My Lego Castle & Pirate Set Photos

Introduction

In this post I’m going to post some pictures.  There are 16 photos of my Castle collection, and 10 Pirate.  Enjoy.  This is about all the Pirate photos I could post, but I could post plenty more closeups of castle sets.

I apologize for the bad photography.  I am not a photographer, as anyone who sees these pictures will immediately be able to tell.  Ah well, hopefully the intent comes across.

King’s Mountain Fortress

I decided to start this photo-article with a bunch of pictures focusing on one set, King’s Mountain Fortress.  I got this set last year and reviewed it previously.  It’s a set that has major design problems but I love anyway, something about it is just great to look at.  I could fit this set onto the castle Lego table but for now I don’t want to, I like having it here by my computer to look at.  Also seen in these pictures: Viking Voyager (the long ship head on in the first picture), King’s Oarsmen (the smaller blue-bottomed boat), and the Town Wall Tavern / Guarded Inn (my favorite midsize Lego set ever and my only other set with a Crusaders wall segment).

King's Mountain Fortress

Even though I only got this set last year, and I fully acknowledge its many design flaws, this set has quickly become one of my favorites in my collection. It does not quite get into my top three because of its design problems, but if you try to ignore them and just look at it as a model I love the way this set looks. It’s a small castle on top of a mountain, with a gatehouse and guarded tower up a slope from the gate. This set reminds me in some ways of the great castle on the poster above, Hochosterwitz. Hochosterwitz is probably my favorite castle that I have been to myself, and I’ve had this poster up ever since. It is a castle with a long series of gates and a palace-ish fortress on top of the hill. The building on top of the hill is not the most impressive thing, but the long path and the many gates is just amazing. King’s Mountain Fortress, with its gate, hill, and tower, has some superficial similarities to Hochosterwitz. I put the set in this location before realizing this, but one I saw it I knew I had to keep this set here, and not over with the rest of the castle collection. Despite its problems I love this set. Also seen in this image are the Viking Voyager and King’s Oarsmen boats.

King's Mountain Fortress - Reverse

King’s Mountain Fortress is photogenic when viewed from the front, but from the back it is not very good looking at all. You have that bizarre giant jail door like door on the back of the tower, the extremely low wall along the side of the ramp, large openings on all four sides of the lower part of the tower, no ramparts along the insides of the gatehouse and the wall connecting the tower to the gatehouse, and more… I know some of this was done for play value so you can reach into the set and such, but still it’s very much a set that looks dramatically better from the front than from the back. That jail-style door on the tower is particularly strange, I really wonder what they were thinking when they chose to put that on the set… I don’t think the lady is supposed to be locked in that tower, it has a trap door and such implying it’s a noble’s chamber with a trap door to drop an offending visitor down to the ground below, so … why?

King's Mountain Fortress - Front

This is a closeup of the front of the set. Yes, I have six Crusader horse bardings. I only had one before last year, from Twin Arm Launcher (that knight is not in this shot, he’s on the Castle Lego table), but then the King’s Mountain Fortress set I got came with five, four seen here on horses plus the loose one in the tower.  I should bring up the other big “why?” about this set, though: why are the flags blue and red?  Crusaders colors are YELLOW and red, not blue!   I have no idea what Lego was thinking, but this is an issue I will eventually correct.  Lastly, in case anyone was wondering, the wooden things in the background are reproduction beehive covers from Slovenia.

KMF attached to Guarded Inn

King’s Mountain Fortress has a pin on the middle of the ramp side to attach it to the then-standard Lego Castle system of pins which attach wall sections. This set’s release year of 1990 would end up being the last year this design system was used, but it is a nice inclusion for attaching it to the many ’80s to ’90 sets which can attach… Except that, as you see here, the results are quite silly looking. The wall of the Town Wall Tavern (Guarded Inn) is actually ABOVE the wall of the side of the castle along the ramp! That’s just comically out of scale, the town wall should be far below that of the mountain castle…

connection

Here you can more clearly see how much taller the regular town/castle wall is than the wall of this great castle.  Things would look a little better if there was a regular wall for a while then the tavern farther down the wall, but any wall would have the same wall height issue.

The Main Castle Lego Table & Shelf

I quite recently re-organized this area by adding the shelf above the table.  The four modern ’21-’22 Castle sets are on the shelf, and the classic ’84-’10 sets are on the table below, apart from the King’s Mountain Fortress and the two Crusaders boats of course.

The Castle Lego Table

There are a lot of sets in this image so I’m not going to list them all, but they are almost all sets I reviewed in my Castle Lego review series, so go see that.   There are only a few sets not reviewed in that series, most notably my most recent purchase, the Dragon Masters castle on the center right.

The Castle Table

Here is a closer view of the table, showing most of the castle.  Yeah, it’s a lot of stuff for this medium-sized wooden desk.

The back corner.

In the back corner we have I’ve got my two Dark Forest sets, my two Wolfpack sets (their cart is behind the Town Wall Tavern), the one Castle 2010 set I have with its huge dragon, some Crusaders stuff in the center with the Town Wall Cavern and a few carts plus the Twin Arm Launcher just off shot on the bottom, and my Black Knights sets on the left.  I attached Black Knights’ Ghost to the side of the Knights’ Stronghold even though the connection is not straight because they have the attachment points so why not, right?  What else would you attach either of these sets to?  The only other Black Knights set with attachment pins is their first castle, which I don’t have and if I did would keep as a closed circuit anyway.

Closeup around Dungeon Masters' Castle

Here you can see the front of the Dungeon Master’s Castle up close.  I could do a series of images of that set sometime, it is one of Lego’s greatest design accomplishments.  In front of it are two of the Crusader carts, the Twin Arm Launcher, the back of the Black Falcon’s Fortress, and something you could not see from the full shot, the Black Falcons’ guardhouse.  I’ve always liked that set for some reason, probably because of how long I’ve had it for… but of course, like a lot of people I was definitely a Black Falcons fan.  And yes, I do wish that I had taped the Black Falcon flag to a black flagpole, but too late now, that old tape would probably ruin the flag if I tried to take it off.

Dragon Masters

Here in the middle front of the table is my Dragon Masters collection, now significantly expanded with their castle, Fire Breathing Fortress, that I just got last month.  It’s a set I had never seen in person before buying, but based on looking at it have always had mixed feelings for; it’s an okay fortress but there is almost no internal space in the castle other than that in the dragon’s den, there is no wall walk over the front door, there’s no wall at all along the hillside, that giant dragon head over the hill is silly looking, and more.  On the other hand though, it has a staircase going to the upper level!  That’s rare in Lego and is fantastic to see.   I will write my thoughts out about this set in more detail in a separate review but as much as I like the Dragon Masters as a theme, and I do — I’ve always liked the Dark Dragon’s Den (left front) and their other sets I got back then — but their main castle… it’s okay but is certainly not one of Lego’s best.  Otherwise, yes, I have two Dragon Wagons and two of their crossbow cart sets as well.

Dragon Masters - closeup

This closeup shows the two Crossbow Carts, along with some of the Dragon Masters knights in their cool capes and horses with the neat dragon headpieces.

Royal Knights

In this corner you find my Royal Knights collection.  This is every single Royal Knights set, excepting only the Royal Knights carriage from Dark Forest Fortress, a set I sadly do not have ($$$!).  I’ve always liked the Royal Knights, I think the theme deserved more sets.  They have a great aesthetic and mostly good designs too; the Royal Drawbridge particularly gets way too much hate!   In the upper right you will also see my one Knights Kingdom I set, with the two little towers.  I’m sorry for the dust but the Royal Knights Castle is a set I got new and have left assembled ever since, it is far too great to take apart…

Forestmen

My two classic Forestmen sets are in the opposite corner of the table from their later Wolfpack and Dark Forest followups.  The tower is the one Forestmen set I got as a kid, and it’s great to see it assembled again after decades of being in pieces.  The River Fortress is another one of those sets that is one part amazing and one part deeply flawed, with a fantastic looking exterior and literally no interior of any note.  That’s the kind of mistake modern Lego would never make.  It still looks great on the outside, though.

Vikings

This currently available Creator set is my only Vikings set, since I do not have any sets from the original Vikings line; I was not buying Lego sets anymore at that point.  It’s a nice set, though huge compared to the little Viking Voyager or medium-sized Sea Serpent… heh.  It’s on top of an Odyssey 2 with an old computer cover on top of it.  It’s a nice location because the uneven surface gives it a somewhat ocean wave-like feel.  I like the set.   My main issue with it is that I like more realistic theming better, and that giant sea dragon is not realistic.  Similarly, I don’t like the dragon that comes with the [Black Falcons’] Creator Castle that is also still on the market, that’s not like the ’80s sets at all!  If you look at the first picture of this section you will see where I put it, it’s not by the castle.  Ah well.

Elves

I got a few Lego Elves sets over the past year, most notably Ragana’s castle, and put them here, on top of a dresser full of cartridge games, along with a bunch of my Atari 2600 and Intellivision games.  The Elves line is from the ’10s and was aimed at girls, so I was definitely not in the target audience and didn’t know about the line while it was available, but looking back at them they have some pretty interesting set design ideas in some of them.  I like how Ragana’s fortress has some classic Lego design elements, such as the flipping bridge, the exploding prison, and the catapult that the good elves have to besiege the fortress with.   The catapult is sadly just out of frame to the right. The fortress is mostly good looking, too.  It is just a facade and not a full castle, but still it looks nice.  As a castle fan I don’t know that I like what I have seen of any of the other Elves sets as much as this fortress, since I don’t think that most of the rest are nearly as Classic Castle-like as this one…

 

            Pirates

And last, here are my Pirates sets.  As I said in my Pirate set review article, I’ve got a bunch of the first wave sets, though sadly still not El Dorado Fortress, two Islanders sets, and that’s it; I do not have any of the Imperial Guards sets or their pirate counterparts, any of the last classic wave, or any of the reboot pirate sets Lego has made here and there.  There are some good ones I perhaps should have gotten, but I’ve always thought that while the Black Seas Barracuda is an absolutely exceptional set, when I’ve already got one this amazing do I really need some almost-certainly-inferior other ships alongside it?  I’d rather spend my money on other things; Lego ships are expensive, after all.

With that said, I know it’s discontinued now but I really should get Pirates of Barracuda Bay, along with El Dorado Fortress and more sets from the first wave.  As for the sets of ’92 to ’97 or the other two Pirate reboots, though … eh, maybe someday if I had more space to display Legos in, but I really do like the first wave of Pirate set designs the best.

 

Before Reconstruction

Until last year, this was my Pirates collection, pretty much.   This shipwreck-like construction was the result of my first attempt at re-constructing the Black Seas Barracuda; I got the base of the set fixed up, though a lot of this always was assembled, but failed to find the pieces for the rest of it.  I would try again in ’22 with much greater success.

All Pirate Sets

This is all of my Pirates sets now.  It’s not a large collection but they are all sets I like a lot and got back when they were new.

Forbidden Island front

Forbidden Island is the set of these in the worst shape, it’s missing a lot of pieces… but considering how long I’ve had this set for and that it has been disassembled for a long time, when I built it again I was more surprised that I actually found as many of the parts as I did.   The middle section of the mast is the big thing missing, along with non-broken palm leaves.

Imperials & Islanders

Here is a closer shot of the Imperial and Islanders sets. I really like the Islanders catamaran and the Broadside’s Brig set.  The rotating cannon platform on the small boat is also a fun design.  I wish I had one more cannon

Display location

Here is where I keep these sets.  Yes, it’s the same spot where the “shipwreck” Black Seas Barracuda used to be.   This shows closer-up imagery of the Islanders sets.  As I said in my Pirates set review article, thematically the Islanders make absolutely no sense whatsoever since they are clearly South Pacific islander-themed in a series mostly about Caribbean Pirates, but at least they are reasonably accurate-ish south seas islanders, as far as costuming and such goes. Is this Lego’s only ever shirtless female minifigure torso?  There are definitely ‘are these designs made by Europeans accurate representations of Oceanic people?   Probably not?’  questions to be asked for sure.

The Two Ships

And to conclude, a series of images of the main event as far as pirates go, the two pirate ships of the first wave.   They look great after all these years.  The Imperial ship is missing some parts, such as its string that goes over the top, and the Pirate ship’s front mast is probably permanently crumpled and its back hinge does not stay up anymore, but otherwise they look great.

Blue

Here is a closer-up view of the other ship, the Caribbean Clipper.  It’s an okay ship but is a much simpler design than its larger sibling. I think they cut back a bit too much here.  I know a good number of parts are missing from this set, but most of the set is here.

Clipper closeup

Here you can see the interior of the ship, or lack thereof.  There isn’t even a deck in this ship, just the base of the hull inside!   It’s pretty cheap looking compared to the Black Seas Barracuda.   There isn’t a door on the back cabin either.

Barracuda closeup

In comparison, the spectacular Black Seas Barracuda has decks around the sides of the gunwell and a cabin in the back.   There isn’t much in the cabin but at least it’s there, with a floor and a pair of nice double doors.  Access into the cabin is easy too, as the back and top of the cabin both are hinged, along with those two double doors into the middle of the ship as well.   The cargo hoist on a hook, hanging in the center, is yet another of the many nice touches this ship has.   Oh, I do have a couple of extra pirate figures on this ship, you have a few on top of the eight that came with the set originally.

The rigging

And lastly, a full shot of the Black Seas Barracuda’s sails.  It looks awesome.   I wish that front sail could be un-crimpled, but otherwise it looks great and the cloth sails have held up very well.   This is one of the only pirate ships with double-side-printed cloth sails, too; pretty much any modern one has printing on the sail on only one side.

 

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A Super Mario Maker 2 My Levels Update

What, nobody other than me was asking for this?  Well, sorry, but I was so here it is.  My last MM2 levels update was last March, and since then I have made several levels.  I would, honestly, make more if the game was more lively and more people were playing the game and thus my levels got more plays and clears, like they did when I first started making levels, but it’s fun making and uploading levels regardless.  I hope eventually they all get cleared.

Thinking about these stages from the past year, most have more basic theming than my earlier stages, mostly being about jumping between platforms hovering over a void.  Some are similar in concept, though each is different in its details.  I am fine with that though, since there still are sections with good theming and design, and what makes Mario so, so special is the platform jumping that these stages are all about.  I am making what I love about this game.

 

After Cat Claw Clinging, my next level was Spike’s Peak, which I made in May ’22.  It is sadly still uncleared.  With a just under four minute clear check time this is another long level, but I loved making it; this is one of my favorite stages that I have made for sure.  This is a Super Mario World level, and it’s my first SMW level to make use of more of that games’ unique design elements; Jumps and Flight used the P-balloon, but that’s it.  This stage, however, has a lot more, including spin-jumping, Yoshi, and more.  It’s not a cape-flight stage but instead is a jumping-between-platforms-while-fighting-enemies stage, but that’s how I like it.  There is a P-balloon section, and it’s a bit tricky, but most of the level is standard platforming. I love it.

The theme for this level is that you are climbing up a mountain, so most of the stage is a vertical sub-world.  The main world is flat of course, but almost all platforms are uphill slopes, which adds a somewhat original touch to the stage as most platforms have a Spike throwing spike balls at you on top of that slope.  Some mix things up for a Hammer Bros. or some other enemy.  I love platform jumping and this level does it well, but I also like the variety of scenarios I put in the stage as you go along, each area is different.  There is a part where you have to go through a couple of jumping challenges to get some red coins, a puzzle involving spin-jumping on Thwomps in a specific way in order to get to a high platform across the section, that aforementioned P-flight section, and more.  At the end there’s a little mini boss fight, but if you have a powerup you can just damage boost through.  If you don’t it’s tricky, though.  Either way is fine.  I think this is a great level and I hope people play it, it’s got good theming and variety while mostly being a traditional jumping-and-fighting stage.  It’s a good challenge but is certainly beatable.  And yes, there are two checkpoints.  This is one of my favorite levels that I’ve made.  The code is XLC-RJ1-PYF.

 

Next, a bit frustrated at how few of my recent levels had clears, I tried to make an easier level in the hopes it’d get cleared.  It’s not EASY, mind you, but it is easier… and that paid off, as Blue Cavern does have clears.  It has six clears and only one heart, sadly, but I at least like it.  I uploaded this level in July ’22.  The concept here basically was to make something somewhat like Spike’s Peak but easier and in the game theme I’ve used the most by far, Mario 3.  My clear check here was 1:12, so it’s a much shorter stage than Spike’s Peak, but the basic idea of going up sloped or flat platforms is the same.  As I was trying to make it easier most of these platforms do not have an enemy at the top, but there are still a few foes to get in your way, and some of the jumps are tricky.  Once you get to the second checkpoint, you fight a bunch of enemies on a platform and then take flight with the Racoon Tail.  The platform is a bit too short to reach P-speed, though, so you have to run back from the end of the platform, jump a little, turn around in the air, run the other way, and jump off in flight.  It’s easy enough once you figure it out, but I wanted a little added challenge there.  The flying section’s challenging, as you need to fly through openings in spike walls without touching the spikes, but at its end is the goal.    This is a good, solid platformer level in the style I like best: jumping between platforms over a pit, with some unique features.  I think it’s good and it accomplished what I set out to do in making something a bit like Spike’s Peak but shorter and less hard.  Play it.  The code is 5V3-0FP-S9G.

 

After this, in September ’22 I went back to Cat Claw Clinging’s concept and did something similar to Blue Cavern: I made a second, easier stage in Cat Claw II.  As a cat suit level it is naturally a Mario 3D World stage; I love 3D World in this game as a setting, it’s my second favorite setting after Mario 3 for sure!  This level is a short, under 40 second long “don’t touch the ground or you lose” level, with the same clear condition as the last one.  “You can’t jump” levels with this clear condition are usually miserably boring, but “stay in the air” ones can be pretty good.  I think that the two Cat Claw levels are pretty similar in quality, except the first was 53 seconds long and this is 39, and the main things cut were some of the trickier jumps.  You won’t find the can-be-hard enemy lineups in this one, for instance.  I think this level is good, but it follows the first ones’ format a bit too closely; it’s even got a ‘go through the walled area’ section at about the same point in the course.  Even so, it’s a good level and it’s quite unfortunate that it has no clears.  The first Cat Claw Clinging has no clears either, still, by the way.  Ah well, what can you do?  I think these are good levels, there just aren’t enough people playing the game anymore.  As with most of my levels it is in that middle ground where it isn’t hard enough for kaizo players to be interested but isn’t easy enough for less skilled players to have a chance at clearing it, but I’d think that there would be a fair number of us in this category, people who may enjoy watching the top players play kaizo levels on Twitch or Youtube but aren’t good enough to have much of a chance at them ourselves.  Anyway, do try this stage, it’s good solid platforming fun / frustration, with a moderately challenging difficulty.  The code is N72-G1Q-XWG.

 

Next, in November I realized something bad, 8 – Your Castle At Last (2-4), a level from the previous article in this series and one of my most involved creations, had some BAD softlocks at the end.  I don’t like re-uploading old stages to fix problems in them because it resets the clock on plays and clears and likes and all that and with how few people are playing the game most stages would never get back to their current numbers of likes and plays and such, but in this case, with an uncleared level with softlocks, I had to fix the problem so I did.  While re-uploading it after correcting the awful softlocks in the castle at the end I probably should have made the Bowser fight easier — the floor you need to get him to break through really is at least one layer too thick — but I didn’t, to preserve the original idea.   Sorry.  It IS supposed to be the end of the game, so the final boss should be hard, right?  At least for the player it’d be a bit less awful since you’d get a checkpoint right before the fight… it’s mostly frustrating for having to clear the level from the beginning, heh.  But anyway, it’s re-uploaded now, identical to before but now without softlocks and with a slightly altered level name.  The code is MVS-L49-52G.  I edited this code into the first review of the stage as well.

 

In January ’23 I made my first actual new level since September, Winter Jumping Fun.  This is yet another stage in the style of the Cat Claw Clinging levels, so yes it is another 3D World level.  There is no clear condition this time, but you will mostly be in the air. It’s an about one minute long stage with a mixture of platform jumping, and jumping to trees and such.  I wanted to make another mid-difficulty stage, one that has some challenge to it but is much less of an ordeal than my harder levels, and I accomplished that.  Some of this is like Cat Claw Clinging, some like Spike’s Peak with some slope platforms and a jump to a platform directly above the one you are standing on, and the last bit is entirely original with a slight puzzley bit.  This isn’t the most original stage for sure, most of my levels are quite thematically similar in being about jumping between floating platforms while maybe fighting enemies or maybe not doing that, but Mario is great first and foremost because of its platform jumping so all I can say is that what I make is what makes Mario great: the rewarding brilliance of the Mario physics, characters, objects, and more, in a setting where the main focus is on platforming.  But not many people play Mario Maker 2 anymore, so the level has only had three plays… thankfully one of them by someone who cleared it.  Nice.  The code is 0Q9-TTB-GHG.  Check it out if, as I do, you love Mario because it is the finest platformer game series that exists.  (Yes, this game is far from perfect and its physics have some issues such as the horrid spike hitboxes, but overall it’s a truly exceptional engine and concept nonetheless.)

