a long way towards improving on the game’s value.

99 Moves is a fun, simple game, but simply doesn’t deliver enough value to really make it a worthwhile purchase. It’s not to say that $1.99 is a lot of money to spend on a video game, but don’t purchase it with the expectation of getting hours and hours of gameplay out of it. If you’re okay with that fact, then 99 Moves makes a worthwhile, if short-lived, diversion.

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10= Reconsider an immediate purchase…

99 Seconds Review (DSiWare)

The Nintendo eShop is host to a whole slew of accessible casual games, and Spain-based EnjoyUp Games certainly has a few to its name, including Snowboard Xtreme and Abyss, each of which we’ve reviewed on the site. 99 Seconds is a game in a similar vein, offering up simple, enjoyable gameplay in bite-sized portions. Available for $1.99, is 99 seconds worth even one of yours?

99 Seconds is actually a sequel to another EnjoyUp title, 99 Bullets. However, rather than incorporating gunplay, 99 Seconds revolves around the manipulation of time. Your character, V-99,  has found his way into another dimension known as Bit 8, and must dodge deadly black areas of space while collecting blue power-ups to extend your time and surviving as long as possible to extend your score. The pivotal gameplay element is V-99’s ability to slow, stop, and even rewind time. Using any of the face buttons, it’s possible to go as far as reverse time in order to navigate between black spaces and collect power-ups. However, the clock will keep ticking during this time, and the more you rewind, the more your score decreases, so this pivotal ability can’t be used wantonly. Getting hit by a black zone will also stop the game for a few seconds, preventing your score from increasing but continuing the clock countdown. Power-ups will randomly appear during a game as well, giving you something to reach for other than V-99’s continued survival. Blue orbs will increase your score and grant a 10-second time extension, while collecting extra V-99’s will give a dramatic score increase. Once time is up, you’re truly running on borrowed time; after this point, you can’t use your time-rewinding powers, and getting hit one more time will end the game. You can still collect blue orbs as they appear to get a little breathing room, but at this point the end is near.

Unlike Abyss, 99 Seconds’ gameplay lends itself well to a mobile title, and is very reminiscent of retro-style arcade games. With a simple premise and controls, 99 Seconds is one of those titles you can easily play if you have a few minutes handy, yet presents an addictive challenge that’ll have you coming back for more. The game features three difficulty options – Easy, Medium, and Hard – and each presents a totally different challenge. While you may be dodging obstacles with ease on Easy, you’ll just barely be holding on in Hard mode. Each mode is infinitely replayable and comes with its own leaderboard, though without any online posting options you’ll be setting out to beat your own record unless you share your DS or 3DS with another. The game’s visuals and audio are fairly middle-of-the-road, and while they may not do much to stand out, they actually fit the game’s aesthetic quite well. 99 Seconds, whether intentionally or not, presents itself as a throwback to the yesteryears of retro gaming. Graphics are simple but scintillating and consist of shifting shapes and flashing color pallets. Before video games had jaw-dropping graphics and realism, it was all about the gameplay, and when it comes down to it, 99 Seconds pulls its weight in this regard.

Priced at just $1.99, 99 Seconds is a fine example of what EnjoyUp can do with a pick-up-and-play casual game on the DSi platform. The gameplay is simple but fun, boasts endless replay value, and while the graphics and sound may not be ground-breaking, they serve as a nice reminder to a time when games were about the gameplay. 99 Seconds is an enjoyable mobile game, and a good addition to any DS owner’s library.

Overall Score: 7.0 out of 10 = Buy it!

Abyss Review (DSiWare)

Spanish development studio EnjoyUp Games is going back to basics with its line of simple pick-up and play games for the DS. Check out Glacier928’s review of Snowboard Xtreme and my take on 99 Seconds for more examples of EnjoyUp’s selection. Abyss is just one title in this line, available on the Nintendo eShop for the various DS and 3DS systems for $1.99.

