It used to be that a video game compilation was a thing to avoid. Because the 8- and 16-bit cartridges were so small, video game compilations were full of small, buggy games that sacrificed quality in order to have quantity. Then things changed. Thanks to the invent of CDs and DVDs (and even UMDs), game companies were finally free to load up their discs with as many games as they could fit, all without worry of the quality. Unfortunately Nordcurrent's newest game, 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix, takes us back to bad old days of the Action 52 and other half-assed video game compilations.
With more than one hundred mini-games at your hands you would think that it wouldn't be that hard to find at least a few that are fun to play. But you would be wrong. It seems like each and every one of the game's 101 mini-games has something about it that makes it difficult to enjoy. Sometimes its control problems, other times it's the time limit and sometimes it's just because the mini-games aren't fun on any level. Regardless of what it is, you would be hard pressed to actually find more than one or two games in this collection you would want to come back to more than once.
Of course, the game doesn't actually give you 101 games at first. Instead you get ten simplistic mini-games where the object is to score as many points as you can to advance. The game's very first mini-game is a variation of basketball, where you use your stylus to throw a ball into a 2D hoop. That's followed by an air hockey rip-off, a game where you juggle hoops in the air and a game that is all about skewering sushi. Despite all of these games being completely different, they are all united in the fact that they just aren't any fun to play.
To unlock the rest of the games you will have to beat the game's high scores and buy the other 91 games one by one. The problem with this method is that often times you will have no idea what you're paying money for. Will it be a mini-game that you like or something you hate? Unfortunately more often than not I found that the choice was between a game that I was indifferent to and one that I absolutely loathed with every fabric of my very being.
When you think of a game like 101-in-1 it's hard not to immediately compare it to Nintendo's hugely popular Wario Ware franchise. But these aren't the "Mega MicroGames" you're used to from all of those good games. Instead what we get are glorified tech demos. Each of the 101 games has a very simple goal and feels like a good way to show off what the Nintendo DS can do. Having attended so many different trade shows and game conventions, I know a tech demo when I see one, and these are definitely tech demos. This is the type of game you would expect to see at the Nintendo DS launch, not four years later. By now everybody is used to looking at two screens and touching their way to victory.
Regardless of whether these games are tech demos or not, the problem is that they aren't fun. Too many of the ideas are repeated and the best games feel like nothing more than rip-offs of other, better games. It doesn't matter which game you buy with your fake in-game money, you're going to end up being bored no matter what.
If it was just a collection of misguided tech demos that would be one thing, but a lot of these games have serious problems. Let's take the very first game as an example, in this 2D basketball exercise you are supposed to draw a line to the hoop in order to score a point. Unfortunately the ball's physics seem to change randomly ultimately making it more frustrating than fun. Later on you will be asked to juggle a soccer ball, but I had problems with the game registering my stylus tap. This problem persisted through a number of the uninspired mini-games, making it extremely difficult to earn the high scores the game is demanding.
But even when the touch screen is working perfectly the mini-games aren't much fun. The game seems to be under the impression that anything you interact with on a screen is intrinsically fun. But that's just not the case. Too many of these mini-games require you to just perform repetitive tasks for an extended amount of time. There are very few actual brain teasers in this lot; instead we get a surprising amount of games where you're supposed to dodge things. And when it's not dodging things, it's juggling various objects. Or memorizing what you see on the top screen. And so on so forth, each of the title's 101 games feels like work, not fun.
This was not one of those games where I got more and more excited as I went from one exercise to the next. Instead I had the exact opposite reaction. I jumped into this game hoping for the best, knowing that with 100 games there was bound to be a handful that would make it all worthwhile. And then a funny thing happened as I continued to unlock new mini-games; I found myself almost dreading what would come next. After awhile I knew that no matter what game I uncovered, it wasn't going to make me want to keep going. And then, around three quarters of the way through, I just couldn't take it anymore. There was no way I was going to go back and play through those 75 games again in order to better my scores and finally unlock the remaining experiences. I would rather have this Explosive Megamix actually explode than go back through these barely playable mini-games.
And then, as if it was a sign from a higher being, tragedy struck. I let somebody else play the game, just to make sure I wasn't being overly critical. Instead of continuing from my game, my buddy decided to start a new game to keep track of his own high scores. There's just one problem: when you start a new game, the old one gets permanently erased. Gone were my hours of hard work. Gone were all of my high scores and unused money. Gone, it was all gone.
The good news is that it got me over the stupid obsession I had about finally earning all 101 games. The moment I saw my game go up in flames I knew that I would never go through this game ever again. And that's when it hit me, I couldn't think of even one mini-game I wanted to go back and earn. I couldn't think of one exciting moment that made me cheer. Instead the only reaction I had was relief. Relief that I had beaten a level; relief that I never had to play this game ever again.
The game's presentation is what you would expect from a budget Nintendo DS game. The music is generally bad and the graphics are as simplistic as the mini-games themselves. There's a multiplayer mode, but it's no better than the single-player mode. Plus, I doubt you will ever find another person out in the real world packing this rotten game card (and even if you do, they certainly won't admit to owning it). This is just a bunch of random tasks dressed up to look like video games, but even the biggest newbie knows that this isn't a real game.
I'm sure that there will be a lot of people that won't be able to resist the appeal of having 101 different games all on one game card, but I would have rather had one really amazing experience than played 101 terrible games. It's a problem when I can't even think of one mini-game I would play independent from 101-in-1. Nordcurrent may have been aiming for Wario Ware, but what it really got was the 21st century version of the Action 52. And needless to say, that's a mighty low bar to hit.
It's 101 mini-games in one ... what could go wrong? For starters, none of the games are much fun. Couple that with the fact that many of the games have terrible control problems and you have one of the worst Nintendo DS games of the year. I would be hard pressed to name even one of the 101 games that I would recommend independent from this lousy product!