 

My most recent level is Jumps and Shell Jumps.  I uploaded this stage in early April this year.  I decided to finally put some shell jumps in a level of mine, since I’d learned how to do this trick a little while back but had held off on putting it into stages since that definitely reduces your potential playerbase, most average players will have no idea how to get past a wall you can only get over with a shell jump.  Even so, better or more dedicated players, such as a lot of the people still playing this game, like them and I do find basic shell jumps somewhat fun, so I built a level with some.  The basic idea here is that this level is one part a fairly standard stage of mine with jumps between small platforms, and one part standard shell jumps.  There are no advanced shell trick jumps here because I’m not very good at all at most of those, just regular ‘throw the shell at the wall with just the right timing to bounce on it and get to the top of the wall’, so this should be beatable by anyone like me with intermediate skill at the game but who does know the shell jump.  This is another shorter level and just over a minute; I intentionally made it short to try to keep away from my tendency to make really long levels that I like but many others seem to dislike.

This level is mostly about regular or shell jumps, but there is one section with some P-switches.  I thought about putting a P-switch jump in this level, that is a jump where you have to drop a P-switch midair and jump off of it, but those are frustratingly hard tricks to pull off in this game.  I CAN do them and did multiple times while working on the level, but I’m so inconsistent at it and find them so frustrating that I decided to back off on that and lower the wall a bit so people like me who aren’t very good at that can find a different way up; it will take a little longer but works much more reliably than those awful P-switch drop jumps.  Heh.  Anyway, overall I like this level.  I don’t think it’s one of my best stages, but it’s a decently solid level and an alright first attempt at a shell jump (/ platforming) stage.  It has a clear, which is nice for this year of “who still plays Mario Maker 2 anymore, anyway?”, so I guess making something a bit more technically challenging, as the shell jump is, was a good idea.  The code is 9LT-M1G-XGF.

 

And that’s my most recent stage so far, though I am sure that I will make more levels.  I may make my next stage soon, I’m thinking about it.  Mario Maker 2, flaws and all, is still one of the greatest experiences ever and I will always love it.

 

 

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer

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INTRODUCTION
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This is a guide for how to use an old computer platform that I have had an interest in for some time now.  I wrote a Game Opinion Summaries list for some TI99 carts something like a decade ago on this site, and I covered it in Console Opinion Summaries (I should continue that series sometime…). but while I haven’t done any more articles here about the TI99 other than thise, I have added to my collection for the system and used it a fair amount.  I even have a PEB now, as of last year!

To be clear though, when I say that this guide is a beginner’s guide, I mean beginner.  This guide is for basic operation of this old, late ’70s to early ’80s computer line from the well-known chipmaker Texas Instruments.  Anyone who knows how to use the TI99, as any longtime owner surely does, won’t get anything from this guide, but for anyone who just decided to buy one for some reason or who found one at a thrift store and bought it on a whim or something like that, perhaps this guide could be useful.

In this guide I will cover the design and ports on the computer, the basics of how to use its “operating system”, and cover how to use software via cartridge and cassette.  For more complex operation, such as with modern flash carts or for usage of the Peripheral Expansion System (PEB) or other such accessories, look for help elsewhere.  I might write a second guide someday if there is interest, but before getting to that point someone needs to know the basics, and that is what this is for.   There is definitely value here, I think — this system is not like a modern PC, there is a lot to learn for anyone who wants to use one without much background in early computers.

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USING THE TI99/4A COMPUTER
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The TI-99/4A has two revisions.  The first is black and silver, and the second beige.  I strongly prefer the look of the first model, since its black and shiny silver look is pretty cool.  It’s a style which holds up well.  The second model, however, with its bland beige color, may be more in the emerging style of 1980s computers, but definitely looks much blander as far as I’m concerned.  Regardless, as far as function the two are mostly the same.  There is one revision of the second model which add a lockout to try to block third-party cartridges from working, though, which would be annoying.  A model one system will definitely avoid that issue.  So, I recommend a model one TI99/4A.  It was first released in 1981.

Regardless of the one you have, though, this computer is an enhanced version of the TI99/4, a rare computer released in 1979. TI99/4A systems are fairly common, but the first model is quite uncommon.  I have never seen one in person.  Some carts are compatible with the original /4 and also the 4A, while others only work with a 4A, and you can’t necessarily tell by looking at the cart which systems it works with though black carts apparently are usually also /4 compatible.  Also, while 4A systems are all the same in terms of design, only the case colors and a few details change, the /4 looks distinctly different from the 4A.  It has a chiclet keyboard instead of full-sized keys for instance.  Given how rare non-4A systems are, though, this difference barely matters.  You surely got a TI99/4A of some kind, and that is the correct decision.

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Connections
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These are the ports on a TI99/4A.  TI helpfully (hah) decided to not label any ports on the case, so while some are obvious, such as the power connection, others are not.  Looking at the computer from the front, where the keyboard is:

  • The controller port is on the left side.  This 9-pin jack connects to a cable with two controllers on it.  This 9-pin port was very widely used on older consoles, but DO NOT plug anything other than a TI99/4A joystick pair or an adapter for other systems to the TI99 into it!  Even though the port is physically the same shape as the controller ports on the Atari 2600, Sega Genesis or Master System, Colecovision, Intellivision, and more, TI used a completely proprietary controller format that unfortunately uses the same port.  The TI99/4A has two controllers on a single cord which plugs in to the port on the side of the computer.  Adapters to let other controller types work on the system will always have two controller ports, so you can attach two Atari-style joysticks to that one port.  Never plug any other controller in without an adapter, they are incompatible and will not work. In the worst case it could potentially damage something. Each controller has a digital joystick and a button, so they are very simple Atari 2600-style sticks.  They are not well liked, the stick and buttons are very mushy.  They are also known for failing too often, though mine all work.  A controller adapter for Atari 2600-compatible controllers is recommended if you get into the system more.  I have one that works with Atari 2600 and Sega Master System controllers.
  • On the back of the system are the video cable port, the power jack, and, next to the power jack, the cassette port. Each cable only goes in one way. The cassette port uses a 9-pin port identical to the controller port, but they are entirely different and each must go into its correct port.  A cassette cable has the 9-pin port one one side and three connections on the other side to attach to a tape recorder.  For power, several power supplies exist but they wall work the same.  I recommend trying to find one of the ones with the brick in the middle, as opposed to the brick on the plug; brick in the middle design is much more convenient!   It has a very long cord, which is nice.Please note that for video output, the TI99/4A natively supports either RF or composite video.  For RF you must use a proprietary TI99-only manual RF switch.  They work well but the resulting image quality will be lower.  The better built-in option is composite video.  The port here is called 5-pin DIN, and the TI99/4A uses the same composite video cable as the Commodore VIC-20.   The Commodore 64 can also use this cable, but it also has its own version with more pins.  Other systems’ DIN-based video cables may not be compatible though, so make sure you are using a TI99/Vic-20 video cable and not something else.  You don’t want to potentially break the machine by plugging something in that puts the wrong thing on the wrong pin.
  • On the right side is the accessory port. It has a sliding cover so you can hide the port when you aren’t using it.  This is where the speech synthesizer or other hardware addons connect. The speech synthesizer draws power from the system so it can be left attached to the computer. Other accessories, such as the PEB or a modern mini-PEB, do need their own power supplies in almost all cases.  You always attach the speech synthesizer first and then any other accessory unit second, through the port on the side of the speech synthesizer.  The speech synthesizer isn’t cheap anymore, but it is a very cool accessory I recommend getting.  If you do have a speech synthesizer you should probably buy the cartridge Terminal Emulator II, since it includes the best speech synthesis programming feature set that TI made for the system.
  • On top of the system, software cartridges go in flat on the right side. They only go in one way, with the label facing upwards.  TI cartridges generally stay nicely clean thanks to the spring-loaded covers over the cart’s pins, so they should work without cleaning the vast majority of the time. Please note that this side of the system will get warm as the power board is underneath this flat area.The other thing on top of the computer is, of course, its keyboard.  If you get a system with a working keyboard — and make sure that the keyboard works before buying, some TI99 keyboards are infamous for being failure-prone so get a good one — you will find that is works fine but is somewhat lacking in keys.  Anyone used to a PC or Mac keyboard will definitely have a learning curve here.  Deleting text is a multi-step process, for example.  Note where the arrow keys are and how to use them (with a modifier key).  Some modifier keys are done by holding Function and pressing a number key.  All TI99s came with a metallic strip showing what each button combo does that slides in to the slot above the numbers on the keyboard.  If you don’t have this strip it is important to make your own out of something, the computer really can’t be used without that key reference strip.  Software will expect you to know how to press PROC’D (Proceed), for example, and won’t tell you that this means that you need to hit 6 while holding down the Function key.The order is: 1:DEL 2:INS 3:ERASE 4:CLEAR 5:BEGIN 6:PROC’D 7:AID 8:REDO 9:BACK 0:(empty) =:QUIT.
  • On the front end of the system you will find the the power switch and, at least on a model one system, a red power LED light showing if the system is on.  The two models have different kinds of power switches but they work the same.

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Using the Computer
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1) Plug in the power, preferably to a surge protector.  If you have the brick-in-the-middle power supply as I recommend the power cord is quite long, which is nice, as is the transformer-in-the-middle design which saves outlet space.  The brick-on-the-end power supply will work just as well if you have space for it, though.

2) Plug in the video cable.  As I covered earlier, the options for this system are RF or composite, so you want to use composite.  Use a TI99/4A and/or Commodore VIC-20-compatible video cable and NOT any other cables; even if they look similar they may have an incompatible pinout.  The TI99/4A has mono audio, so there are only two leads on the other end of the cable.  Cables may be red and white or yellow and white.  When connecting the composite video cable, the red or yellow lead should go into the video port on your composite a/v input, and the white lead into the white audio port for mono audio. If you have the cables plugged in incorrectly, it will be obvious — you will get a loud buzzing noise instead of graphics.  The TI99/4A only supports mono sound, so a stereo cable is not available.   The red audio port on your TV or A/V switch will not be used by this system.

3) Make sure the controllers or cassette recorder are plugged in if you need them for the current game or program.  You can hot swap cartridges from the system menu, but it is best to have things attached before turning it on.  More on this below.

3a) If using a cassette recorder, remember that it needs separate power from its power cord and cannot draw power from the computer.  There are some cassette-only games that are loaded from Basic (see the software’s instructions for details), but many are modules for use within the Adventure or Tunnels of Doom cartridges.  If your cassette is a module for one of those two games, the game will prompt you for when to hit Play, Stop, or Rewind on the cassette recorder.  You can use just about any cassette recorder with this system which has Microphone and Audio In jacks, but it was designed for one called the Texas Instruments Program Recorder.  I have had issues with TI Program Recorders though, so while their color-coded plugs do make connecting each cable to the correct port easy, I don’t know that I would recommend them.  Newer cassette recorders may work better.  The Remote function will probably only work on TI players, but all that does is it doesn’t let you play, rewind, or fast forward the tape unless the computer is prompting you to do it, so it’s not all that necessary.  Cassette loading is very slow, it takes several minutes to load, but so long as the tape player is working correctly and the tape is good it works.

4) Put in the cartridge you wish to use now, if you wish.  Uniquely for a cartridge-based system, you actually CAN put TI99/4A carts into and out of the system while it is running, so long as you only do so from the boot screen and boot menu, before you hit 1, 2, or some other key to start a program.  It is safe to change cartridges from the boot screen while the system is on.  However, as with all classic cart-based formats, you should never remove a cartridge while the system is running the program on that cartridge as that could damage the system or cartridge.

5) Turn on the power.  The power switch is on the front right. If you have a model one system there is a red LED showing when the system is powered on.

6) After the bootup screen, a menu will appear.  Press number key 1 to boot into TI Basic (a programming language built in to the computer), or number 2 to boot the cartridge. Some cartridges have more than one program, such as various languages for Alpiner; the menu will tell you any other options.

7) Read the software manuals for any help understanding the games; some are simple and make sense on their own, but others require reading the manual to be understood.  This is NOT a system to just ignore the instructions on, many games will not make any sense without reading the instructions.  PDFs of many TI manuals can be found at http://pixelpedant.com/.  This website has many manuals but not every single one.  Oddly enough, http://www.AtariAge.com has the most active TI99/4A web forum.

7a) If the joystick is not working correctly, make sure that the Alpha Lock key is not pressed down into the lower position.  Alpha Lock is the only key on the keyboard which can lock into a lower position, and you will be switching its position frequently.  See below.

8) If you wish to quit out of a game back to the system boot screen without turning off the power, pressing Quit (the key combination Function and =) should usually exit back out to the system menu. Then you can remove the cart and put in whatever other game or program you wish to use.

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Keyboard Basics
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  • As I said earlier, look at the keyboard and examine where the keys are. While the alphabet keys are QWERTY, otherwise its layout is very different from a modern keyboard.  It may take a little time to get used to it somewhat odd and cramped layout.
  • As I just described above, the Alpha Lock key, in the lower left hand corner, is the only key which can lock into a lower position. This is your Caps Lock key, and it changes between lower and upper case.  Note that lower case is not actual lower case letters, but is instead just smaller versions of the upper case letters.  It’s important to get used to noticing the difference between the sizes.  I wish that it was actual lower case since that would be easier to tell apart, but this works.IMPORTANT: You will often want Alpha Lock pressed into the locked down position, for upper case, when in the Basic command prompt because file names and such must be in upper case.  However, when Alpha Lock is down the joystick will not read all four directions, so it must be in the upper unlocked position when playing a game with the joystick.  Yeah, you’ll need to click this key up or down depending on what you are doing.  I’ve gotten this part wrong quite a few times, heh…
  • Many keys have an additional symbol painted onto the fronts of the keys, facing you. The arrow keys, tilde, and more are there. You use these characters or functions by holding down the Function key, in the lower right hand corner of the keyboard, while pressing the key in question.
  • The Function key also unlocks the additional functions attached to the number keys, which are shown on the plastic strip in the slot along the top of the keyboard. You access these functions the same way, hold Function down while pressing the number in question. Note that unlike Alpha Lock this key does not lock down, you need to hold it. The strip above the numbers showing what the numbers do is removable because some more complex software changes the functions of these keys away from the default.  These programs would some with their own separate strip to put in there instead.  None of the regular games or such do this, so just keep the default one in all the time.  As I said earlier, if you do not have the official one create your own in the order I listed previously.
  • The Control key is not used in Basic or in most software. It is only for programs that use multiple sets of modifier keys.  Cartridge games generally do not do that.

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Controlling the Games
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Somewhat uniquely for its time, all TI99/4A games can be controlled with either the keyboard or a joystick.  While on most other computers of its day games either require keyboard or require joystick but only sometimes support both, on this system everything can be played with the keyboard.  Action games support the joysticks as well, but they are not required.  When playing on keyboard you use the four letter keys with the arrows on them to move and Enter usually as the action button.  As you would expect you don’t need to hold down Function to use the arrow keys in most of these titles, as you would in Basic, but it is those four keys.

Again, the joysticks come two to a cable, and each stick has a digital stick and a single button on it.  Most games seem to be one player only on this system, but you do get two controllers.  Since all games also work on keyboard it makes sense that the stick is digital.  The system does have a fairly expensive and rare addon which I do not have, the Milton-Bradley MBS, that has an analog controller usable in the few games designed for it, but otherwise the TI99/4A is designed for digital controls only.  This is fine for most games on the system but is worth mentioning.  There isn’t a mouse or trackball either.  Even so, games which support joystick will usually be a bit more fun with joystick than on the keyboard.  Choose whichever you prefer, though.

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Saving Data
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Most games and software on this system do not save. Most of of its games are endless score-attack games, so if you are interested in recording progress I strongly encourage you to either write down high scores on paper or in a notebook, or take pictures of scores on a camera, phone, or such.

The two most common carts that do save data are Adventure and Tunnels of Doom.  These two cartridges are not stand-alone games, but instead are carts that you must pair with a cassette, disk, or modern storage solution-based module which has the actual game data on it.  They must save data to external media since their save data requires much more data than any internal cartridge storage could have included back then.  Adventure modules, such as the cassette Pirate Adventure which was included in the box with Adventure when people bought it new back when it first released, are text adventures with fairly limited amounts of text.  Tunnels of Doom is an ambitious dungeon crawler RPG. Tunnels of Doom is one of the system’s most impressive games and is a must-play despite the setup hassle.

As I have described several times now, there are multiple ways to save data on a TI99/4A, including to a cassette, to a floppy disk with the PEB addon, to a modern SD card based PEB addon card, or to a modern small PEB replacement plug-in unit.  While newer solutions are better than the cassette method, they are also more costly.  I would recommend starting out with this system with a basic setup, and only getting into the more expensive modern options if you like it enough to want to keep spending money on the system.  Below I will describe the process for using a cassette, since that is the original, cheapest, and simplest form of data storage the system supports.

  • When using a cassette, if using the official cassette deck, attach all three cables from the TI tape cable to the color-coded connectors on the center left side of the cassette deck.  If connecting it to a third party player or a computer, the red cable on the TI cassette cable goes to your player’s Microphone port (this is used for saving data from the TI99 to the cassette), the white cable to the Speaker or Audio Out port (this is used for loading data from a cassette to the TI), and the smaller black plug to the Remote jack if your player has a compatible one.  You only need the speaker and microphone cables, remembering the color coding from the TI tape deck; the monitor jack is optional and is only for compatible players, it simply keeps the player from working when the computer doesn’t want it to. It’s the speaker cable, for loading data to the TI99/4A, and microphone cable, for saving data to your real or virtual cassette, that are required.  You can even connect a TI cassette cable to a computer or laptop’s speaker and microphone ports if you want to load and save to or from an audio file on your computer.  You may need to adjust audio volume settings to get it loading reliably, but this works.
  • When TI Basic or the game cartridge in question asks you “where is the database?”, to load from a cassette type in CS1 and hit Enter. It will then prompt you to rewind the tape to the point you wish to start loading from. Hit Enter once there.
  • Then, it will prompt you to hit Enter and press Play. If using the official TI tape deck, you can do these in either order, since thanks to the Monitor jack cable it won’t allow the tape to start playing at the wrong time. If using a computer or a different tape recorder, simply press Enter on the TI99 and then hit Play on the tape recorder or computer as soon as you can after that. The computer-data sounds of the cassette loading will play over your TV speakers while the game loads, which should take 200 seconds for most Tunnels of Doom or Adventure modules. Yes, that’s over three minutes.
  • Once loaded, it will prompt you to hit Stop on the cassette recorder. Do so. You are now done with the cassette recorder until you want to save. Saving repeats this process, just onto a blank tape or a tape with a save game on it you want to overwrite. Don’t overwrite the original cassette, of course!  That would erase the original program unless the tape has its write-protect switch on.

Additional info: Tunnels of Doom comes with two games on the cassette or disk that came packed with the cart when originally purchased, the very basic and combat-free Pennies and Prizes and the full game Quest of the King. Read the manual for more instructions on how to play Quest for the King, which is the main draw here.  You can also find many other fanmade Tunnels of Doom modules on the internet.

Additionally, for anyone interested in learning TI-99/4A programming, you can save Basic programs you write to a cassette or computer, if interested.  The system’s built-in TI Basic is fairly limited and can’t do much without addon cartridges that expand its feature set and speed up operation, such as Terminal Emulator II for speech synthesis or Extended Basic for more powerful programming, but it’s a start.

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Multiplayer
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While the controllers have two on one cable, very few games for this system have multiplayer.  It’s unfortunate but true.  Some games do have two player alternating or simultaneous, but expect most games on this system to be for one person.

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Conclusion: Why Get A TI99/4A?
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The TI99/4A has a somewhat annoying to use keyboard, often-stiff-feeling digital-only controls, and a quite limited software library if you look only at its original cartridge-based releases.  So why is it so interesting, and why do I recommend that people do follow this guide and pick one up and start the TI99/4A journey?  I’m not entirely sure what it is, but something about this machine is interesting.  The games are often unique, for one; you won’t find anything quite like Chisholm Trail or Hunt the Wumpus elsewhere, and those games are well worth playing.  Tunnels of Doom is fantastic because, unlike most classic first-person RPGs of its day, it has a fully- featured in-game map so you can’t get lost.  This instantly makes it better than 99% of ’80s RPGs.  No TI99-exclusive title has ever had a legal re-release on any other platform, either, so if you want to legally play these games you need to own a TI99.  You can’t just buy a modern compilation, though it’d be fantastic if such a thing existed.