Abyss is one of those titles that aims to take a simple concept and run with it. In this case, you play as a cyclopean creature armed with a light beacon, set to explore a dark, watery environment. Each stage hides six “Gaia Stones” which you need to collect before heading for the exit. More than a mere obstacle to the finish, though, your light beacon will slowly diminish, and can only be rekindled by collecting Gaia Stones. Much like the game’s concept, the controls are extremely simple. You rotate in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion by pressing right or left, respectively, on the D-Pad or Circle Pad, while pushing any of the face buttons will propel your character forward. Your character accelerates forward and doesn’t come with any brakes, so mastering the game’s movement mechanics will definitely be one of the first things on your list. There aren’t any separate difficulty modes or online play to speak of; in fact, once you beat the game’s 12 missions, there’s very little reason to go back unless you’re interested in beating your best time on each mission; but without any online leaderboards, if you don’t share your system with any friends or family, you’ve really got no one to impress but yourself.

Abyss is reminiscent of the sort of casual game you might find on an iPhone or Android device at the same price point. Simple, straightforward, and easy to pick up and play, it’s difficult to touch on the game’s high points without acknowledging its shortcomings. Despite its simple premise, the game does have a slight learning curve to it. It isn’t immediately obvious what you’re supposed to do upon starting a game, and though you’ll obviously want to collect Gaia Stones as you come across them, trying to pass through the exit (which appears as a floating yellow orb) without collecting them all will result in the mission ending in failure, after which you’ll need start again from the beginning. Unlike similar mobile titles, Abyss doesn’t boast a whole lot of depth once you beat it. There isn’t a lot of replayability, and as far as I can tell, there are no plans to add more missions through downloadable content. However, given the game’s lack of depth, it’s doubtful more missions would expand on the game’s value much. That being said, it’s a fairly enjoyable game with decent graphics, simple-yet-elegant background music, and a decent deal at $1.99.

Abyss is by no means a bad game; in fact, for a studio as small as EnjoyUp Games, it’s a solid effort. That being said, it’s no Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. It doesn’t seem EnjoyUp Games was trying to be the next big thing in mobile games with Abyss, but that’s fine – as long as you don’t buy the game with the highest of expectations, Abyss will justify its $1.99 price tag and provide you with a decent amount of game for the 30 minutes to an hour it will last you.

Overall Score: 5.0 out of 10 = Reconsider an immediate purchase…

Snowboard Xtreme Review (DSiWare): “Snowboard Basics”

Through the Nintendo eShop, consumers get a chance to nab some neat miniature titles for their DSi and 3DS. In the meantime, smaller developers from around the world also get the chance to try and get themselves out there. EnjoyUp Games is an example of a small developer out to make a name for themselves, providing bite-sized, arcade-style experiences on-the-go. You may recognize the developer for their DSiWare titles such as 99Seconds, Abyss and Gaia’s Moon if you’ve ever played those. With their latest title, Snowboard Xtreme, the developers aimed to give players a quick, pickup-and-play title for only the small price of $1.99. However, does the low price point mean you should immediately pick the game up?

To be blunt, there isn’t anything “xtreme” about Snowboard Xtreme, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with it. The object of the game has you slaloming down a treacherous mountain and trying to beat the time as you progress through each “Etape” (stage). When you start, you’ll only have the Normal Course available to tackle, which consists of four stages. As you race the terrain, you’ll have to pass flags on their proper sides to add three seconds to the clock. Naturally, the further you progress in the game, the more difficult your navigation will be due to obstacles that will obstruct your path. Should you fail to reach the finish line at any stage, it’s game over and you’ll have to start over from the first stage. Luckily, each stage takes about a minute to complete so frustration rarely kicks in. Upon completing the Normal Course, you’ll unlock the Xtreme Course, which consists of eight stages. While you’ll have a higher starting time limit, the stages will be a bit more demanding, meaning that passing every flag is crucial to adding time on your clock. Early on, certain obstacles will block your path but are low enough to jump over, while others may be tall rocks and trees that you need to dodge. Later levels will have builders coming down at you, while some of them will stop right in your path to prevent you from maintaining your speed. Speaking of speed, you won’t be zipping down the trails at breakneck speeds.

