Thursday, May 23, 2013

The eShop Minute - Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS)

The Nintendo eShop is overflowing with affordable, top quality releases, especially on the 3DS.  The Wii U equivalent has some catching up to do but it is getting there with a steady stream of Virtual Console titles coming out each Thursday.  However, my first entry in this new semi regular series is a a portable one...

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move
Nintendo 3DS eShop | £8.99

Mario is back yet again in this latest entry in his puzzle game series.  Unlike the previous Mario vs Donkey Kong games though, Minis on the Move does not use platforming as its foundation as is instead similar to the classic Pipemania (or Pipe Dreams).  At least on the surface - in fact, Nintendo brings quite a few new elements to the template.

The main game is made up of four different modes, each with their own rulesets.  First up is Mario's main event, where your task is to take the little wind up Mario figure to the exit whilst collecting 3 coins on the way.  In this mode, the track that you lay out to guide Mario is random, and should the green pipe fill up with puzzle pieces or Mario fall off along the way it's game over.  In theory the 3 coins are optional goals, but you will really want to get them on every level because only then will you earn a star, which unlocks more mini games and options as you go along.

The second game mode is Puzzle Palace, and for me at least this is the easiest and mode laid back of the four. This time the track pieces are pre defined, and the time limit is much more relaxed. As long as you don't lay down a track piece next to your mini Mario (or one of the unlockable characters), then they won't start advancing towards the goal, so it is a good idea to work backwards from the goal.

Third up is Many Mini Mayhem, where like the title implies, you have multiple mini characters to manage at once.  The track is all placed on the board already this time, and it's up to you to slide it around so that the minis don't fall off.  As their paths criss cross regularly, this is easier said than done, and this mode quickly gets quite challenging!

The difficulty of Many Mini Mayhem is nothing compared to the challenged offered by the final main mode though: Giant Jungle.  These are huge puzzle boards, and each one is home to 10 stars to collect on the way to the goal.  Your main enemy in this mode will be the time limit though, and you will constantly have to collect clocks to top it up along the way.  I don't advise trying to pick up all 10 stars in one go - just aim for a few on each run.  You have to reach the goal before these stars are banked anyway.

There are over 160 levels in total over these modes, but the game is bolstered even further by a selection of unlockable mini games.  These are fun diversions but nothing particularly advanced.  It is nice to have something to do when the puzzle modes have you stumped though.  Finally there is Create & Share mode, where you can create your own puzzles and download those thought up by other people on the Nintendo Network.

If you're a fan of puzzlers then this is an easy recommendation.  For a small price you get a lot of game play - in fact this sort of title could quite easily have been a full priced retail release in the past. I have no hesitation in saying that you should definitely pay the £8.99 asking price for this one.

Here's a great video overview of the game from one of the many YouTube channels I subscribe to, GameXplain:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Commodore Classics #2: Little Computer People

This time I would like to ramble on for a few paragraphs about Little Computer People, which is a piece of software I used to load up on a fairly regular basis and just basically enjoy an hour or so mucking about with it. The basic concept is that upon loading, the little computer person himself moves into a virtual house that is displayed on the screen. It comes complete with all the rooms and amenties that you would expect of a standard abode from the 1980's - kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, a little office with a computer of some kind, and a mysterious door at the top of the house that the little chappy is always going in and out of for some reason. Maybe it's a magical portal to the land of Narnia, maybe it's where our tiny serial killer hides the dismembered body parts of his victims? Who knows.

It is not really accurate to describe LCP as a game, as there is no objective or what you could consider to be game play. Instead, you enter instructions via the keyboard which the resident of the house may or may not decide to listen to, and you can also issue keyboard commands that cause food, books or records to be delivered to the door of the house. The main draw of the game is simply watching the little digital chap go about his daily life. He may decide to do some star jumps, he may pop a record on and do the funky chicken, or he might just write you a letter and either thank you for keeping him well supplied in food and water, or complain that you aren't taking care of him.

Will Wright has said that LCP was an influence on The Sims, and you can certainly see the likeness. While it may not keep you entertained for long periods of time, it is packed full of charm and is worth firing up from on the odd occaision. I have many fond memories of coming home from school and mucking about with the software before moving on to something more "hardcore" (cringe).

That's it for another edition of Commodore Classics! I hope that I will manage to get the next one up a bit quicker. I am also toying with the idea of doing similar videos/articles for NES, SNES, Mega Drive and Master System games, as well as having some more Wii Hidden Gems for you. Until then, happy gaming!

You can download the Little Computer People game files here, or the VICE C64 emulator here.