The system has an interesting story too, as I detailed in my Console Opinion Summaries review of it.  It’s both unfortunate that such an important and interesting platform failed, and entirely deserving that a company trying to lock out third parties from their computer, not console, platform failed in that effort.  The TI99/4A is a fascinating platform with more than enough reasons for someone to want to learn how to use one.  I hope that this guide is helpful for understanding the basics.

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It’s Over. Nintendo Went Through With the Worst Shutdown of a Digital Storefront Ever.

I wrote this today, because I’m still upset about this and aren’t over it.  This article has three parts.  First is the longer, about Nintendo’s recent shutdown of digital purchasing on the 3DS and Wii U.  Second is a shorter section about other digital storefront shutdowns.  And last is a conclusion.

 

THE SHUTDOWN OF THE 3DS AND WII U DIGITAL SHOPS

 

This article’s title, as any reader of this site over the past year probably knows, refers to the recent shutdown of the Wii U and 3DS digital storefronts, or their eShops as Nintendo called them.  And I don’t think this title is clickbait, this probably IS the worst content loss ever.  Yes, through piracy you can get around the issue and we should be thankful to pirates for it, but their efforts should not be necessary, because there was no need for Nintendo to do this.  I love my 3DS, as anyone who reads this site surely knows by now given how much 3DS writing I have done recently and last year, but now it’s over, the eShops are shut down.  And for what?  For nothing.  There is no actual reason for Nintendo to have shut down these storefronts completely.  There is no security issue that they could not have solved if they cared.  Older storefronts on other platforms still exist.  If there was some serious security issue, though, it could have been solved; how about a web-based storefront that gives out codes you input on the system, for instance?  I saw someone mention that online and I agree, if there really was some serious security issue that would have solved it.  But no, Nintendo doesn’t care.  They don’t want peoples’ money on anything other than their current platform, and they don’t want developers to continue supporting their older consoles.

The eshops went dark at 5PM PDT on the 27th of this month, and I am NOT over it.  I’m pretty upset at Nintendo over this, and at gamers for not protesting more and trying to get Nintendo to change their mind before the shutdown occurred.

But gamers did not protest enough, so, for no actual reason, about twelve years since the release of the 3DS and just over ten years after the release of the Wii U, Nintendo shut down their digital stores and disabled the ability to buy games on them anymore.  Nintendo has done this before, when they shut down the Nintendo Wii’s digital storefront, WiiWare, several years ago, but that storefront was up for longer.  And more importantly, significantly fewer games were affected that time because most Wii games were released on physical discs.  It was only a relative minority that had digital releases.  Hundreds of games were officially lost when that happened, don’t get me wrong, but this time more games were affected, and the platform that was shut down was more alive.  But digital games have grown dramatically over time, and the 3DS had far more games released digital-only that would have gotten a physical release in years past.   And on top of that, the 3DS was a popular platform for indie developers.  A lot of games were lost here.

And that’s because, while most people moved on and entirely switched over to the Switch — and I do like my Switch and play it a lot, Mario Maker 2 especially — I am not the only person that continues to love the 3DS.   Yes, my focus here is on the 3DS.  While the Wii U’s shutdown is also sad, with significantly less software than the 3DS, and a platform I love but not on the level I do the 3DS, the Wii U’s loss is, for me, not as bad.  I spent a significant amount this month on 3DS and Wii U digital software, though I focused more on DSiWare and 3DS games than Wii U so there are a fair number of good digital-only Wii U games I didn’t end up getting, unfortunately, but between its smaller library and market failure, I can understand why the Wii U online shop was shuttered.  It’s almost more impressive it lasted this long, though that was probably mostly because the 3DS and Wii U shops clearly run on the same architecture.  Despite missing out on some games, I like my Wii U a lot.  For instance, due to a security issue, online play in Splatoon and Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, the system’s two most popular online games and titles which were still easy to find a match in, had their online shut down recently.  I really hope that a solution is found that brings Wii U Splatoon back online, that game is one of the all-time greats and I very much miss being able to play it; its sequels on the Switch just aren’t quite as great as the original.  But anyway, given its low sales, it’s awful but for the Wii U I get it.  Losing the Wii U’s shop alone I could take; it’d be unfortunate and I’d have had a lot of games to pick up, but it would not have been anywhere near as bad.    The 3DS dramatically outsold the Wii U, after all.  They should not have been shut down at the same time.

But Nintendo didn’t stop there, because they do not care about allowing people continued access to their history beyond the limited amount of it available on their current platform.  They don’t care that the 3DS was a quite successful platform, or that it still has an active development community.  While both the 3DS and Wii U had game releases in March 2023 as shutdown loomed, the 3DS’s were more and more significant.  But Nintendo doesn’t care about any of that.  3DS/Wii U eshop profits went below some line, so the plug was pulled and they’re turned off, and Nintendo has no interest in finding a workaround because they can’t be bothered to spend the money for preservation of games they don’t want people to buy because they’d rather you spend that money on their new system instead  So, perhaps for that reason and perhaps also because of that the two systems must use the same servers, Nintendo chose to throw the baby out with the bathwater and shut down the 3DS eshop along with the Wii U’s.

I deeply love the 3DS, it is an exceptional, innovative, weird console.  I still use my New 3DS XL almost every single day, and love it as much as ever.  The stereoscopic 3D effect is great, the system feels good, stylus-based reactive touch is dramatically better for videogames than finger touch because of how much more precise it allows developers to make their touch interfaces,and more.  The 3DS has a tilt sensor and, in the New model that is the only one I have ever owned, an Amiibo reader and some added inputs as well.  With its huge library and nice screen it’s an incredible system.  Of course its graphics, in games that use polygons, are not exactly the best, but for its screen resolution I think it can do just fine.  That screen resolution is a bit low for some titles, but if properly optimized it’s fine.

Overall, of course the 3DS is getting older now, but I still think it has a place in the gaming landscape.  And, as we are seeing with skyrocketing 3DS game and hardware prices and indie developers working until the final days to release games for the system, I am not the only one.  There is no other platform with its combination of weird quirks.  The 3DS is peak Weird Nintendo, from the time when Nintendo decided that the best way to compete was to double down on interestingly unique hardware quirks, after abandoning the high-end power market back in the mid ’00s with the release of the Wii.  The 3DS is a fascinating look at a direction gaming didn’t go in, with its precise touchscreen, 3d effect, and more.  I will continue playing my 3DS, and now will have to hack my Wii U and 3DS — which I did not previously do — in order to continue using them normally.  It’s awful and pointless, and has made me quite upset with Nintendo.  This is hitting harder than I thought it would… oh well.

Now, I do dislike change to an extent, and wish for systems I love to have longer lives — Nintendo killing off the N64 a bit early has long been my pick for the thing Nintendo did that I most dislike, and I’d say that it still is number one on my list — but it’s not just me upset about this one.  Gamers at large may have given up when the shutdown was announced and said ‘Nintendo always does this stuff, I won’t even bother protesting’, sadly, but again, the massive 3DS game and hardware price spike and the outpouring of sadness at the time of the shutdown shows that people do care.  Nintendo just doesn’t care back.  It’s kind of crazy that Sony actually was more responsive to fan anger than Nintendo, when they backed down from their plan to shut down the PS3, PSP, and Vita’s online storefronts after a fan outcry.  I would never have thought that Sony would be more responsive to that than Nintendo, or that Sony fans would care more about using their company’s older platforms than Nintendo fans considering how most Sony fans seem to focus almost exclusively on Sony’s newest blockbuster and not on older platforms or titles, but somehow that happened here, it seems.  It’s kind of crazy.   Times change, but the question is, was that change good?  Some moves are defensible and others are not.  This one is decidedly in the latter camp.

Of course, despite this I will continue buying games for Nintendo’s systems, they still make most of the best games after all.  But I will not forget what they have done here to one of their best systems ever, while a sizable community of fans still wanted to keep the system alive and software was still selling.  It’s an unacceptable act tearing right into gaming history and preservation.  Nintendo is known to always keep copies of everything they make or sell in their vault, and that’s great, but when you put that vault under lock and key and refuse to allow anyone else to see anything in it that’s barely better than not preserving it at all.  Games are something that must be experienced to be fully understood.  It is incredibly sad that Nintendo cares more about their profits than that.  It is awful.  I am not against capitalism, some form of it probably is the best economic system, but this kind of short-sightedness does nothing good.

OTHER DIGITAL SHUTDOWNS

 

In this section I would like to mention some other digital storefront shutdowns.  I should mention other major digital storefront shutdowns.  I covered the Wii already.  Other than that, purchasing DSiWare games was shut down on the DSi some years back, but you could still buy all of those games on a 3DS until the 27th so that’s not such a big deal.  The original Xbox had its online store shuttered long ago, but that system had very, VERY few games, so little was lost.  Microsoft does have several other major shutdowns, though — first, of Games for Windows Live, MS’s first PC game storefront.  This digital storefront was never very successful, hence itse eventual shutdown, but anyone who bought games there digitally would eventually lose access to their purchases.  A few games with GFWL-based copy protection were broken, too.  Many were fixed, but even so it’s worth mentioning.  GFWL was not a good service, MS’s current PC store is in fact better even if it is also quite flawed, but still it was shut down.

And second, Microsoft shut down, for no reason I can imagine, the Xbox [360] Live Indie Games portion of the X360 storefront.  XBLIG was a place for indie developers to release cheap, mostly PC-port games on the Xbox 360.  It was a really cool idea which had a huge number of titles… until Microsoft shut it down and removed all games from sale years ago.  You can still play any XBLIG games you bought on your 360, but you can’t buy them.  I’m not sure if there is a homebrew solution which fixes this issue or not.  On the console side, this is maybe the worst digital storefront shutdown not on a Nintendo platform, since as I mentioned previously Sony backed down from shutting down purchasing on the PS3 and Vita.  They did shut down the PSP store, but you can still buy those games on PS3 and transfer them to PSP, I believe.

Really the only other major shutdowns to mention are again on the PC side, as Steam progressively removes support for older versions of Windows over time.  Valve recently announced that Windows 7 and 8 would be blocked from accessing Steam soon-ish.  All versions of Windows before 7 were blocked years prior.  This is a pretty major thing since most PC games only release on Steam.  Sometimes piracy can get around this issue, but it makes playing PC games on period-correct hardware dramatically more difficult.   This is an old problem on the PC, but this kind of move makes it even harder.  Even though the PC is a much older platform, consoles are often, ironically, more future-proof since they don’t have the rolling incompatibility breaks that you get on the PC.  Hack your 3DS, and it’s going to work fine for as long as the hardware lasts.  But a PC?  Issues may occur on a game-by-game basis, and this kind of move will surely make playing something much harder.  But even so, due to the openness of the PC platform, and because most PC games do work in Windows 10 and 11 systems that were designed for Windows Vista, 7, or 8 ones, I do think that the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS shutdown is worse.  Valve has more of an excuse, as well — they are doing it because the web browser that Steam is built on is deprecating support for OSes before 10.  It’s sad stuff but unfortunately web browsers change over time as new security holes are found and stuff which may or may not be fixable, and new features are added to the web browsing experience.

And lastly, when a company goes out of business or gives up on gaming, as Google did for instance when they recently shut down their streaming gaming platform, obviously their service goes away with the system.  This is the most understandable form of shutdown.  Sure, it’s sad for fans of the system that the Ouya failed, for example, but when it did, of course the service could not be kept online.  Modern games are not like classic ones, they are not burned on silicon forever.  They require servers to run which cost companies money to operate.  Even if they do get released on disc or cart those discs or carts are not going to last anywhere near as long as a classic system’s masked ROM chips, either, since modern cart-based systems like the Switch use relatively short-lived flash chips with mere decades of life to the cart before they erase themselves instead of the centuries that masked ROMs can last, but that’s another story.

CONCLUSION

So, there have been many digital shutdowns.  However, most make sense.  For sheer meaninglessness, nothing matches up to Nintendo shutting down the 3DS eShop.  XBLIG’s shutdown on the Xbox 360 and Steam disabling older OSes from accessing Steam, even for copy protection verification, are the only competitors, but for me personally the 3DS edges both of them out.  At least most XBLIG games were also released on PC, and PC copy protection can usually be worked around with legally-purchased copies of the games.   You cannot do that on the 3DS, no games can be purchased anymore.  The 3DS digital shutdown is, indeed, the worst digital shutdown ever.  With this all should know the future of all live-service software: to eventually not exist once the company running the server decides that the numbers don’t make sense anymore.  Games today are more ephemeral than they ever have been before, and that’s something we should be sad about.  Of course there is a lot to be happy about as well, we have an insane wealth of games to play covering all possible genres, but for those who care about game preservation, the future of console and computer game preservation is difficult indeed.

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 11: Various Newly-Purchased Titles

This update will cover 23 games which I purchased between mid ’22 and January ’23. I have bought a lot of stuff this month as the shutdown approaches, but don’t have time to actually cover those games in any detail since it takes time to play the games and all, and these are oens I’ve at least tried a fair number of while those are not. Many of these I could have incorporated into the main list, but I chose not to in order to keep it focused on titles I’ve had for longer and thus, in some cases at least, have played more. I did add a few titles I bought in ’22 to the original list, chosen somewhat at random to fill out some updates with titles I wanted to cover. These are the rest of them plus the first few titles I got this year. This will probably be the last update I get out before the shutdown so this will have to do as far as helping with any last-minute purchase decisions. I love the 3DS a lot though, so I’m sure I will cover more 3DS (and Wii U) games in the future regardless of if the official shop is still up or not.

Oh, and a few of the summaries this time are long. Enjoy.

Table of Contents – 23 games covered

3D Game Collection
A-Train 3D: City Simulator (has DLC)
Automaton Lung
Blast ’em Bunnies (has DLC)
Bloo Kid 2
Brunch Panic
Color Zen Kids
CosmiBall 3D – New 3DS Required
Funfair Party Games
Glory of Generals: The Pacific
Horseshoe Crab Rescue! – New 3DS Required
Harold Reborn – New 3DS Required
Murder on the Titanic
Noitu Love 2: Devolution
Smash Cat Heroes
Splat the Difference
Sudoku Party
Urban Trial Freestyle
Urban Trial Freestyle 2
Word Logic by POWGI
Word Puzzles by POWGI
Yumi’s Odd Odyssey
Zombie Slayer Diox

Rankings for this update

The Summaries

3D Game Collection: 55-in-1 Published by Joindots in 2012.  This is a collection of board and puzzle-style games done in stereoscopic 3d.  There are a lot of games here, which is somewhat impressive for a cheap title, and it’s done decently well.  The game has touch controls and it controls fine.  The games in the collection are broken into three visual themes, each with a different backdrop.  The three have 18, 17, and 20 total puzzles each, almost every one of them a different game.  There are no options within each puzzle, so the game has 55 total puzzles.  It’s an okay number, but some of these games could have had a lot more playtime with more options. So, you get a few puzzles each in a whole lot of different game types.  Also, it’s odd that there isn’t the same number of games in each environment.  There are several dozen different game types here, and while I could describe all of them in detail I shouldn’t, it’s too many.

I will list them all, though.  The types include versions or knockoffs of Minesweeper, Boxxle, Mastermind, Connect Four, spot the difference, sliding tile puzzles, card solitaire, mahjong solitaire, nine mens’ morris, sudoku, jigsaw puzzle, matching flip cards, checkers, Pipe Dream, Battleship, a match 3 game, Ludo, Dominoes, a dice game (Yachtzee?), Kakuro, Chinese Checkers, peg solitaire (jump the pegs to end up with one in the middle), Othello (which it calls “Token Wangle” for some reason), Backgammon, and Beano.  That’s a lot of games, but again, unlike some other games below, there aren’t any variations of each puzzle.  You can’t change difficulty options, play locally against a human, or anything.  55 puzzles is an decent number, so for the low price you pay get your money’s worth, but with so many games here, most of them done reasonably decently if somewhat basic in visual design, I can’t help but wish for a bit more in terms of features.  Also I can’t help but mention that the word puzzle games below on this list have over 700 puzzles each.  With more features I think this could have gone from okay to pretty good.  Ah well.

Even so, I do like the stereoscopic 3d backdrops in 3D Game Collection and the puzzles can be fun.  This is a good little board and puzzle game collection, it just has a somewhat limited playtime due to having zero options outside of the 55 included puzzles. s total, don’t expect much variety within each game type here.  There are only a couple of sudoku puzzles in this game total, for example. There is also no multiplayer, so you’re only playing against the fairly mediocre AI, not another human. Local or online multiplayer would make this collection a lot better.  The game does keep track of your best score in each game, and you can get gold, silver, or bronze medals on each game if you get a high enough score, so there is a bit to come back for, but not all that much.  I’d still possibly recommend this to anyone interested, but know what you’re getting.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

A-Train 3D: City Simulator – Developed by Artdink and published by Natsume in 2015.  This game has $2 worth of DLC.  Back in the early-mid ’90s, we got the original A-Train for the PC. I loved PC strategy and building simulation games at the time, but A-Train was a bit too much for me; I ended up sticking to the SimCity games and Civilization and such, and didn’t end up playing much A-Train at all. Why play this train-focused isometric strategy game when I could play SimCity 2000 and build a full city? You do build things beyond just a railroad, but the focus is on railroads in a fairly detailed way. But there is a place for this series, it has continued on for so long for good reason. The series is actually Japanese, something I didn’t know back then. Why am I talking so much about the original A-Train? Well, this 3DS game is highly reminiscent of the ’90s ones. It has the same isometric perspective, similar graphics, and gameplay clearly based on that classic.

This game, and series, is about planning train routes, setting them up, building train track routes, putting trains on those routes, and developing areas around the train. You can set up other businesses such as banks, run streetcars, and more, as you develop mostly transportation-related infrastructure and watch each area develop. Your goal generally is growing the local population, but you have to do this somewhat indirectly, unlike SimCity where you directly build zones. The game is also about just watching time pass, as the game has a full day-night cycle and a calendar. You can watch your trains run. Roads also exist but you won’t see traffic on them apart from streetcars if you have those. This series is focused on trains, after all. As you look at the town, one thing that is immediately apparent is that this game is very obviously set in Japan, but the localizers kind of half tried to hide that. So, the buildings are clearly modern Japanese structures, and the calendar and holidays are Japanese, but the anime-style characters who work for you and give the tutorial and such are given Western names. Heh.

The game has a good number of different scenarios to play, starting with three which thoroughly go through how use all of the gameplay systems. It’s great that there is a complete tutorial. You can also just go straight into it and start the first full scenario, but you will want to do the tutorials first if you want to not quickly go bankrupt after building ill-advised train lines and wasting your money. A-Train 3D isn’t very 3D — you mostly play on the lower screen, and if there is any stereoscopic 3d stuff on the upper screen I haven’t noticed it — but it is a very good, complex simulator. It’s impressive that they managed to basically get a full PC building simulation game running on the 3DS. Of the PC-to-DS or 3DS strategy game conversions I’ve played this is one of the best. It’s certainly better than the (cart-based) 3DS version of Roller Coaster Tycoon, that one is unfortunately a janky mess. Whether people outside of Japan will appreciate this heavily Japanese-train-route-focused game is another question, but if you might, definitely buy A-Train 3D and its $2 of DLC. This game did get a physical release in Japan, as you might expect, but sadly the English-translated versions are all download-only so pick them up while you can. This game is 3DS-exclusive, but as I’ve said is based on a long-running PC game series.

Automaton Lung Circle Pad Pro or New 3DS enhanced. Developed and published by Luke Vincent in 2022.  This 2022 release from the developer of the Harold games got some attention for its late release date and weird design.  This game is much improved control and camera-wise over the Harold games, it plays well.  This game is a third person 3d shooter/platformer with giant, mostly empty levels to explore.  It’s all in very nice stereoscopic 3d.  You play as a female character in a sci-fi setting.  Most of the game takes place in a giant 21-story tower, but you can also leave the tower and explore some areas outside of it, flying around in a weird bug-like ship.

For controls, you move with the stick, L is a lock-on target lock (which works well), and face buttons shoot, jump, boost, and hoverboard.  Either a touch input or the circle pad pro or N3DS right stick controls the camera.  The lower screen also has a health indicator but is otherwise black. There is no pause menu, so close the system to pause.  The boost is a key feature to understand. See, your jump only jumps up a very very small distance, maybe a foot at most.  What you do is jump and then hit boost, and you’ll be able to actually jump up to higher platforms.  You can also boost on the ground to zip along on foot.  You can also manage to get into the air with the hoverboard, which is neat.  The controls feel fine, thankfully; finally, one of this dev’s games has no major control problems!  The shooting is average, but the lockon works well.  Enemies are only a minor threat, but if you do take damage you will die quickly, you can only take a few hits.  If you die you go back to the last checkpoint, which looks like a floppy disk icon floating in space.