When it comes to controlling your snowboarder, you’ll use the D-Pad or Circle Pad (3DS) to make your boarder sway left and right. You can’t go faster, nor slow down at all. Pressing practically any button will do the same action, jump. There’s nothing more that you’ll really do other than dodge and jump over obstacles as you progress your way to the finish line of each stage. Don’t expect to be going off of huge jumps and pulling off insane tricks. Also, there’s no other boarder you can choose from other than the default one. There’s leaderboard support but only sports for local play. There’s no online leaderboard support to speak of. Visually, the game looks ok, with windy snow effects and all. The boarder’s animations are simple but get the job done. The framerate holds up well until the final level of the Xtreme Course, which really dropped for some reason. The soundtrack is appropriate, if somewhat catchy, but a bit repetitious due to only three track being replayed over and over.

While Snowboard Xtreme is a very basic game and shows nothing “Xtreme” that the title insinuates, the game is still mildly fun. While I wish there was more to do and see, the game is only $1.99 and the content more or less justifies the price tag. You can see the entire game in just under 30 minutes but I found myself replaying it a few times over. EnjoyUp Games has a decent base here to build something more “xtreme” and would like to see a bit more depth in future titles from the developers.

Overall Score: 5.5 out of 10 = Reconsider the immediate purchase…

A special thank you to EnjoyUp Games for providing us a review code for Snowboard Xtreme!

Moto eXtreme DSiWare Review

Moto eXtreme was an interesting game to review.  It was mildly entertaining at times, but there were numerous issues with the game that make it a hard sell, especially for it’s asking price.

Moto eXtreme is a 2D physics-based platformer in which you control a dirt bike to traverse the treacherous environment, collecting stars and reaching the goal.  There are two modes of play, Trial and Constructor.

In Trial Mode, you’ll complete 32 missions in which you are ranked up to 3 stars per mission.  To earn a star, you have to complete each of the three objectives within a single run.  The objectives are simply: collect the stars, complete the level with time remaining and just plainly complete the level.  Just simply completing the mission is all you need to advance which means you can breeze through this mode within an hour or two.  In Constructor mode, it’s the same concept but with a twist.  You have to use your stylus to draw surfaces for your dirt bike to drive on.  Think Kirby Canvas Curse, except not as fleshed out and polished as that.  Constructor mode will certainly take you longer to complete because of this but mainly because the controls are extremely awkward.  Controlling the bike alone with the buttons is cumbersome enough thanks to a lack of precision of how your bike handles.  Now make it more cumbersome by controlling the bike strictly with the D-pad and the L-button to do a 180-turn along with the stylus in your right hand drawing surfaces in mid-air for your bike to utilize.  Sound cramping?  It sure is.

The problem with handling the bike is that it reacts in jerky motions as opposed to smooth movement.  For a game that’s all about precision, it’s just an odd control method.  Another annoyance is that every time you start a mission or restart at a checkpoint, the bike is always facing the left side of the screen…which is usually the wrong way.  Would it have hurt to refine this to “face the direction you’re supposed to go?”  Another weird graphical feature is that the bike is only colliding with the environment if the tires touch objects, but if a back tire is split between the bottom of a platform and the front tire is above an object, the object will ride right through the bike and rider itself.  You also have a grappling hook that you can use to grab stars and also pull yourself towards the top of a ceiling but it strictly shoots diagonally and is a mess to use.

Bottom line, is Moto eXtreme worth the $7.99?  Not really.  It’s an interesting concept that would’ve worked well had it been more refined but it’s not.  I did have fun with it at times, but ultimately the game was more of a chore in the long run.

Verdict:  Don’t Buy It!