But what is your goal in this game?  It isn’t really to kill the enemies, they are just there to get in your way . Many areas barely even have any, anyway; you will spend a lot of time just wandering around empty 3d spaces, exploring around and maybe getting lost.  Don’t worry, there isn’t a map, so if you get lost you’re on your own as far as figuring out where to go.  Heh.  Your actual goal here is to collect these rectangular pickups.  There are five on each floor of the tower. Some doors in the tower go to other rooms or to the outside, but others go to an elevator system which connects all of the floors. You just need to explore to figure out which is which.  The elevator menu shows you how many of the collectibles you have found on each floor, and shows which floor you are on.  If you leave the tower, a minimap appears on the lower screen showing white dots at each point of interest you can land on. Most of these areas are pretty empty, but they are there for you to explore.

And that’s the game. Explore weird, largely empty 3d spaces.  Look for the rectangular collectibles, which you will find in some areas, but in others you’ll look around aimlessly for a long time finding nothing. Shoot the occasional enemy robot.  Pick up health powerups if needed.  Try to not get too hopelessly lost.   And repeat until you finish the game.  If you know what you’re doing apparently this game can be finished in a few hours, but that would take practice.  Overall, I wish that there was more stuff in the levels that are in this game, but even so I think that Automaton Lung is good. It has a ’90s retro feel while also being modern.  I like exploring and finding stuff, and the visual look, with the stark, empty environments and decent soundtrack, is interesting and a bit creepy.  I guess I recommend it, though this game definitely isn’t for everyone.  Also available digitally on PC (Steam).

Blast ’em Bunnies Developed and published by Nnooo in 2016.  This game has a bunch of DLC. You can buy a $15 bundle for all of the content DLC, or buy it separately.  You also can buy money multipliers or ‘unlock all upgrades right away’ purchases to skip grinding on upgrades.  Yeah, this game is one of those.  But what is the game?  Blast ’em Bunnies is a target-shooting game where you play as a good bunny shooting at evil bunnies from a static, rotatable turret with various silly weapons such as a carrot gun and a bunch more things like that… once you grind or pay for anything beyond the basic weapon.  The game has some things you can buy with the money you earn from playing, but the content addons and money multipliers are paid DLC only.  But hey, at least the graphics are good, with fun cartoony art and VERY strong stereoscopic 3d effects. That’s nice.

All of the money-grubbing elements of this game are bad, but (unfortunately?) the core game here is fun.  You can rotate and tilt the turret with either the analog stick or the system’s tilt sensor.  The motion controls work well and are nice to see, though you will probably want to play with a combination of tilt and controller.  Tilt is great for fine pointing, and analog for aiming around as enemies come at you from different directions.  I really like that you get both tilt and analog aim, it makes it so much better than it would be with only one or the other.  The lower screen has a radar showing where enemies are approaching from.  Blast ’em Bunnies is a fun, well-made light gun style shooter.  The graphics and 3d effects are good.  However, it is also very simple, and do you want to play a game as grindey as this, with a bunch of paid DLC?  I’m not sure it’s worth it.  A lot of mobile-style-game-to-3DS ports scaled down the paid DLC, but this one did not.  Too bad.  Also released digitally on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Bloo Kid 2 –  Developed and published by winterworks in 2015.  This game is an okay 2d platformer with some stereoscopic depth.  It is a sequel to an iOS game, and was first released on smartphones.  Clearly inspired by ’90s platformers but not as good as the better ones, Bloo Kid 2 is okay but just doesn’t control quite well enough for me to call is good.  The design is also very safe.  I love platformers so I do somewhat enjoy this game, but it is average at best for sure.  You play as a boy, Bloo Kid, and you’re on an adventure.  In each level you have a bunch of objectives, each of which will get you a star at the end if accomplished: finish the level, get some or all of the stars, kill all of the enemies, finish with full health, and finish the level within a fairly tight timer.  This objective star system adds a little bit to an otherwise pretty average game, but the controls hold the game back.

The lower screen shows how you’re doing on the objectives and also shows a bar marking how far in the level you are.  That’s nice.  This is a classic platformer, so all you is run around and jump on foes. You have a double jump and will use it frequently.  You can take three hits before dying.  There are checkpoints, enemies to jump on or avoid, and the aforementioned stars and health powerups to collect.  The game has infinite lives from the last checkpoint. There is no lives system here, that’s fine.  But again, the main issue I have with this game is the control: your controls are very floaty.  Movement and jumping both feel somewhat vague, as if you don’t have precise control of the character.  You can use either the d-pad or analog stick for movement, but the controls are digital either way. So, use the d-pad.  You eventually get used to the controls, but they’re never good.

So, even when I am having fun exploring levels for enemies and hidden stars, which does happen while playing the game, the hits taken because of the loose controls happen too often for me to unreservedly recommend this title to platformer fans.  Bloo Kid 2 does some things right, though.  There are a decent number of levels here, I like the level designs reasonably well, and the objective system adds a bit of replay value.  I don’t regret buying it.  Still, with very bland design and irritatingly floaty controls, this game is, unfortunately, average to slightly below average overall.  I see quite a few positive reviews of this game out there, but I guess that I’m not as impressed as most.  The controls just are not quite there.  Fix that and this game could have been good, but it’s not.  Maybe on phones people don’t care about good controls, but this is on a Nintendo system.  Also released on iOS, PC (Steam), Ouya, and Nintendo Switch.

Brunch PanicDeveloped by Flyhigh Works and published by Circle in 2013.  Brunch Panic is a fairly simple food service puzzle/sim.  You play as a young woman who was just given a van by her grandfather to use as a food truck.  She decides to sell breakfast food, hence the games’ name.  The presentation here is a bit odd, because the visuals are a Japanese attempt at a Western cartoon look and clearly is aimed to be set in America, but the game has Japanese-language voice dialog.  The US release translated the text, but not the voice lines.  Oh well.  The graphics are 2d sprite-based stuff, and unfortunately there is no stereoscopic 3d.  The ingredients are on the lower screen, and the customers waiting at the window for food are on the lower one.

As for the gameplay, in each stage, playing with the stylus, you grab each ingredient, put it together if multiple parts are involved by dragging the sauce onto the ingredient after putting it on the table, and then drag the resulting food up to the window for delivery.  At first the game is very simple, with only bagels and croissants and a pair of sauces that you simply drag to the window with no prep needed other than perhaps a sauce.  You don’t need to toast the bagels or anything, this is a fairly simple game.  The game does get slightly more complex as you proceed, since you will soon get a waffle maker which you need to click on to open, drag a waffle into the waffle maker, and then wait for it to cook.  There is more after that as well, so there is a decent difficulty curve here.  Even so, this game stays very easy for probably too long.  There is some complexity to getting each order right and once in a while I make a mistake and have to redo an order, but thorough the first few worlds this is a mostly simple game that, despite that this is not a kind of game I’ve played much at all in the past, I found myself getting max ratings on almost every level on my first try.

Despite that, the good news is that there are some things to play for. For one, there are unlockables which add cosmetic changes to your van.  You unlock these not through a money system or something, instead they basically are Achievements: if you accomplish certain tasks, you unlock a new cosmetic thing for the van, such as a sign for the top, new colors or patterns, or such.  It’s a nice touch and some of these have requirements that will take a bit more effort than most of the levels do on their own.  Even so, overall Brunch Panic is probably a food-delivering game aimed at beginners at this subgenre.  I kind of am one so I think this game is okay, but it’s probably a bit too simple to be great.  Still, it’s a decent game maybe worth a look.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Color Zen KidsDeveloped by Large Animal Games and published by Cypronia in 2014.  As the name suggests, Color Zen Kids is very similar to the original Color Zen, which I covered last year earlier in the first list, but easier. And it is indeed easier; the puzzles in this game, while fun, are generally quite simple and easy to solve. I loved the first Color Zen, it’s a somewhat brilliant puzzle game, but it’s disappointing that its only sequel is this easy-mode title. Just like in the first one, your goal in each puzzle is to make the lower screen the color of the screen border. Playing with the stylus, you can move small colored objects around, and when two collide they turn the color area of the screen they are currently in to their color. You need to figure out the correct order to set off collisions in which will result in the whole screen, with no objects left, being the correct color. As before I love the visual look and gameplay of this title, this is a great game. It’s just really too bad that we never got a sequel which is as challenging as the first one, this game’s great but it is clearly aimed at a younger audience. Still, definitely buy it. It’s fun while it lasts.  Also released on iOS, PC (Steam), and Nintendo Switch.


CosmiBall 3D
New Nintendo 3DS Required. Developed and published by Desk Ink in 2022.  CosmiBall 3D is a very late 3DS release.  It’s a simple but fun 2.5d physics platformer where you play as a ball trying to make your way through floating (in space) courses to a green square that is the end point.  The game plays on both screens, and you will often go back and forth between the two.  Levels scroll horizontally, but not vertically since instead you’ll go between the two screens.  It’s a nice system, though it does highlight that the upper screen has 3D and not the lower one, since this game has nice stereoscopic 3d which you can only really take advantage of half of the time that you are playing. Ah well.

Otherwise, though, this game is an alright, fun time.  You move with the analog stick or d-pad. Control is analog and you gain speed as you move, though your max speed is a bit slow.  This game was designed for accessibility.  At first you can only roll, but after a few levels you get an upgrade that lets you jump with A.  That adds quite a bit to the game.  The jump is slow and floaty, but the game is set in space so it works. You later will get another upgrade that adds a boost button on B. You also can respawn by hitting X.  If you hit respawn when you’re still on the course you will respawn, but your old ball won’t disappear, it will stay on the stage as an obstacle.  That’s a neat touch.  Also you can drop spawn points with Y at any time you’re on the ground on a platform. That’s pretty cool, so when you roll off the course you can choose where you start again from.

The levels start out very simple, but once you get to levels with things like fields that you can only travel straight through with the momentum you entered them with and such the game gets more interesting and physics-puzzle-ey.  I like that.  On the whole, CosmiBall 3D is a simple, fun little game. The graphics are decent and controls alright.  It’s fun enough to play if you like platformers, but certainly doesn’t do anything special. Overall it’s probably a bit above average.  I’d recommend it I guess if you like simple platformers.  There is also a CosmiBall game on the Wii U.  I think it’s the same basic game, with the two screens being your TV and Wii U Gamepad.

Glory of Generals: The Pacific Developed by EASY Inc. / Easytech and published by Circle in 2015.  This hex-based strategy wargame is a sequel to the first Glory of Generals, and as with the first is an iOS port.  It is very similar to the first one, except as the title suggests it has a Pacific Theater focus this time.  That means that while for the most part this is very similar to the first one, it’s a more complex game since you need to deal with oceans a lot, and moving land troops between islands with ships will be necessary.  They make it relatively easy here, though; this isn’t the most complex strategy game.  There are two main modes, Campaign and Legion.  In either one there are four main campaign scenarios, first the WWII Pacific Theater, then a late 1930s Asia one and two early 1950s ones.  Each will take quite a while. Glory of Generals isn’t like European/World Conqueror, it’s a dramatically better series of legit wargames. It does have a grind component, though, unfortunately.  On mobile this probably required real money, but here you buy stuff with ingame earnings.  In addition to the campaigns, there is also a Headquarters mode where you can spend money you’ve earned on generals and upgrades for your troops.  You do start out with a fair amount of money, at least.

Visually, the game has sprite-based graphics with stereoscopic 3d depth that makes the units appear above the ground.  It’s a nice looking game with good sprite art and maps.  The upper screen has the map, and the lower screen a zoomed out map of the whole area and your interface buttons.  You move the upper screen view with the d-pad and control the cursor with the analog stick. Most functions are done with touch controls.  The controls work well.

As for the differences between Campaign and Legion modes, in either one you choose a scenario, if you have unlocked any beyond WWII Pacific.  In Campaign you then select a side, either Allies (US and allies) or Axis (Japan).  Each has a different a sequence of missions. In each one you have an objective, and once that objective is complete you move on to the next mission.  You have to play the missions in order.  In Legion mode you can select any level from a campaign from the start, they all start out unlocked.  You don’t choose a side here either, instead you choose a general.  You then control that general’s forces only, and not the rest of your alliance, and have 99 turns to defeat all enemy generals.  If you win you move on to the next mission.  Legion mode games have pretty long between-turns waits as you wait for all of your allied forces to be moved by the computer, along with your enemies.  Still, it’s a fun mode.  The AI in this game is okay.

Within missions, you will control a bunch of different troop types.  This isn’t just a pure wargame though, you can build units.  Some missions mostly just have you use the troops you start with, but others do involve building.  So, in addition to moving around your ships, tanks, and soldiers, and converting your land troops to transports via a button for when you need to go island-hopping, you also will build units from bases, somewhat like an Advance Wars game.  As for air forces, you do not directly control planes.  Instead, you just order air attacks or observation flights from airbases, after which a plane will fly over that spot and attack it or such. It works fine.  The game is a good mixture of simple but challenging enough to satisfy most.  Obviously this won’t be enough for serious wargaming fans, but nobody would expect that kind of game on the 3DS.  For this platform this is pretty good. Glory of Generals: The Pacfic is just as good as the first one, and I definitely recommend it.  There was a third game in this series, but it seems to unfortunately have stayed mobile-only.  Oh well.  Also digitally released on iOS.

Horseshoe Crab Rescue! – New Nintendo 3DS Required. Developed and published by Kevin Foley in 2021.  This is an extremely basic $1 game.  Does it have $1 worth of gameplay?  I’m not sure, that’s kind of borderline.  Set on a beach, in this title you click on flipped-over horseshoe crabs in order to put them back on their feet so they won’t be in trouble anymore.  Horseshoe crabs have very interesting big shells, and really aren’t a crab.  Like a turtle, if they flip over they often can’t really flip back without help.  There are 15 stages, each with a certain number of horseshoe crabs to flip back over within a time limit.  You have to play the stages in order, though they are all on the same beach, the game just starts requiring more crabs within a shorter time limit.

Within a stage, the left stick moves you around the moderate-sized beach, and the right analog nub moves the camera if you want to adjust your view.  The default is usually fine. The beach will appear on both screens, though of course only the upper screen is in stereoscopic 3d.  When you find a flipped-over horseshoe crab, touch it with the stylus on the lower screen in order to flip it back over.  Then, continue wandering around looking for more crabs to flip over. There are a lot of crabs on this beach, most not flipped over, so it will take a little searching. You cannot interact with the horseshoe crabs beyond flipping over the ones in trouble, which is probably the right design decision; otherwise people would hurt the beings that this game is about helping.  And that’s the game.  I’d say this might be a dollar’s worth of game, but … maybe not.  It is VERY basic.  It would have been nice if there were a few more horseshoe crab facts included, in addition to the few in the tutorial, but oh well.  It’s quite charming that this game was released at all, it seems to be the developer’s only published game, but it is simple.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Harold RebornNew Nintendo 3DS Required. Developed and published by Luke Vincent in 2021.  The second of the three 3DS 3d platformers from Luke Vincent, Harold Reborn is an interesting but flawed experience.  You play as Harold from Harold’s Walk, a pretty silly-looking character indeed.  The game has intentionally “bad” graphics.  This is a pretty fast-paced game.  The main view is on the upper screen and is in stereoscopic 3d with lots of depth.  The lower screen shows a useful overhead map of the current area. You run around with the stick. Hold Y to walk, this is important for narrow paths.  You jump and double jump with B, and dash with A. The dash is critical and can also be done in the air to clear large gaps.  You need to be holding a direction on the analog stick to do an air dash, so jump, hold stick direction, dash. The controls feel okay and I like exploring this kind of simple, low-poly 3d landscape.  Occasional pickups are scattered around, including health ups and the things you want to collect.  As for enemies, they are silly things like legs without a body.  You defeat them by jumping on them, classic platformer-style.

This game has a lot more levels than the pretty short first Harold game, which is good; it’s a more full-fledged experience, not a borderline tech-demo like that one is.  However, it still has problems. The most notable problem is the camera.  As you move, the camera constantly bounces up and down with Harold’s footsteps.  Games do not make me nauseous easily and this one doesn’t either, but I can imagine some people having a bad reaction to this effect, particularly given that this game is entirely in full stereoscopic 3d.  It’s a really bad camera bounce effect that holds back the whole game.  I know the developer was going for a very silly style to this game, and that’s fine, but this camera bob goes too far.

Otherwise, this is an okay indie 3d platformer.  It’s great that we have gotten to a point where games like this are possible, in the past indie devs would have stuck to only 2d platformer games and not 3d ones like this.  3d is harder to do well, and this one doesn’t entirely get it right, but if you can stomach the camera there is a decent amount to do here.  Harold Reborn is a simple and flawed but interesting game maybe worth a look if you like amusingly weird games or 3d platformers.  I don’t think I could call it above average, not with its mostly-sparse levels and awful camera, but it’s certainly interesting.  In short, if you only play one Luke Vincent game make it Automaton Lung, it smooths out all of the control and camera issues of these games, but the Harold games are also worth a look for their weirdness.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Murder on the TitanicDeveloped by Easy Interactive and published by Joindots in 2012. The original PC version was developed by Suricate Software and published by Bigfish Games earlier that year.  One part hidden object game and one part puzzle game with an adventure game story, Murder on the Titanic is a casual adventure game ported from the PC. It was also on the original DS as well.  You play as the unseen assistant to a professor, and the two of you are on the Titanic during its fateful voyage.  A crew member on board has been murdered, and you two are tasked with finding out who did it.  This is a fictional story with a real-world setting.  After an introduction, the game begins.  The current room or area is shown on both screens, with a zoomed-out view on the upper screen and a zoomed-in regular view on the lower one.  There is some use of stereoscopic 3d on the upper screen, but there could have been more.  You can look around each area with either the analog stick, d-pad, face buttons, or stylus.  The upper screen tells you what you should be looking for with words, and you need to find and touch that thing on the lower screen.

In some scenes you are looking for certain specific objects related to the plot, while others enter hidden-object areas where you need to find a list of random stuff in an image full of things.  The objects you need to find are listed in text, again. If you get stuck you have a limited number of hints which you can use with a life-ring icon on the lower screen. You can also go into your inventory with an icon.  The hidden object minigames are the most common in this title by far, but there are also some other kinds of puzzles.  The first, for instance, is a very easy ‘slide around the blocks to free the one being blocked by the others’ puzzle.  You also will get inventory items you will need to use in specific places.  You can’t wander around the ship, though, only look at each scene, figure out what to do there, and proceed to the next area.  As far as adventure games go this is definitely stripped-down, unfortunately.

Overall, I like adventure games, but have never been much of a hidden object games fan.  Even so, for its genre, Murder on the Titanic is solid. It’s got nice graphics, stereoscopic 3d, okay controls with the stylus, and a good amount of content.  There is a mystery to solve and people to talk to as you try to figure out what happened.  This is a somewhat simplistic title in terms of gameplay, with totally linear design and mostly easy puzzles, but still, the game is alright.  Try not to go down with the ship… Also available on PC and, in Europe only, on the Nintendo DS, though this version is visually enhanced in some ways for the 3DS.  The 3DS version got a physical release in Europe, but here in the US the game is digital-only.  On PC the game’s title is Inspector Magnusson: Murder on the Titanic, and it did have both digital and physical releases.

Noitu Love 2: Devolution – Developed and published by MP2 Games in 2016.  Noitu Love is a run & gun action/platformer.  The first Noitu Love is an indie PC game from the ’00s.  Unlike a lot of indie PC games from that era, Noitu Love isn’t a Newgrounds-style mysanthropic underground-ish title, but something more normal.  You played as a hero saving the world from evil forces with a mixture of platform jumping on keyboard, and dash-attacking left or right or spin-attacking upwards with the mouse.  This sequel is similar, except it’s on consoles now and is much improved over the little freeware PC original.  The controls are similar though, so you use gamepad and stylus together to imitate mouse and keyboard in this 2d side-scrolling platform-action game.  You move around with the d-pad and dash-attack with the stylus.  The movement controls are digital, so you can use the analog stick but shouldn’t.   The game is fast and a lot of fun to play as you zip around defeating your foes. The controls work well if you can find a comfortable way to support the system while playing.  That’s always the flaw with button + stylus games on the DS or 3DS though, if you’re holding it with one hand while playing your hand is going to get tired quickly.  It’s the same here.

Even so, though, Noito Love 2 is definitely a good game.  It’s got nice sprite-based graphics, very responsive controls, good gameplay, good enough level designs, and a good pace. The levels are linear corridors usually focused more on shooting than on platforming, unfortunately, but there are some obstacles to avoid such as giant moving spike barriers, so you will need to platform some as well thankfully.  The sci-fi story is decent enough as well. This game was pretty popular and it’s easy to see why, it’s a good game that deserved its popularity.  For some reason I never got into this game as much as some people, and never finished it, but it’s certainly good.  I think I generally prefer sidescrollers which use buttons only over this kind of button+touch/mouse combo.  I’m not a big fan of Bleed, for example.  Even so, Noitu Love 2 is a game you should pick up for sure.. Also available digitally on PC (Steam) and Wii U, though sadly the Wii U version was deslisted some time ago so you can’t buy it anymore.  The 3DS version is still available, for a few more days at least.

Smash Cat HeroesDeveloped and published by Tom Create in 2014.  With cute graphics and a great concept I was hoping that this game would be pretty good, but unfortunately find it fairly mediocre to play.  Smash Cat Heroes is a top-down action game.  You play as one of three adorable cartoon samurai cats, and need to fight against large numbers of enemies attacking you.  Cats are the best!  Each level is an arena consisting of only the two screens and does not scroll most of the time.  After a long time of beating up regular enemies screens sometimes do autoscroll to a second screen where you fight the stage boss, but otherwise each level is what you see, and there’s very little to see because there are almost no obstacles or features in these stages.  Most levels have no to one obstacle and otherwise are just a blank two-screen space with some graphics.

As for the combat, this game has a combo-based combat system but it’s pretty much just a basic button masher.  Most of the time you will just be mashing the attack button and watching your cat repeatedly swinging their weapon identically over and over as you whack the baddies.  Once enemy cats are defeated they are sent flying off the screen, so this game is fortunately not too violent.  You can also dodge-roll with another button and use a super attack if a meter is full.  If you keep hitting different enemies you will build up a combo.  It’s a very bland combo system; sometimes it does reward you with bonuses for doing a long combo, but it really is mostly just ‘mash the button’.  I know that that’s basically the Warriors genre, but those games have a lot more variety than this one does.  The game does provide a decent challenge, as your health goes down fairly quickly when you take damage, particularly from the bosses who are quite deadly, but it’s all so incredibly repetitive that it’s hard to get myself to keep playing.  If you do die you need to restart the level from the beginning. Yeah.

If you do keep playing, though, once you complete a level you can spend the money you earned in each level on upgrades in the shop.  These upgrades increase your stats, so yes, if you get stuck you can grind for money for upgrades.  I don’t think I’ll be doing that, though, the game is a repetitive bland grind that I don’t have much fun with. The graphics are really cute, with cartoon cats all over, but the gameplay?  I’ll pass.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Splat the Difference Developed and published by Lightwood Games in 2016.  This title is a pretty tricky “find the difference between these two versions of a picture” game.  The game has an impressively large number of images, if it has ever repeated while I play it I haven’t noticed.  The game mechanics are simple.  All you to is touch the screen with the stylus where you notice a difference between the picture on the lower screen and the one on the upper screen or press a shoulder button or the flip icon on screen to flip the two images from one screen to the other if you wish. If you tap in the right spot a paint spot will obscure the difference.  There is a hint icon as well which shows you one difference.  There is a somewhat long timer on the hint button though before you can use it again, so you will only be able to use it once every few rounds in most modes.  Do not touch wrong, the game substantially punishes you for it.  Yes, this game may be easy to play, but you will immediately notice that this game is HARD.  Finding the differences can be difficult, and all modes have timers ticking down. If you run out of time, that’s it, Game Over. And the game will NOT show you what the differences you missed are.  That’s probably good, it extends the playtime since you won’t know what you missed on that image.

The game has several modes on offer, which is nice. It also keeps track of your best score in each mode.  All have the same basic gameplay, but with a little twist in each one.  In Classic, you have a timer on each stage and must find three differences in each picture.  The timer is tight, but it’s long enough that with some focus I was at least able to get a few screens in fairly consistently.  If you beat a screen you get points based on how long finding them took.  If you fail to find all three differences before time runs out it’s Game Over and you lose. Frenzy mode is similar, but ramps the difficulty up even more: you must find one difference on each screen in a very tight timer.  This mode is crazy-hard, I’ve never gotten past completing only one picture.  Casual mode is the easy mode — here there is no timer, so you can keep going for as long as you want pretty much.  There is no score in this mode.  And last, Mirror mode might be the hardest of all, because the image on the upper screen will be mirrored from the one on the lower screen.  Flipping the images can be very helpful here, but you still need to find three differences in a timer about the same as Classic. Tough stuff indeed.

In addition to the single player, Splat the Difference also has a multiplayer mode for local co-op play, which is nice if you know anyone else with a 3DS.  This game is simple and difficult, but if you like this kind of thing at all pick it up.  The game has a lot of pictures to try to figure out differences on so there is plenty here to last for hours.  There isn’t any stereoscopic 3d, but still, it’s fairly good at what it does.  Also released digitally on iOS.

Sudoku PartyDeveloped and published by Lightwood Games in 2017.  It’s a sudoku game.  It’s got a lot of puzzles, broken up into several difficulty groupings, and some interestingly … aggressively noticeable? music.  The music was a choice, but I guess it gets me interested in playing the game a bit more than I otherwise would.  For the most part though this is standard stuff, but it’s the good kind of standard.  In each puzzle you can earn up to three balloons: one for completing the puzzle, one for completing it in under ten minutes, and one for completing it without using any hints.  The game keeps track of how long it took you to solve each puzzle.  So, the game has a nice hint system which will tell you if you have made any mistakes in number placement, but if you use it you won’t get that balloon.  Otherwise, gameplay here is good as expected: you select a tile with the dpad or stylus, then either put a full-sized large number or small ‘these numbers might work for this tile’ number on the space by touching the number in question.  The large numbers are on the upper right, and small numbers on the lower right. It’s a fun sudoku game with plenty of content.  There’s even multiplayer, including online multiplayer, if you can find a match!  That’s a rare feature for a sudoku game.

However, the game does have one design decision which makes things much easier: while you can place an incorrect large number, you cannot place incorrect small numbers. If you try to put a small number on a space but that number cannot be placed on that space, it will blink red and not be placed.  So, when I said that the game doesn’t let you use hints if you want al three balloon rewards, that is not true; there’s a built-in hint system you cannot disable that blocks you from putting incorrect small numbers on tiles.  And worse, there is NO punishment at all for trying to place small numbers incorrectly! You still could put a wrong number on the board, but this makes it dramatically easier.  While playing this game I am often tempted to just select each tile one after another and press all of the small numbers on each one without paying any attention to the rest of the board until I’m done, because that takes a lot less time than actually working out which numbers can go on each one.  The game seems to have ben designed to encourage this kind of play, too.  It’s a fine option to have, I just wish you could turn it off if you wanted.  Punishing the player for mistakes with time penalties, Picross e-style, also would have worked, but the game doesn’t do that.  Oh well.  Otherwise, with plenty of puzzles and (hard to make use of given the small userbase of this older title) online play, Sudoku Party’s a good time worth a look.  Also available digitally on the Wii U.

Urban Trial FreestyleDeveloped by Teyon and published by Tate Multimedia in 2017.  If you were expecting another Trials clone on the 3DS beyond Toy Stunt Bike, well, there is indeed another one, or two rather, in the Urban Trials Freestyle series.  This game is incredibly similar to that one in controls and gameplay, but it has much more detailed graphics for the environments and some gameplay differences.  As in Trials or Toy Stunt Bike, you play as a motorcycle dirtbike rider guy, trying to get through some very tricky courses with your incredibly hard to keep on the ground bike.  You can unlock and buy new clothes and bike colors as you proceed, but at the start the rider is shirtless.  That look for the guy fits the grungy urban style of this game, honestly…  You can accelerate, brake, and reverse with buttons, and steer with the stick.  You also can do stunts in the air by spinning around and such, and will need to.  Each level in this game is a good-length side-scrolling course.  You travel through an environment, with fairly detailed stereoscopic 3d backgrounds behind this flat 2.5d gameplay experience, trying to make it to the end of each course while accomplishing several mission objectives along the way.

First, the controls.  Nearly identically to those other games, your bike is incredibly tippy, and merely pressing down on the accelerator while not holding forward on the stick will cause the bike to instantly wheelie up so much it’ll flip over in a second.  So, you need to use the stick and buttons very carefully in order to stay upright.  The controls are tricky and momentum is important to make it up the various curving slopes and ramps that fill each stage.  This is how all of these games play, but I’ve never entirely loved it; it gets frustrating, I want to just be able to drive forwards without flipping over constantly! That’s not what these games are about, though.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never played anywhere near as much of any Trials games as one might expect.  If you crash you can restart with a button press from the last checkpoint, of which there are many per stage, but still.

This game is somewhat unique, though, it’s not only a clone.  The question is, will you like its unique element? I’m not sure that I do. It is those missions which differentiate this game from Trials or its other clones.  There may be other games in this subgenre which are like this, but if so I haven’t played them.  Unlike Trials or Toy Stunt Bike, you cannot progress in this game by just completing each stage.  After getting to the end of each stage you get a rating of one to five stars.  Yes, five, not three… rarely seen on the 3DS, heh.  You are graded on completion for one star, but the others require accomplishing certain tasks at certain points in the course well enough.  A specific jump may have markers after it grading you points based on how high you can jump at that spot, for instance.  Or it might grade you for how many stunt points you can get on a big jump or drop.  There are several kinds of objectives, so the variety is nice, but you only get one chance at each mission on each run though a level, no matter how many times you crash and restart, so if you mess up a mission you will need to replay the level from the beginning to try to improve.  This is a relatively short game, with six worlds of four races each, but it’ll take quite a while with each one to actually be able to proceed to the next one so it will feel long.

And lastly, the game has a very cool track builder editor.  You can fully customize a track and save lots of courses.  You can’t fully design the track, it basically gives you a course that you add obstacles to, but it’s still good.  There is no online level trading though, only online high score tables.  Ah well.  At least it does have online high scores!  Overall, Urban Trials Freestyle has decently nice visuals and fine gameplay, but I find the mission-based design not very fun and the controls typically iffy.  This game is okay but average.  Trials fans will want to give it a try.  On the 3DS I’d probably rather play the much more basic looking Toy Stunt Bike though, that doesn’t make me do the missions to advance.  Also released on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC (Steam), and iOS.

Urban Trial Freestyle 2Developed by Teyon and published by Tate Multimedia in 2016.  This sequel is very similar to its predecessor, just with new tracks to figure your way through.  This game has twice as many tracks as the first one, and they are all-new.  Otherwise, though, it’s basically the same, see the review above. You play as the same at-first-shirtless guy as before, going through new, trickier courses.  You still must accomplish objectives to proceed in Stunt Mode, that has not changed.   There is also a Time Trial mode where you only need to finish as quickly as possible, but you are meant to play the stages in both modes, not one or the other, and getting those good ratings is still quite difficult.  The graphics are nice, though, and are slightly improved over the original.  They are still in full stereoscopic 3d.  The menus look a little better than the first games’.  The track editor returns, though they did make one very nice addition here — it not only has more objects you can place in the stages, but there is online level trading.  However, it works via basically in-game equivalents to friend codes, so you can only download a stage if you know the code to enter.  That’s incredibly obnoxious.  Ah well.  Other than that, though, this game is mostly just a level pack with a graphical overhaul. If you like the first one definitely pick this one up too.  Otherwise, pick one or the other.  Maybe get this one, it does add a few things to the game.  Overall it’s a bit above average.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Word Logic by POWGIDeveloped and published by Lightwood Games in 2016.  Lightwood Games has released many word games on various modern consoles, but only the first two released on 3DS.  These word games have a lot of content but very simple presentation.  Each one has six different word games to challenge yourself with, many quite difficult. I’m going to cover all six so this will be long.  The graphics are very simple, with lines and letters and no stereoscopic 3d.  All of the word puzzles in both of these games could be done with pencil and paper, but they work just as well or better here on the 3DS.  The game has stylus-based controls for the most part, though sometimes the dpad and buttons do something as well, and there are hints in most games that you can enable with L+R.  What the hint does varies depending on the game.  The game keeps track of how long each puzzle took you to finish, but that’s it; there are no extra rewards for not using hints or such.  It’s fine, with how hard these are completing most puzzles at all is quite a task.  Fortunately you can save puzzles in progress so you won’t lose much if you have to stop playing.  Just pause during play and you can save any game as it is.  You can save a separate puzzle in each of the six games, it’s not just one for the whole collection.

First is Kriss Kross. No, not the early ’90s rap group of a similar name, a word puzzle.  This is basically a crossword puzzle where you are given all of the words and need to figure out which word goes in which space on the board.  When you select a word you see the words of that number of letters, and you need to place all of the words so that every word can be placed.  These puzzles start out easy, but do get more challenging later on. It’s nice that something in this game is relatively easy!  Here the hint tells you if you have placed any words incorrectly.

In Ladders, you start with one word and need to turn it into another word by changing one letter at a time.  Each time you change a letter it needs to make a word, so the challenge is in thinking of what words you can make that lead you to change the letters towards the word you need to end up with.  This starts out with relatively easy 3-letter words, but the 4 and 5 letter words are much harder.  There are no hints in this game, good luck.  You can write letters in a box if you don’t want to click on the letter buttons, either works fine.  I find it easier to touch the letter buttons.

Word Sudoku is just like it sounds like, a sudoku game with letters instead of numbers.  This is identical to regular sudoku as there are still only 9 letters used per puzzle. One row or column will spell a 9-letter word that the 9 letters make up.  Other than that though, it’s just sudoku.  You can either use letter buttons in the upper right or draw letters in the lower right, but I’d rather use the buttons.  A button in the corner of the letter grid lets you place small help letters to remind you of which letters could possibly go on a space.  Just like the Sudoku Party above, the game does not allow you to place incorrect small letters and doesn’t punish you for trying to place letters that can’t go in that spot, which makes the game a lot easier if you are stuck.  There is also a hint mode which tells you if you have placed any big letters incorrectly.

Crypto isn’t cryptocurrency, it’s cryptography.  Each puzzle in this mode has a long quote on the upper screen, with a simple letter-substitution cyper making it look like gibberish.  You need to figure out which letter to substitute for each one in order to make the puzzle into the correct quote.  Hint mode here tells you if you have any errors.  This is a good puzzle game which is tricky but fun as you figure out the correct letters.

Wordsweeper is a bit like Minesweeper, but with letters.  It’s not quite as random as minesweeper, though.  In this game some blocks are black and have small letters in them, and others are white blocks for you to put letters in.  The letters in a black block show you what letters are in the white blocks touching that block in any of the 9 directions, including diagonals.  Your challenge is to place all letters and make words as you do so.  I’m a fan of minesweeper, and this has enough of that game in it for me to quite enjoy this.  Wordsweeper is pretty good, as you try to use deduction to figure out where you can place each letter.  It has a good balance of challenge and fun. Hint mode tells if if you’ve placed any letters incorrectly.

Lastly, Gaps is a tricky puzzle game where you need to make a word by finding the missing letters in a bunch of words shown on the upper screen.  So, there is an unknown word, say six letters long, and the game shows six numbered boxes.  Below there are six words, with one letter missing with a _, each with a number.  Each number corresponds to that letter in the hidden word.  Often there are multiple words that can be made by adding one letter into the missing letters in the one-letter-missing words, so your challenge will be finding the ones which work to form the hidden word.  As usual you can either click letter buttons or draw letters on the lower screen, and select which of the letters of the word you are filling in as well.  This is a solid word game, as usual for this collection.

Overall, Word Logic is a good word puzzle game.  There are no traditional crossword puzzles here, but that’s fine, they were trying for some other things.  Of the two Powgi word games on the 3DS, this is the easier one; the game is challenging, but not insane like some puzzles in that game are.  There are 720 puzzles in this game so there is a huge amount of content, too, and it certainly gets harder as you go along.  I definitely recommend this to anyone interested.  Also released digitally on Wii U.

Word Puzzles by POWGIDeveloped and published by Lightwood Games in 2016.  This collection is very similar to the other one presentation-wise, just with harder puzzles.  So, you get some of the most basic graphics imaginable which are mostly text, no stereoscopic 3d, and six different quite difficult types of word puzzles to challenge yourself with. In each puzzle you use the stylus to play.  This time you just select words or highlight spaces in a puzzle though, you won’t be entering letters with letter buttons this time.  Somehow this makes the game harder, not easier.  Most games still have a hint you can enable by pressing L+R together.  In some puzzle types the hint is very useful and in others it’s not, it varies.  The game doesn’t punish you for using hints, though it does keep track of your time in each puzzle, but I’m okay with that because with how hard these puzzles can be I’m more just relieved to have completed them at all, if I manage to.  I don’t think there are any extra rewards for finishing puzzles quickly, this is a basic game presentation-wise.  Still, it’s good.  I am going to describe all six games, so this summary will again be long.

First is Word Maze.  This game is a rectangular grid of letters with one word’s worth starting out outlined with black lines.  You need to start from the last letter of that word, find the next word, and continue finding all of the words, each connecting to the end of the last, until the whole maze is filled in.  The maze is on the lower screen, and the upper screen only has the category for words in the current puzzle.  Starting out in these puzzles can be tricky, but since all of the words connect together into a single path it’s not as hard as it looks.  If enabled, the hint in this mode shows a list of words on the upper screen that you are looking for on the lower screen, highlighting the ones you’ve found so far.

The second, and for me hardest, game is Mixups.  Here you have a bunch of letters scattered on the lower screen and three lines on the upper screen for words you need to make with those letter . The game shows how many letters long each word is, and if you enable the hint it shows you the first letter of each word, one word at a time, but that’s the only help you get.  I’m sure some people are good at this but I am not, and despite many tries cannot beat the second puzzle in this mode.   Fortunately you don’t need to play the puzzles in this game in order, you can play the many theme categories within each puzzle type in any order, but still it’s frustrating.

One Word is the third game.  It shows a quote on the upper screen and a grid of letters on the lower screen.  This is a word search, except there is only one word on the lower screen at a time.  So, even once you figure out what the word is, it may be tricky to find since the entire grid is made up of just the letters in that word, but the actual word’s only in one spot on the field.  Each word you find brings you to the next word in the quote.  It’s a solid word game.

Flowers gives you the middle few letters of a word, shown on the upper screen.  A flower-shaped ring around those central letters is there for you to fill in with words.  On the lower screen there are a bunch of pairs of letters.  You need to make words by placing each pair of letters in a spot where it makes a word when ended with the pair of letters on the other side of the flower.  So if HI is in the middle, put TA on one side and NI on the other to make Tahini.  If you need to delete a pair you have placed, you can select them with the d-pad and delete with B to return a pair to the bottom screen.  This is probably one of the easier games in this collection, it’s good.

Three Connected Words puts three circles on the lower screen, each with letters in them.  You need to make three words, with each one including the letters shown within its circle.  Some letters are question marks and you will need to figure out what those letters are from context.  Here the hint fucntion again gives you the first letter of each word.  You can press it up to three times to get all three first letters, and a fourth use gives you the puzzle category.  This is a tricky but fun game.

And last, Crossovers are two-part puzzles.  First, you see a pair of crossing words as if in a crossword puzzle. The letter where the two words cross over is empty and you need to figure out what that letter is, from four the game shows you.  There are no hints here, but you only have four letters for each word to choose from so you can just pick until you find the right one.  The hard part of each puzzle is part two.  Here you need to take the letters you just chose and solve the clue by unscrambling those letters and finding the hidden word you can make from them.  The game gives you a category but that’s it.  There are, unfortunately, no hints here either, one to give you the first letter would have been incredibly helpful.  I’ve always been bad at this and this is no exception, I often get stuck at this point and usually can’t solve the puzzles… ah well.  I am okay at writing, but some elements of English are difficult.  The game does save your progress though, so if you give up it’ll save that you were at the unscramble part and you can go right back in to that step.

Overall, Word Puzzles is a very simple game in terms of presentation, but the amount of content here is quite significant, there are over a hundred puzzles in each of the six modes.  If you like word puzzles definitely pick this game up.  Lightwood Games have made a lot more games like these on the Switch, but I’d much rather play this kind of thing with a stylus so I haven’t bought any of them.  Also released digitally on Wii U.

Yumi’s Odd Odyssey – Developed by Studio Saizensen and published by Natsume in 2014.  A part of the Umihara Kawase series of platformers, as always in this series you play as a girl with a fishing pole who uses it for platforming, not fishing.  This series started on the Super Nintendo in Japan, but this was maybe the first one released here in the West. The game is 2d platformer with nice stereoscopic 3d depth.  In this fantastic platformer, your goal is to use your fishing line as a grappling hook in order to work your way through challenging levels. The fishing line is the key unique feature of this series, and it’s great.  It works as kind of a hybrid grappling hook and bungee cable, as you can hook it on to things and swing around. It’s a fishing line, though, so while you will swing, the controls here are very different from, say, Bionic Commando.  This game is much less straightforward than that one, it is much more of a physics puzzle game.  Trying to figure out what combination of regular jumps and fishing line bouncing will get you to where you need to go in order to complete each level is the order of the day here, and it’s great, challenging fun.  As with all titles in this series, this is more of a platform-jumping game than it is a combat game, but there are foes, all of them various types of sea life. I would say more, but you need to experience this game for yourself.  Yumi’s Odd Odyssey is a great, highly recommended platformer, definitely buy it while you can. Highly recommended!  This 3DS exclusive is a digital exclusive in the West, but got a cart release in Japan.

Funfair Party Games –  Developed by Avanquest Software and published by Joindots in 2013.  This is a minigame collection containing digital versions of eleven popular carnival games.  It has local and online multi-system multiplayer and nice graphics for a downloadable 3DS game.  It has online high scores too, and the high score tables still work, with a local and online top five for each included game. Unfortunately it does NOT have any AI to compete against, so if you’re playing this by yourself it’s a much less interesting experience.  That’s too bad for a handheld title.  The game has two modes per title, with either motion-based or button and stylus-based controls.  Yes, the 3DS has a rarely-used motion sensor in it, did you forget? Arcade mode is motion controls, and Classic is button controls.  The game has nice stereoscopic 3d graphics and usually-decent controls, but is pretty simple.  Most people probably won’t play Funfair Party Games for long, but I imagine some might get into it.  I recommend reading the instructions screen before each game, the controls are not always intuitive so knowing what to press or how to move the system is essential.  Fortunately it is explained in the help.  Always go through the help before entering a game.  I will describe how some of the games control but not all of them.

These are the games. First is Shooting Gallery.  Here you either use motion or the analog stick to aim a popgun, and then try to fire at pig targets moving in a straight line across the screen.  The concept is good, but why are all of the targets identical pigs, that’s a bit bland.  The motion controls are okay, though you will almost certainly want to turn off the 3D slider while using motion since the 3d effect breaks if you move the system much.  You fire then reload by shaking the system.  With buttons, you fire with L and reload by pressing X and then Y.  Yes, it’s X Y L repeat.  Odd.  This game is alright but more target variety would have been good.  Next is Basketball.  It’s one of those ‘shoot the ball in the hoop’ games. Here the motion controls are alright, but with buttons you press L+R to increase shot power.  Actually getting the ball into the hoop is much harder than I’d like, I found it hard to get any shots in at all.  Next is Duck Fishing.  This is a magnetic-line fishing game where you need to grab floating ducks and drop them in shark mouths on either end of a river.  You move left or right on the stick, then zoom in with a shoulder button, which lets you move in all four directions on the current screen.  Get over the magnet on the back of a duck to grab it. This is definitely more fun with motion, where it’s a bit less basic and easy.  With buttons this is forgettable.

High Striker is a ‘how hard can you hit the thing’ game.  You build up power by alternating L and R rapidly, then hit by touching the touchscreen.  It’s harder than it may sound to get a good hit, not bad if you like button-mashing minigames.  I generally don’t.  Can Knockdown is a ball-toss game. The button controls have you aim with the stick, then alternate L and R presses to build power on a meter which otherwise rapidly declines. Press both buttons at the same to throw. These controls are awkward and kind of annoying, but the minigame is otherwise okay.  Claw Crane is a crane game. Use buttons or the touchscreen to move the claw and drop it with a touch.  This is a very difficult crane game where you will have a hard time seeing where to put the claw in order to grab targets.  I hate all claw games, including this one, but the small, narrow perspective of the machine doesn’t help at all either.  Camel Race is a ball-rolling game.  You roll balls up a slope, trying to drop the balls in holes which get you different amounts of points.  The board is empty of obstacles other than the holes you’re rolling towards, but despite this this game is deceptively tricky, it’s easy to roll and miss and have the ball fall off the table.  This is decent fun, though.  Hot Wire is next.  This is one of those ‘try to move the ring along the electric maze without touching the wire, which will shock you a bit’ games.  Irritating Stick (PS1 or N64 versions) is a pretty good videogame one of these, but this one is kind of annoying, as you need to rotate the ring with the shoulder buttons as you move down the wire.  This is a pretty awkward procedure that makes the game quite tough.  Still, it’s okay.

Next is Ball-In-The-Glass. You throw balls into glasses in rows on shelves, with a typically odd buttons-and-stick control scheme.  If you can get used to the controls this game is fun, different glasses give different amounts of points, and you even get points for not landing in a glass.  This is one of the better games, I think.  In Balloon Burst, you toss darts at balloons.  It uses L and R to grab and throw darts, and the stick to aim.  Why does this title like L and R so much for controls, it’s bad.  When you throw it sets off a spinner wheel, and whether your dart goes straight or not depends on where you stop.  This one is okay.  And last, Ballroll is Skee-Ball, the carnival game classic.  This is a good version of Skee-Ball, weird L+R or tilt-based controls aside. It has the expected skee-ball board, and as expected you roll a ball up then try to land it in the holes.  This is different from Camel Race because here the are curving walls in the board which restrict the ball to different areas, depending on how hard you roll it.

Overall, Funfair Party Games is average.  I have issues with a lot of the minigame controls either with the motion or button options, and it’s too bad that there isn’t any AI opponent or high score table at all to compete against, but even so, with nice visuals and a solid variety of games, for cheap this might be a decent way to spend a few minutes.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.  This game had a physical release in Europe, but in the US it is digital-only.

Zombie Slayer Diox – Developed and published by UFO Interactive in 2012.  In this music game you play as a rocker guy fighting zombies with the power of music.  Why in the world would I buy a “do the inputs with perfect timing” music game, when as most people probably know I absolutely hate this genre?  I have no idea, beyond that it is a 3DS game, but the zombie theme doesn’t make me hate this game any less than the rest of its genre, unfortunately.  The catch here is that instead of pressing buttons, you use stylus swipes for your inputs.  You need to do the correct direction slash that matches the symbol on each zombie coming at you, either horizontal, diagonal, or vertical.  Do the right kind of slash at the right moment and you will kill the zombie. Otherwise, you will take a hit.  So yeah I’m hopelessly bad at this, I can’t do timing minigames at all.  If you do like this kind of game consider this one, it’s low budget but otherwise maybe okay.  Personally I hate it. You might not though?  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Rankings for this update

Great!

Yumi’s Odd Odyssey
Noitu Love 2: Devolution

Good to very good

Glory of Generals: The Pacific
Automaton Lung
Color Zen Kids
A-Train 3D: City Simulator
Sudoku Party

They’re alright, maybe good

Harold Reborn
Splat the Difference
Brunch Panic
3D Game Collection
Urban Trial Freestyle
Urban Trial Freestyle 2
Word Logic by POWGI
Word Puzzles by POWGI
CosmiBall 3D
Urban Trial Freestyle
Urban Trial Freestyle 2

Below Average to Subpar

Horseshoe Crab Rescue!
Bloo Kid 2
Blast ’em Bunnies
Murder on the Titanic
Smash Cat Heroes
Funfair Party Games

Bad

Zombie Slayer Diox

 

 

 

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 10: T – Z

It’s finally part ten, and I’ve covered all of the games I started out trying to cover, plus some more!  Is this the last part of this series?

No, I’ve got more games to cover, the many games I’ve bought since I decided on this title list a year ago.  However, there’s no way I’ll cover all of those before the shutdown later this month.  I decides some time ago to not add many titles to this list because of how much longer it would take to cover a lot of games I haven’t played at all.  Even so, I do plan on covering at least some of them. Look forward to coverage of some more 3DS games next week.

For now though, the last games of the original list.

Table of Contents for T to Z – 20 games

Tappingo
Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter
Touch Battle Tank – Tag Combat
Toy Defense
Toy Stunt Bike
Tumble Pop
Turkey, Please!
Turtle Tale
VectorRacing
Wakedas
Witch & Hero
Witch & Hero II
Witch & Hero III
Worcle Worlds
WordHerd
Word Search 10K
World Conqueror 3D
Zen Pinball 3D
Zombie Incident
Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX

Rankings for this update

The Summaries

 

TappingoDeveloped by Goodbye Galaxy Games and published by Circle in 2014.  This game is a simple logic puzzle game.  The game has okay but somewhat bland sprite-based graphics with a bit of stereoscopic 3d.  While it has some things in common with some other games on this list, Block-A-Pix most notably, this one is much simpler than that one… too much simpler.  The problem with Tappingo is, it’s a fun enough basic concept, but the game is way too easy and basic to hold my interest for long.  So, each puzzle in this game is an image that you are trying to create, as in Picross, Block-A-Pix, and such.  As in Block-A-Pix or Link-A-Pix, when you enter a puzzle you see a bunch of start points of blocks.  Each block is a certain color and has a number on it. That number represents how many spaces long this color block needs to be in order to complete the puzzle.  A 1 means that the block needs one space in addition to the one it starts on, a two means two, and such.

However, in this game you don’t control how many blocks a block extends to.  Instead, by touching a block and dragging either left, right, up, or down, you tell a block to start sending out blocks in that direction until it hits something.  If it is the correct number of spaces long now the number disappears, but if it is too short or too long you see a number in red telling you how far over it is. Tap on the block to retract it and try sending out blocks in a new order.  The game does not have any kind of error-check function, but it doesn’t need it because once you get the basic concept here, gameplay is easy.  Every block with a number must be extended out the correct number of spaces to complete the puzzle, so if a block is blocked off just undo the blocks around it and try a new order.

The issue here is mostly in how limited what you can do is.  In Block-A-Pix or Link-A-Pix, you can click and drag the blocks to any size you wish as you try to fill in the image.  Here, though, you just choose a direction and send out the line. If it’s the right length it’s good, otherwise retract it and try a new block order.  As a result, pictures start out with a lot of blocks already filled in, and the gameplay is often less of a puzzle and more just of an order-of-operations simulator, as you start at some obvious point and go around the puzzle filling it in as the lines you complete make other blocks able to extend to their correct distances.  The only challenge here is in figuring out which direction to send some of the blocks.  The game does occasionally present glimmers of challenge at the midpoint of solving some puzzles, but it never gets at all difficult.  The game has a lot of puzzles, but the later ones are just bigger, not harder.  Perhaps due to the games’ core design there isn’t much that can be done to actually make the puzzles a challenge, unfortunately.  I love 3DS puzzle games, but Tappingo is a disappointment.  The game is too boringly easy and repetitive to be worth playing for long.  It’s a “puzzle” game where, most of the time, you aren’t actually solving a puzzle, just clicking on lots of little blocks in a usually-obvious order.  Probably skip it.  Nintendo 3DS Digital Exclusive.

Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter – Published on 3DS by Big John games in 2014.  This is a decent sci-fi flight action game.  You control one of several fighters, flying around planets shooting various alien threats.  This is a simple flight game, not a serious sim. The analog stick controls the ship, two face buttons increase or decrease your speed while you hold the button down, R shoots your guns, L puts a target icon around the nearest enemy though you don’t have any weapons that actually lock on to enemies, and d-pad directions enable turbo boost or weapon change between your two types of guns.  The two guns are a machine gun which auto-fires while you press the trigger and a charge shot that powers up while you hold the trigger down. I prefer the charge shot.  There are only eight missions in this game, so this isn’t a long game, though each one is a decent length so it will last a little while.

The controls are decent, but it is a bit annoying that you don’t have any kind of missile attack and can only shoot at targets straight in front of you.  Slow down, slowly fly towards target, shoot at it, repeat.  You have enough health that you can take a fair number of hits. Enemies are mostly either turrets, barely-moving ground objects, or things which infinitely spawn around you, so you won’t be doing much dogfighting in this game.  You don’t have the space in most missions to circle around for realistic air combat, anyway; you fly close to the ground blasting stuff.  I don’t mind this though, the game is decently fun and plenty of ’90s flight action games work this way, it’s just how Thorium Wars is.

On screen, the upper screen is the game, done in nice stereoscopic 3d, and the lower screen has a map of the surrounding area.  Unfortunately the map does not show the walls or areas that you can go, only your ship, your targets, and a marker showing where your current objective is. The levels are often in slightly mazelike canyons, so despite the objective marker you will sometimes get lost.  There is no time limit, though, so pay attention to the paths and you should make it out.  If you die you have infinite continues from the last checkpoint, which is pretty nice.  However, you can choose between three difficulty levels for each mission, and the game does record which difficulty you played the game on and gives you a medal which varies depending on how many times you died in the mission.  It’s nice that the game does reward you for better play.  Overall, Thorium Wars is a pretty average flight action title, but it’s decently fun if you like this kind of game as I do.  Maybe pick it up.  Nintendo 3DS Digital Exclusive.

Touch Battle Tank – Tag Combat Published by Circle and developed by SilverStar in 2016.  Circle Pad Pro supported.  Touch Battle Tank is a slightly isometric overhead-view tank action game.  This game is actually the fourth game in its series on the 3DS, but the first three were published by Agetec and all Agetec games were delisted from the 3DS eshop back in 2018, before I had bought any of them, so unfortunately I can’t cover those.  As for this game, though, it has polygonal graphics and decent stereoscopic 3d. You move around with either analog stick and fire with the touch screen. It’s nice that it supports both sticks because this means a left-handed person would be able to play with analog controls too without much of a problem. The controls are good and I really like aiming your shots with the touchscreen, it works great. Your goal in each small, only several-screens-sized level is to destroy all enemy tanks and turrets. Once they are all dead you move on to the next stage. This won’t usually be much of a problem, I often beat levels first try in this game. You have several tanks to choose from, each with different stats, and a good number of stages to play through. Even so this isn’t a long game at all, though, because each level is very short. The game has local multiplayer as well as single player, so if you know anyone else with a 3DS you can play against them, but doesn’t have online play. This is a very simple but fun little game with simple graphics, good controls, and fun but mostly easy gameplay. I don’t think the game will last long, but you may be entertained while it does. I guess I recommend it.  Nintendo 3DS Digital Exclusive.

Toy Defense Published by Circle and developed by Melesta in 2016.  Toy Defense is an irritatingly grindey tower defense game.  It was first designed for mobile, and removing the microtransactions as they did here only made the game cheaper, not better, unfortunately.  This is one of the most common types of tower defense games, where the enemies move along a preset path and you build towers at certain preset points along the sides of that route. I prefer tower defense games where you build defenses that the enemies have to go around, but this style is good too.  The game has okay graphics and competent tower defense gameplay, but the game has an upgrade system that you spend money you gained in the levels on.  Units also build up experience as they kill enemies, and you can take some troops from level to level as well.  Both of these features may sound good, but unfortunately the game feels way too heavily rigged towards forcing you to play the same levels over and over as you build up enough money to upgrade your troops enough to be competitive in later stages.  At first I tried to just move on to the next level each time that I finished a stage, but got destroyed pretty quickly and initially thought that the game was impossible. It’s not, though; you just need to grind for upgrades.  I hate that, it makes this otherwise fun game really irritating.

I do like the theme here, though.  You control some Army Men-style toys, defending against attacking enemy toys.  You can build several different types of troops, only a few at first and more once you buy them in the shop, and as I said can only place them on the preset spots.  As in all tower defense games each unit has a specific attack range and damage, and different weapons will do better against different enemy troop types, such as flamethrowers being better against infantry.  Combined arms with well-placed units of the correct types will do better than flooding the screen with weaker units, which is nice.  However, some levels get harder by artificially limiting the number of spots you can put units in, emphasizing the focus on grinding for upgrades even more.  Overall, Toy Defense is an okay tower defense game for genre fans, but the heavy focus on grinding is a pain. It’s probably average overall.  It’s a shame that mobile games are so often ruined by grindey, clearly originally meant as microtransaction-bait, nonsense like this.  Oh well.  Also available digitally on iOS, Android, and PC (Steam).

Toy Stunt Bike Developed and published by Wobbly Tooth Ltd. in 2014.  This game is an indie take on Ubisoft’s popular Trials franchise.  Just like in a Trials game but in stereoscopic 3d, you play as a motorcycle bike rider trying to make it though 2.5d sidescrolling platform-puzzle challenges.  This game started out on Xbox 360 Indie Games, before going to iOS and then here on the 3DS.  Fortunately, unlike some games on this list this one was not ruined by being on smartphones.  You can customize your rider and bike in this game, but start out as a shirtless guy; you will only unlock other clothing and such later.  This is a precision driving game, and you will need to drive just right to get through each level.  You will need to carefully have the exact right throttle speeds and bike rotation in order to get past the challenges without crashing.  The controls in this game are touchy, but once you get used to them this is a fun Trials-style game.  The graphics here are simple, but the visuals do have nice stereoscopic 3d depth.  Just like in Trials, stages have checkpoints in the level.  However, the game is keeping track of your total time, so if it takes you a long time to get through a checkpoint you might want to restart from the beginning if you want a good time on the stage.  The game keeps track of your time on each level.  There are also three collectibles to try to get in each level.  If you’re thinking ‘does this game have a mobile-style three-star system?’… yes, of course it does.  Even so, though, despite the touchy controls and simple graphics, I do think that Toy Stunt Bike is a decently fun time.  I like platformers and racing games, so this combination of the two works well. Recommended.  This game had a sequel, butt unfortunately the second one was not released on 3DS.  There is a third one on the Switch, though.  Also available digitally on iOS, and it was also on Xbox 360 Indie Games.

Tumble Pop [Game Boy Virtual Console]Published by G-mode in 2012.  The original game was published by SunSoft (licensed from original arcade game developer Data East) in 1993.  I still have my original Game Boy I got back in the early in the ’90s, so I understand that due to screen blur, it’s best for Game Boy platformers to scroll somewhat slowly if you want the player to be able to see what’s going on. However, this game took that way too far.  Tumble Pop is a sidescrolling platform-action game in the Bubble Bobble vein. You play as a guy using a vacuum for a weapon, and need to destroy a certain number of enemies on each level. Once they are all dead, you beat the level and can move on. Unlike Bubble Bobble this is a scrolling game, though, not single screen.  So, over-correcting for the Game Boy’s screen blur, this game is slow, slow, SLOW. Your movement is slow, enemies are slow, and everything here is tediously slow.  The game does have powerups you can purchase in between levels and use, and one of those is a speed-up, but unfortunately it’s not permanent and you can’t afford to have it all the time, so this is only a very temporary improvement.  Even with it the game is still slow, though. On the more positive side the game has password save and even a level editor, and of course with this version you can make savestate saves.  The manual is also extensive and surely copies everything from the original paper manual.

If you do play it, though, Tumble Pop has an overworld, this isn’t just a level-based game.  You can freely move around the overworld. From the overworld you can travel to worlds which have levels and bonus stages in them.  On this map you move along paths which connect the stages, and can only move past each stage once you’ve beaten it.  Worlds have multiple routes and end with a boss at the end, but sadly you will only see the ‘you’ve beaten this world’ flag appear on the overworld map if you beat every single level in the world, so I’m not entirely sure why this is.  Once you enter a level, you move with the dpad and jump and use the vacuum with the buttons.  Once you have an enemy in your vacuum you can shoot it out as an attack, which will follow a downward-curving path.  The number of enemies you suck up at once affects the power of the shot you shoot out If you suck up two or three enemies at once you will shoot out a more powerful shot.  Three is the max power, though.  You can move around with an enemy in the vacuum for a few seconds, but wait too long and it will escape and you will lose a life.

Some people like this game, but I find it incredibly boring and kind of bad.  First, again, movement is very tediously slow.  Everything feels like you’re moving through mud, stages take way too long. Play Bubble Bobble instead of this.  Additionally, your attack feels perhaps overpowered, as most enemies are helpless once you start it up, they will be sucked up.  You can take damage even when using the vacuum, though, because the enemies in stages drop out of certain marked spawn points.  Your best strategy in most levels is to find the right place to stand where the enemies will keep spawning out of each spawn point and wipe them out one after another.  It’s even better if a stage has ones in each direction, because then you can just shoot the ones from one direction at the enemies the other way.  You can just repeat this until they’re all dead, they’ll walk straight into your attack over and over.  But if the level makes you get close to the spawn points, you can be killed unfairly by enemies suddenly appearing behind you.  Even if that happens, though, there isn’t much of a penalty of death.  Oh, and as for those bosses, you need to figure out how to hit them then repeat that until they go down.  Do not expect variation.  This game is playable, but after a few stages I got incredibly bored and barely had the patience to keep going long enough to finish even a single world.  I’m sorry, but I don’t like this game at all, it’s pretty bad.  I love my original Game Boy, but not this game. Skip it.  Also available on Game Boy.  This title is a heavily altered version of an arcade game.

Turkey, Please! Published by Nostatic Software in 2019.  This is another adventure game in the ____, Please! series.  You once again play as the little girl from the previous games in this very ’80s or’90s-nostalgia-styled title.  As the name suggests this time there is a Thanksgiving setting. Other than that it’s similar to before, so it’s set in the same house and environs, just with Thanksgiving decorations around this time.  You need to help Mom prepare Thanksgiving dinner (while your brother plays videogames in his room, so he’s unhelpful like usual in this series…), so the puzzles involve finding specific ingredients, going to your neighbors’ house to take things from his place, and more.  As before this is a very simplified adventure game, as there are no dialog options, conversations are extremely short and your character rarely speaks, and you can only hold one item at a time.  Once you find the next item you need, you will need to choose between just tossing the item you have on the ground or going back to put it where it originally came from.  Those are your two options.

Despite the simplicity of the design and the small number of locations you can go to, though, the puzzles are plenty tricky.  I definitely found myself stuck during this game more than a few times, since you rarely know where to go to accomplish your current objective or, sometimes, how to get the item.  For instance, you will make a slingshot that shoots brussels sprouts, which you fire by flicking the analog stick. But what should you shoot? You’ll need to figure that out. Fortunately ammo is infinite.  If you want a break, you can also play the videogame in your brothers’ room.  It is a Flappy Bird clone with the dragon from the 3DS/Wii U game Fat Dragons. It’s alright but a bit boring, like usual for Flappy Bird games.  Overall, this is a charming adventure game I recommend. You can play it on other formats but this is a good version.  Also available for PC (Steam) as DLC for the Quiet, Please! collection.

Turtle TalePublished by Saturnine Games in 2014.  Is this yet another mobile port? If not it sure feels like one.  Turtle Tale is a very simple 2d platformer.  The gameplay here is very plain, but at least this title does have one thing going for it, a very strong stereoscopic 3d effect.  The game is standard 2d side-scrolling platformer with sprite based graphics, but the developers made the background layers look quite far apart. The 3d effect is really noticeable and looks great, I like the depth it adds to the image.  It’s a shame that glasses-free 3d didn’t catch on, it’s a fantastic technology! Other than that there isn’t much to say about Turtle Tale, though.  You play as a cartoon turtle.  In each level you have 100 fruits to collect, and you walk to the right, collect fruits, get checkpoints, and shoot enemies along the way to the goal.  Your gun seems to be a water gun of some kind, but it’s enough to wipe out the various creatures trying to stop you.

The game is playable but, again, extremely plain.  Levels are very basic assortments of platforms and pits.  All levels are straight left-to-right paths made up of basic rectangular platform blocks and enemies, there are no mazes or more complex layouts to be found.  You don’t have a double jump or anything, either, and while some of the controls are responsive, turning around to shoot the other way is not; there’s a noticeable delay when you turn around that often makes hitting an enemy approaching you from behind difficult.  Combine this with the fact that you get knocked back when enemies run into you and that if you fall into a pit or run out of your five hit points you go back to the last checkpoint, and occasionally this game can get annoying. It is quite an easy game on the whole, though, as a little caution should be enough to get you past most obstacles. Just plan ahead when you first see a foe instead of trying to react on the fly and you can shoot them all down easily enough.  Overall, Turtle Tale is a below average game with some of the most basic platforming and shooting around.  The games’ very strong 3d depth effect is neat, but I wish that the game was anywhere near as interesting as the amount of 3d depth is.  Ah well.  Also available digitally on Wii U.

VectorRacingPublished by Arc System Works in 2012 (and perhaps developed by Sweet-Soft?).  Vector Racing is an indie futuristic racing game which is an enhanced version of a smartphone game.  The game has a great visual style with a nice vector-style 3d graphics, but the gameplay is somewhat plain, its mobile roots show.  Visually the game kind of looks like a 3d Virtual Boy game but with color.  I love the wireframe 3d you see here, and the stereoscopic 3d effect is great. The game has simple graphics with no backgrounds at all, only a solid black screen, but the look fits what they were going for well.  There are a decent number of hovercars to choose from as well. For content the game has three cups of four tracks each.  That would be plenty of tracks, but most of them are pretty simple so it feels a bit sparse.  It’s okay, though.  There are several modes, including circuit mode where you play all of the tracks from one of the cups, get points depending on your finishing position, and try to have the most points at the end of each circuit; a single race mode; and more.  For the price point it’s an okay feature set.

The controls are pretty average.  You drive with the stick and accelerate and brake with buttons. And that’s about it; this game doesn’t have a weapon system or anything.  There are boost pads on the tracks which give you a speed-up for a moment after you drive over them, but that’s it.  The game doesn’t have controls as tight as F-Zero or Wipeout and doesn’t have dual airbrakes Wipeout-style, either, so while Vector Racing’s graphical style is great, its gameplay is unfortunately average.  The game can be fun to play as you zoom in nice stereoscopic 3d through wireframe 3d courses, trying to learn the boost pad locations, and the sense of speed is decent, but after not too long I do start to get bored here.  The game is okay, but it doesn’t do anything to keep me coming back for its gameplay, only for its graphics.  Based just on gameplay this is a playable but somewhat bland game with repetitive and simple gameplay.  There is some learning to do as you try to race a better line, but reasonably decent play will do fine, just keep going and you will win most races on the medium difficulty.  VectorRacing is an alright game definitely worth a look for its aesthetic, but with such average gameplay it’s hard to recommend too strongly.  I wish that this game was better, but ah well.  It does look cool at least.  Enhanced remake of an iOS game.

WakedasPublished by Circle in 2013.  Even if you hate sliding tile puzzles, Wakedas might be worth your time.  This game is a sliding tile puzzle game with a bit of a twist.  Don’t worry, it’s not your classic incredibly frustrating sliding tile puzzle game, in this title the tiles slide as full rows. Each puzzle is a grid, 3×3 for the easy levels, 4×4 for the medium, and 5×5 for the hard ones, made up of different colors.  Your goal is to get all of the blocks of each color in a contiguous group.  The key feature of the game is how you accomplish this: when you move them, the tiles slide around the edges of the edges of the screen. You can control the game with either the d-pad, analog stick, or touch controls, though touch is best of course.  Slide a row vertically or horizontally and the blocks will shift from one side of the puzzle to the other.  Once the tiles are broken up into a few single-color groups, the puzzle is over.  Most puzzles can be completed in a handful of moves.

The game is fine, but simple.  The game starts out easy, and stays that way for perhaps too long.  It does get more challenging over time, though, and there are plenty of puzzles so it is a fair challenge overall.  The game gets harder once the triangular half-block tiles are added that have two different colors on them, those can be tricky to line up.  Additionally, as with so many mobile-style games on this list it does have a three-star system which rewards you for taking fewer moves to complete a puzzle, but it’d be nice if the difficulty curve went up faster, I solve most puzzles first try in under ten moves.  Still, the game has okay sprite-based graphics with solid colors.  The game may be too easy, but its simple but satisfying light puzzle gameplay is above average fun.  I’d probably recommend this title to puzzle game fans.  Don’t expect too much, Wakedas is a simple mobile-style game, but it’s alright to good, maybe pick it up.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Witch & HeroPublished by Circle and developed by FK Digital in 2013.  This game started a trilogy of simple but fun classic-style games.   As with many Circle titles this started out as an Asian mobile game, but this one is good.  The visuals are somewhat NES-inspired, but with a lot more sprites on screen than a NES could have done. The game is framed as being an RPG adventure and it does have a leveling system, but the gameplay is mostly classic arcade-style stuff. This is a top-down action game with Ys-styled bump combat. Each level plays on a single screen, as waves of monsters attack you from all directions. The story is that you play as a hero warrior guy trying to save the day from the demon king or such, so you’re off on an adventure. It’s all somewhat comical. You have a witch companion, but she got turned to stone by a curse. She stays immobile in the center of the screen, and the monsters head at her. You need to keep her alive by killing them first.

For control, you move the hero with the dpad or analog stick, and controls are analog if you use the stick.  You rotate the witch with the L and R buttons for aiming her regular attacks, and use her super magic attack with a face button when a meter is charged.  Again the game has bump combat, so you fight enemies by walking into them.  You will take less damage if you bump enemies on their sides instead of their front.  The hero takes some damage each time you bump an enemy, though.  Once your health runs out you are stunned for a few seconds.  Pressing directions on the pad will speed up your recovery time.  During this time the witch is probably going to take some damage and once she runs out of health you lose and need to try again, so you need to manage offense and defense well to keep the team alive.  Dead monsters drop lots of stuff, including money and meter.  You can bank meter on the hero, and when you go back to the center of the screen and touch the witch it will transfer to her to use for magic attacks.  Each time the regular meter fills she does a regular attack, and when you fill up the additional super meter you can do her super attack.

Overall, Witch & Hero has a well-balanced gameplay system that is a good mixture of fun and challenge. Once all of the monsters in a wave are dead and you’re still alive, you beat the stage and move on to the next one.  The game can be frustrating at times, but you always get money and experience so if you lose you will soon be able to get some more upgrades and beat the level.  The last level is hard, though, but you would expect it to be.

Once you beat a stage, on the world map you can choose a level or go into a shop where you can spend the money you collected in the stage from killing monsters on upgrades for your characters. You can upgrade five things, three for the hero and two for the witch. The game has 20 stages and each upgrade maxes out at 20, and levels don’t take all that long, so as I said the game is on the short side. The gameplay is fun, as you walk around slashing various enemies and then blasting them with magic. The game is definitely on the short side, as there aren’t all that many levels, but the few hours you will spend with the game are worth it. I like the sprite-art graphics as well. Witch & Hero has a silly premise, good controls, solid difficulty balance, and fun gameplay. It is a good game which I I recommend for sure.  Also available digitally for iOS, PC (Steam), and Nintendo Switch.

Witch & Hero II – Developed by Flyhigh Works and published by Circle in 2016.  This time the Hero and Witch are both missing and in trouble. So, you play as the Little Witch and Little Hero and are going on an adventure to save them and defeat all of the monsters along the way. This game plays a lot like the first one. Once again you control two characters at once, though this time you do that more because the Little Witch is not stone most of the time and can move, sometimes. You will still be controlling the Little Hero most of the time, since magic is limited while swords are not and she moves very slowly, but you need to pay attention to both characters’ locations.

The core gameplay is similar to before, with some tweaks. The game consists of a world map with shop, with the same upgrades as the first game, and about the same number of levels as the first game. Each level is a single screen overhead-view action stage, where you move around the screen killing all of the approaching monsters. You move the little hero with the d-pad or analog stick, though you don’t have analog movement this time for some reason, it is digital. That’s odd. Again the game has simple bump combat, so run into the enemies with abandon! … Well, preferably from the back or side, as you will take less damage that way and deal out more. It’s quite fun and rewarding to defeat enemies and watch them drop all kinds of goodies to collect.

For the witch, L switches magic between fire and wind, R activates her super attack, and the ABXY buttons move. You can also change her firing direction with the touch screen. However, you can only move her when using the wind spell. When using the fire spell you can only pivot her around in place. Otherwise the game plays like before, so it’s still quite fun, but sometimes frustrating when you keep getting knocked out and then lose. Still, it’s mostly pretty good stuff. Just like the first one, I finished this game.

And as before the sprite art is nice, the controls good and responsive, and the game fun to play. Witch & Hero II is a simple but fun sequel which improves over its predecessor across the board. I like that you can move the witch now, it makes the game slightly more varied and interesting than the first one, and improves the feeling of having a party instead of just a sole warrior. Witch & Hero II is a good game definitely worth playing. It’ll be a fun few hours.  Also digitally released for iOS and Nintendo Switch.

Witch & Hero IIIPublished by Circle Entertainment in 2017.  In the third and sadly final entry in the Witch & Hero series, you play as three characters at once: the Hero, Little Hero, and Witch. As in the first game the witch cannot move, is stuck in the center of the screen, and must be protected until she can use magic when you return meter to her. The two warriors, meanwhile, move around the screen fighting the badguys. This game is tricky to get used to because this time you really are playing as two characters at once — the Hero is controlled with the analog stick or d-pad (control is digital either way, though), and the Little Hero with the ABXY buttons. That may sound hard, but the game has optional AI for the Little Hero to help you out. This time, the rest of the controls are touch buttons on the left and right sides of the touchscreen. Here you can change the Little Hero between protecting you, protecting the witch, or standing in place for you to fully control him; use the Witch’s super attack; and change her magic between fire and wind as usual. The game has a few new powerups, including a version of the super attack which pushes enemies back.  This move has a nicely quick timer, so you can use it often, and will need to.

Otherwise, though, the game is the same as before.  You need to kill the enemies with bump combat, collect the many things they drop, return meter to the witch so she can use magic, and repeat.  Because of having two heroes, this game gets more hectic than either previous one, with many more enemies on screen. It gets a bit overwhelming at times in a way the previous games don’t.  I recommend turning on the AI unless you are very good at tracking multiple things on screen at the same time.  And even then, you will need to replay levels for experience and money.  The game is still simple fun, but the added complexity holds it back a bit, I think.  Additionally, I find it annoying that the Little Witch, who can move, was dropped in favoe of just the static original witch, I preferred it when both the male and female characters could move around.  Overall, Witch & Hero III is a good game, but with a higher difficulty level than the previous games and a few drawbacks I liked this game a bit less than the second one.  It relies on grinding a bit too much.  It’s still a good game I recommend playing, though.  I didn’t finish this game, unlike the first two, though I should; it’s still quite fun.  I recommend getting all three Witch & Hero games, this one included.  Due to the increased difficulty I think that this is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Worcle WorldsDeveloped and published by Lightwood Games in 2017.  This is a word puzzle game where you make words.  This game basically plays on a one dimensional playfield, in that it plays on a circular line curving around the lower screen.  It may look like a circle, but it’s actually just a curved line because words only can go one way, left to right like standard text. You can’t go backwards or diagonal or anything.  You shoot letters from the center of the screen into the almost-ring around.  You can control the game with d-pad, analog, or touch.  I prefer touch.  If the ring fills up you lose and have to start the stage over.  The game has simple but good enough sprite-based graphics and uses a bit of stereoscopic 3d depth.

The game starts out easy and reasonably fun, but by the midpoint I would say that it gets much more frustrating than fun.  The problem is, you get a random assortment of letters, and whether you can make words or not in the fairly limited amount of space you get — you can only fit a couple dozen letters before it’s Game Over — is a matter of chance.  You must play each letter you are given and may not be able to make anything with them, so expect to restart levels over and over.  The levels are fairly long, too — where I stopped playing is at one where you must make 50 four-letter-or-more words.  My best so far is about 30, which is okay, but once I failed it’s all the way back to the start.  Worcle Worlds starts out as simple fun, but overall I find this game mediocre.  It’s just a bit too limited in word creation and frustrating in how little room for error you get before losing.  It’s average.  Nintendo 3DS Digital Exclusive.

WordHerdDeveloped and published by Nellyvision in 2020.  In this word puzzle game starring Mia from Mia’s Picnic (or rather the other way around, this game released a bit before that one), you need to make words. This game is not endless, it is stage-based.  You complete a stage by making a certain number of words.  Letters drop into a screen, like the tiles in a puzzle game, and you need to make words from those tiles.  When you make a word those tiles disappear, making space for new words to fill in the space. If you try to make a word but the word is not accepted, the game turns those letters grey.  If you fail to make a word on that greyed-out letter again, that letter turns dark grey and now it is useless, you cannot make matches with that letter and it is effectively just a block now taking up space.  You start with three health hearts and can take three hits before losing and having to restart the stage.  The game mixes things up eventually by having some other block types drop, such as blocks that take up a space or red letter tiles which you can make a word with but which take away one of your hearts when you make a word with red letters in it. You can remove a block by double-tapping on it as well, but this also takes away a heart.  The core concept here is great and I played many hours of this game; according to my 3DS’s time tracker this is one of my most-played 3DS games.  I beat the game on both Normal and Hard difficulties; Hard makes the game tougher by having to win an additional, harder round at the end of each stage to complete it and move on to the next one.

Unfortunately, those were not all happy hours, because this game is incredibly flawed for one simple reason: the dictionary is unacceptably small!  I can’t even count how many hundreds of times this game blocked my plays because sorry, that word wasn’t in the dictionary.  I got a strong sense that this game was not made by an American, because a lot of American words are missing from this dictionary. Even beyond that, lots of words are missing, period.  It’s ridiculous how many should-be-accepted words don’t work here!  And there’s nothing you can do about it, either — unlike, say, Boggle Plus for the original Game Boy, you cannot view or add to the dictionary.  Yeah, that is a better game than this one for sure. So, do I recommend WordHerd? On the one hand, if you like puzzle games this is a very addictive one. I wouldn’t have played dozens of hours of this game if it wasn’t fun.  But the limited dictionary is so incredibly obnoxious that I can’t entirely recomend it.  There are far, far too many missing words that absolutely should be makeable for this word-making game to be a definite recommendation.  If you do play this game probably don’t play it on Hard, that additional round on each one adds a lot of time to the runtime.  Or at least don’t play on both Normal and Hard as I did.  I guess I do recommend the game overall, though.  Despite many sometimes-unfair failures I kept trying until I completed everything in this game, after all, that says a lot about a game.  Also released digitally on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.

Word Search 10K Developed and published by Lightwood Games in 2017.  If you like word searches, well, this is your game.  Instead of being a game with a lot of smaller single-screen word search puzzles, though, instead Word Search 10K is, as the name suggests, a single ludicrously gigantic word search with 10,000 words to find in its dozen-plus-screens-wide-and-deep space.  The game puts part of the field of letters on the lower screen, and a list of words that are on that screen on the upper one.  The biggest problem I have is, that’s only partially true: words that start on the next row of letters just OFF of the screen also often appear on the list!  So, the word you are looking for may or may not actually have any letters on the screen.  This game is tricky like that.

Otherwise though, this is a fairly standard word search, just in gigantic scale.  The puzzle is broken up into blocks, each of which have a theme. So one block is all colors, one things from Indiana Jones movies, and more. There is one big oddity about this game, though: the controls.  As you would expect you select letters to form words with the stylus and scroll around the gigantic puzzle with the analog stick.  The odd thing is, though, that for some bizarre reason, the analog stick’s controls are entirely reversed.  So, you press right on the stick to scroll the screen left, and down to scroll it up.  I do not understand this, but it’s how it is.

Other than that, though, this is a totally fine game which accomplishes what it set out to do.  The graphics are extremely basic, with no stereoscopic 3d and visuals that almost entirely consist of letters and words, and the gameplay is extremely repetitive as all you do is look for words which may or may not actually be on the screen you are currently looking at, but if you like word searches this game certainly should satisfy.  I somewhat lost interest after a while, since this puzzle is so ridiculously big that I’d never have the patience to actually find all of the words and that words are sometimes just off of the screen despite appearing on the word list is very frustrating, but still, Word Search 10K is an okay game I guess.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

World Conqueror 3D Published by Circle in 2013.  World Conqueror 3D is a World War II turn-based strategy game.  This was the first console game in this previously mobile series.  This game is the predecessor to European Conqueror 3D, a game I covered earlier in this series.  I probably should have covered this game back in that update since I tried to put most series together, but unfortunately I did not.  That is indeed unfortunate because the two games are extremely similar. I would highly recommend going back and reading my summary of European Conqueror 3D, because this game plays the exact same.  The only differences are in which countries you can play as — the United States is in the game this time, most notably — and in the map, which is, as the name suggests, the whole world instead of only Europe.  Other than that, both games play nearly identically.  This previous game in the series is unfortunately just as seriously mechanically broken game as its sequel is . I like the world map, but if you were hoping for better gameplay from this one, well, unfortunately you won’t find that here.  The controls are the same too, so the game still has a mixture of touch and button controls that don’t entirely make sense.

For modes, just like in the last one, you have a general conquest mode where you choose a nation and try to conquer the whole world, and a scenario mode with zoomed-in maps of only parts of the world where you have more limited, though still often time consuming, goals.  There still is no multiplayer and the same bad AI.  The biggest difference is that this time you will be doing a lot more naval combat than in European Conqueror, which adds a bit of complexity to the game, I guess.  Or not; navies here are just land troops that you pay to turn into troops that can go onto land or sea, so for the most part this game is just as simple as the other one is.

To reprise my coverage of the core gameplay from before, this is a turn-based military wargame.  It has stereoscopic 3d depth in that the units stand out above the map below them.  You can play as any of the five major World War II combatants, and some minor nations.  The map is highly stylized so, for instance, the Pacific Ocean is much smaller than it is in reality so Alaska is right next to Japan, but it works.  Once you choose a mode and start up, you will see the land and oceans broken up into territories.  Many of the land territories, and some sea ones, start with troops on them.  The game has a build sub-menu.  Here you can buy troops to place on any province which has facilities that started at or are upgraded to the max, level five.  Here we again get to this series’ biggest flaw, how hard is is to take a province which can build troops due to the seriously flawed design.  You can also buy some other upgrades for your provinces, such as the one to turn an army into a navy that you still can move back onto land at any point to turn it back into an army.  Note, you must pay this fee again EVERY TIME you want to turn an army into a navy, it’s not a one-time fee.  That’s kind of annoying.  As before, there are three types of troops, infantry, tanks, and artillery.  You can only have one type of troops in each territory at a time.

But this is a wargame, so how is the combat?  As I described before, annoyingly slow and broken.  When you attack one army with another, you send up to five units forward.  The enemy sends its first five forward, and a set of die rolls shown on screen determine how many troops each side loses.  Then your turn ends.  So yes, once again each territory’s troops can only do up to 5 damage each turn.  This means that a large army takes a long time to break down.  This becomes even harder on a territory which can build units.  I’ve mentioned this issue repeatedly because it is one of the series’ most defining “features”.  You can build generals to boost your chances, but still it’s a major problem.  Fortunately the AI here is just as bad as it was in the last game so taking advantage of the AI is a good strategy, but still.  Despite the many problems I do find this game fun to play for a while, because I like the genre, but it is far too flawed to recommend.  Play Risk or Axis & Allies instead. With annoyingly long games and fundamentally flawed design, while it is possible to have fun playing this game since some of the ways the game are broken are to your benefit and I do enjoy it sometimes, it could have been a LOT better and I can’t recommend it.  This series started out with mobile games, and unfortunately when it went console with this game it did not improve over mobile “quality”.  Both of these games are, unfortunately, overall failures.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.  I’m not sure how similar this games’ iOS predecessors are.

Zen Pinball 3DDeveloped and published by Zen Studios in 2013.  Zen Studios is one of the primary pinball videogame developers, and have been so since the later ’00s, with their Pinball FX / Zen Pinball franchise.  They are probably best known for licensed pinball games, but they have also made original tables, these among them. Zen Pinball 3D is a collection of four tables, all of which previously released on other platforms: El Dorado, Earth Defense, Excalibur, and the very culturally sensitive (hah) Shaman.  All four tables have plenty of options and look like real pinball tables.  The graphics are done in nice stereoscopic 3d, so there is a solid illusion of depth as you look towards the back of the table.  The pinball physics are good, and with four tables there is a good amount of content here.  The paddle controls are responsive as well.

The big problem with this game is, since these tables were not originally designed for the 3DS but were first made for TV systems, down-porting them to this portable means shrinking the size of everything so small that it’s very hard to make out details.  You have eight camera view options to choose between, but all feel a bit too zoomed out to actually make out all of the details on the boards.  The stereoscopic 3d is nice, but the screens’ low resolution is a big problem that the game does little to address.  Tables designed for this screen size and resolution could have worked well, but they didn’t do that here, they just ported console tables over and called it a day.  Oh, and for one more issue, this game had online leaderboards but the servers are down, so that feature doesn’t work anymore.  Too bad.  So, despite being a solid game, I probably don’t recommend Zen Pinball 3D. The tables just are not suited for this screen at all!  You can play it and whack the ball around and hitting ramps isn’t very hard, so you can have some fun, but if you want to actually accomplish table objectives it’ll be difficult.  Everything is just too small to make out all of the details of the tables.  If you want to play Zen Pinball, play a console version of these tables instead.  And probably don’t play Shaman, it’s incredibly stereotypical in quite culturally insensitive ways.  This title is Nintendo 3DS exclusive, but it is a collection of tables also available on PC (Steam), iOS, Android, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and more.

Zombie Incident –  Published by CoderChild in 2015.  This game is an open-exploration-style 2d platformer with simple sprite-based graphics.  This is a modern homebrew game designed for retro platforms, but was also ported to 3DS.  The game is also available on MSX and Colecovision, and this is a faithful port of the original with enhanced graphics, stereoscopic depth, and an on-screen map on the lower screen.  You play as a girl fighting zombies.  The game has very small sprites, but looks decently nice. I will say though, the title screen has a detailed image of the girl, drawn in an anime style and wearing a bikini top and shorts, but the in-game sprite is not exactly like that, you’re only a handful of pixels tall.  Yes, this is one of those games that tries some somewhat false advertising to sell based on an oversexed title screen, but at least the game is good beyond that.  There are a certain number of zombies on each screen, and your goal is to kill all of them in each screen of the game world.  This task will be quite challenging though, because you can only damage them by jumping on them and it is quite easy to take hits.  You have a long health bar and can take dozens of hits before it’s Game Over, but it is quite difficult to replenish health so this isn’t much of a relief.  You see, the only way to replenish those quickly-lost health points is to clear all zombies from a screen.  Once you kill all of a screen’s zombies, you get a couple of hit points back.  So if you lose a lot of health somewhere it’s probably a much better decision to just die and try again from the last time the game saved than to keep going, you will need that health.  The controls are reasonably responsive, but it can be difficult to not end up taking hits when you are trying to land on an enemy’s head.

Making it harder to kill the zombies, different types of foes have different levels, and you can only kill enemies of your level or below.  You will need to level up by killing zombies you can kill in order to be able to defeat the tougher ones.  And just killing the ones you can kill for now doesn’t get you any health recovery.  The game does save exactly which enemies are dead, though, which is pretty nice.  Once an enemy is defeated it stays that way, permanently.  To help you out, on the lower screen map, not only does it show where each screen connects to each other screen, but the tile colors indicate whether you can defeat any enemies on that screen right now.  Blue tiles mean that all enemies on that screen are defeated; tiles where there are still enemies you can currently defeat are green; and red tiles have exclusively enemies you can’t defeat yet.  A yellow tile is your current location.  Your goal in the game is to find eight rooms which have a pillar with a yellow (golden?) star on them.  Find all eight yellow stars and you beat the game.  The game autosaves when you collect a yellow star.  It may also save when you enter a room which previously contained a star.

The game doesn’t heal you at all when it saves, though, so this is definitely a game you will be starting over from the beginning more than once.  After all, you get Game Over when you run out of health and go back to the last time you saved, losing all progress since then.  Your health is precious.  The game world is relatively small, but it is large enough that exploring the world will take some time considering that you will need to be careful as you go if you want to stay alive and not take too much damage to be able to continue.  Overall, Zombie Incident is an above-average classic-style game which definitely gets some bonus points for not just being a simple modern classic-style platformer, but actually also releasing on some retro platforms.  Other than slightly more detailed sprites and stereoscopic backgrounds, this seems to be the same exact game on all formats, which is impressive for the MSX or Colecovision.  The game has issues, most notably with its difficulty but somewhat also with how easy it is to take hits while jumping, but I do like it overall. Perhaps pick it up.  Also released (as an unofficial modern homebrew game) for Colecovision and MSX.

Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX – This is a light-gun-ish shooter which, gameplay-wise, is a lot like Cabal on the NES or Wild Guns for SNES.  The game first released on WiiWare, and this 3DS version is an enhanced version of the original.  Of course the game doesn’t support a real light gun, this is the 3DS, but it does have very nice stereoscopic 3d graphics with good art design and nice-looking stages.  I don’t like the gameplay here as much as the graphics, though. This game is okay, but it has some design issues.  The core concept is that you control a character on the bottom of the screen and shoot at enemies.  Yeah, it’s very much like Cabal.  You move left and right with the analog stick when not shooting, and when shooting stand in place and the stick instead moves a cursor around the screen.  With buttons you can move left and right while shooting as well to dodge attacks.  You also have a super attack.  Each stage is a slightly scrolling area.  Enemies appear from various preset locations, and you will need to learn those enemy patterns in order to avoid their attacks and stay alive.  You beat each level when you reach a certain percent of enemies killed, and die after taking a few hits.  In the main game, you play as Momotarou, the peach boy of Japanese legend.  You cannot save in this mode and must play the entire thing in one go without dying, which is a major cause of the games’ problems.  Each level is long and difficult, good luck with this one.

The game has two modes, Story and Arcade.  Story is the main mode.  Story mode has cutscenes between stages, and must be played in one go, without saving or continues.  Take a couple of hits and it’s Game Over, start again from the beginning.  It’s crazy punishing.  You also must play as Momotarou in this mode and cannot change characters. If you beat levels in Story mode you unlock them in Arcade mode, which is a single-stage mode.  Here, you can play as a variety of characters, including Momotarou or several mostly female characters you will unlock as you complete the stages.  I really wish that you could play as the other characters in the main mode, but sadly you cannot.  You can beat stages here, but have to play the main mode in order to actually proceed.  And there you, again, can’t really save, which is ridiculous for a game as difficult and memorization-heavy as this one.  I liked playing Zombie Panic in Wonderland at first, as the shooting action feels nice as you blast away scenery and enemies, and the graphics are very nice with great stereoscopic 3d, but the main mode got too hard a few levels in for me to want to keep starting over.  It’s also pretty annoying that you can’t change characters in the main mode, when the others are in the game and there isn’t much of a storyline reason to not let you switch to the other ones you’ve unlocked.

Overall, I like Cabal on the NES, but despite the entertainingly nice graphical design here I would rather play that game than this one, it’s definitely more fun.  With some changes this game could have been pretty good, but unfortunately as it is it’s an overly frustrating game that I would call strictly average.  Pick up Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX if you like hard shooters.  Otherwise, skip it.  Also available, also digital only, on the Nintendo Wii (WiiWare) and the Nintendo Switch.

Rankings for this update

 

Great

(none)

Good

Witch & Hero II
Witch & Hero
Toy Stunt Bike
Witch & Hero III
Turkey, Please!
Wakedas

Average

Thorium Wars: Attack of the Skyfighter
VectorRacing
WordHerd
Worcle Worlds
Tappingo
Zen Pinball 3D
Zombie Panic in Wonderland DX
Touch Battle Tank – Tag Combat
Zombie Incident
Word Search 10K
Turtle Tale

Poor to Bad

Toy Defense
Tumble Pop
World Conqueror 3D

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 9: Si – Sw

Part 9!  I got it done in a week again.  As usual, this is a mixture of full summaries and first impressions. That’s the best I can do.

Table of Contents – Si to Sw- 21 games

Siesta Fiesta
Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars
Silver Falls – Undertakers
Slime Slayer
Snow Moto Racing 3D
Space Defender – Battle Infinity
SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition
Sssnakes
Stack ’em High
SteamWorld Dig
SteamWorld Dig 2
SteamWorld Heist
Steel Empire [Genesis remake]
Strike Force Foxx
SubaraCity
Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console]
Super Destronaut 3D
Super Strike Beach Volleyball
Sweet Memories: Blackjack
Sword of Hope II, The [Game Boy Virtual Console]
Swords & Soldiers 3D

Title Rankings

Summaries

Siesta FiestaPublished by Mojo Bones in 2014. This game is a Breakout-style blockbreaking ball and paddle game, but unlike most in the genre it is a sidescroller. Each level auto-scrolls along to the right, and you move your paddle, which is a bed, bouncing a ball up into the air to break blocks, collect things, and activate point orbs on the screen. If you hit A with the right timing you can bounce the ball higher into the air. The only other side-scrolling blockbreaking game I can think of that I’ve played is Jinks for the Atari 7800. That game is a total mess, but this one is okay. I don’t know that I’d go above okay, but it can be moderately fun at least. The visuals here are nicely done, with a cartoony art style that works well, decent stereoscopic 3d depth in this sprite-based game, and alright controls.

The game uses the analog stick for control. I’d recommend this game higher if it had a touch-based control option, but sadly it does not; no analog stick can match a dial, mouse, or pointer for this kind of game. Ah well. The analog controls are not the most responsive, but they’re certainly good enough. Your goal in each stage is to get as many points as you can. In classic mobile (or indie 3DS) game fashion, there are three medals to earn on each level, depending on whether you can reach the score targets for the bronze, silver, or gold medals. This game isn’t the most exciting, with sometimes slow gameplay and controls, but it looks nice, plays fine, and has a slightly original take on this classic genre. If you like blockbreaking games like I do, maybe pick it up. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars New Nintendo 3DS required. Developed and published by Sungrand in 2020. Silver Falls is a series of games by a single Austrailian developer. (Despite this, due to how Nintendo is for 3DS and Wii U game releases, some of the games are American eshop exclusives.) This game is the first release in the series. I can describe it but not review it in detail, I just haven’t played this fairly complex game to cover it in the depth it deserves, unfortunately. The games in this series are all horror-ish-game themed in some way, but other than that vary widely from platformer to action-adventure to survival horror. This first game is a fairly impressive one tech-wise: it’s a relatively late-release indie 3DS game with full, good-looking stereoscopic 3d, polygonal 3d graphics, interesting design, and plenty of gameplay systems. Does it all come together in a polished sense, no, of course not; it’s asking a lot for a mostly one-person team to do that in a fairly big-scale game like this one.
But what 3 Down Stars does accomplish is impressive even if it’s not my kind of game at all. This is a survival horror game of sorts, clearly inspired by atmospheric horror games like Silent Hill. The game has three playable characters that you will switch between, creepy environments to explore, and okay, gun-based combat. The game does make use of both analog sticks on this system, which is unfortunate since I hate that stupid right analog nub and you need it here for the camera, but this is a slow-paced enough game that it mostly works. As expected for a game like this you have limited ammo so only fight when you have to. This game is often heavier on atmosphere than combat, but you will definitely need to fight sometimes. Expect to slowly walk around environments looking for stuff quite a bit, as you try to figure out where to go and what to do. You will need to switch between characters as some areas can only be accessed by certain characters, and it is not always obvious why, for instance, you can’t enter a door, but it may be because a different character needs to open it. Okay.

As for saving, once in the game proper the game autosaves when you go between areas, but that is infrequent and you need to play a long section at the beginning of the game before it will save your progress. You need a lot more save options in a handheld game than you have here. Beyond that, though, the survival horror game has almost never interested me all that much — Eternal Darkness is the one big exception for that for me, that game is one of my all-time favorites — but this one is more average for the genre, I think. Even so, this game is definitely interesting in theory and is something I keep meaning to put some real time into. The game got mediocre reviews, but it did launch fairly buggy; those bugs have since been fixed, so if you pick it up now it will be a much smoother experience. Pick it up. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Silver Falls – Undertakers – Developed and published by Sungrand in 2021. This second 3DS Silver Falls game is a dramatically smaller production than the original one. While putting the big-title effort into a just-released Wii U eshop game, Silver Falls: White Inside Its Umbra, the developer also made several smaller 3DS games, with this one first. This game is an Atari 2600-style overhead action-adventure game inspired by the gameplay of titles like Indiana Jones for the 2600 and such. You cannot save in this game, in an unbelievably obnoxious and awful design decision you will see in a whole bunch of Silver Falls games, unfortunately. I find these games interesting but absolutely hate not being allowed to save in a game. Anyway, in this game you play as a boy in the early 1970s. Strange, awful things suddenly seem to be happening, and you need to stay alive and, presumably, eventually save the day.

As I said this is an Atari 2600-style game, so it has extremely chunky pixel-art graphics. The visuals are okay but somewhat average for this style. This is an overhead game where you go from screen to screen, talking to people, finding items, and figuring out where to use them. You can only carry one item at a time and the world is pretty good-sized though, so what to do may not be immediately apparent. I like having more direction than this game gives you, you need to figure it out. The design here is very much in keeping with its inspiration, just with way more text and graphics and such than a pre-crash game could have fit in their tiny cartridge sizes, though, so it fits its concept, it’s just not my favorite kind of design. There is also a Wii U port of this game that released recently. It’s got the 3DS game and a new multiplayer mode that takes advantage of the Wii U Gamepad. Wii U and 3DS digital exclusive.

Silver Falls – Ghoul Busters – Developed and published by Sungrand in 2022. This Silver Falls game is quite different from the two above: it is a 2d side-scrolling platformer. Or, rather, a mixture of 2d and 2.5d, as the game has a lot of rotating and moving stereoscopic 3d objects in its side-view worlds. As the name hints, this game has monochromatic green and black Game Boy-styled graphics, though with a much higher resolution than the GB has, and mostly traditional platformer game design. As a platformer fan, it’s probably no surprise that I like this game a lot more than the two above it. The graphics have a nice cartoony look to them, and the game controls alright. You can play as two boys in this game, one of whom has a stronger melee attack and the other a weaker ranged attack. Unlike many other Silver Falls titles, this one actually has a full, proper save system — beat a level and the game autosaves this. The main menu has a level select where you can start from any level you have reached. That’s great, because this game is pretty hard. Control in Ghoul Busters is responsive but jumps are extremely high and floaty. You will constantly be making blind jumps here, and there are bottomless pits all over.

Fortunately, you have infinite lives from the last checkpoint you touched. That modern convention makes this game be just very difficult and frustrating, instead of impossible. The first level is only a moderate challenge, as you shoot badguys and jump between platforms, but then you start dealing with things like long stretches of platforms with rotating instant-death spikes on them while other foes lurk on screen above and things get difficult. You do have a health bar and can take five hits, but spikes kill you instantly. Your other controls are jump and attack. Additionally, you have items on the lower screen. If you double tap an item icon the boy you’re not using will toss it up onto the upper screen near where you are standing. You also can buy items in between levels with the coins you collect in each stage. Additionally if you collect three special pickups in a level you get an additional item. Oh, and this is another 3DS game with touch-only menus despite having mostly button controls. It’s always odd to see.

On the whole, this game is very difficult, but it is well made. You get used to the floaty controls, and the green-and-black graphics look nice. I definitely find this game fun. If you get one Silver Falls game, make it this one. Also available digitally on the Nintendo Switch, though this version is better since the game makes great use of stereoscopic 3d backgrounds and moving objects.

In addition to these games, there have been two more Silver Falls games released very recently. One, Silver Falls: Guardians and Metal Extractors, released in September but was soon removed from sale because of bugs. It finally got a fixed relaunch just a few days ago. I only got it after the relaunch and it’s a fairly substantial 3d survival horror title, so I can’t say much about it yet other than that it exists and you might want to pick it up. It does require the New 3DS, and is a return to the stereoscopic 3d survival horror gameplay of the first game, 3 Down Stars.  And the surely last 3DS release, Silver Falls: Deathly Delusion Destroyers, isn’t even out yet, it releases any day now. Yeah, that game won’t be on sale for long, given that the store shuts down later this month… but at least it got released! In DDD you hold the 3DS sideways, so it doesn’t use stereoscopic 3D despite its title, but with two different games included in the purchase, one of which seems to have more RPG-like gameplay, it’s interestingly different from the other Silver Falls games yet again. And Sungrand released two Wii U games recently as well, one an enhanced port of Silver Falls Undertakers (coverd above) and the other a Wii U exclusive, White Inside Its Umbra, a full-scale survival horror game exclusive to Wii U. Getting so many games released so quickly took Sungrand dedication and I respect that regardless of whether the games are my favorite kinds of games or not. Each one is unique and original and unlike the others, none are just more of the same. The guy originally wanted to release seven games on Wii U and 3DS over the systems’ last year, and ended up releasing five. Not bad.

Slime Slayer New Nintendo 3DS required. Published and developed by Famous Games in 2019. Slime Slayer is a very basic FPS, though you don’t shoot, you slash. In this game you play as a warrior fighting slimes. Each stage plays out in a tiny little arena. You’ve got to pick up the sword, kill the slimes, and get to the door before time runs out. The slimes will not attack you or fight back, and will die in one hit, so it’s kind of mean to kill all of them but that’s what you are here to do. The game does present some challenge, though, because the time limits are tight. Slime locations in each stage are randomly generated, and the maps probably are as well. The game is broken up into worlds each of four levels, Super Mario Bros. style. As in that game the last level of each world has a castle visual theme. The number of slimes in each level matches the world number, so you kill one per stage in world one, two in world two, and such. If you walk into a slime or run out of time you lose health, and once you run out of health the game is over.

The graphics are simple, with very pixelated environments and 90 degree corners, like Wolfenstein 3D but less detailed, but I think it works for what this game is doing. Also it does have nice use of stereoscopic 3d. The controls use the analog stick for movement and the A button for picking up or swinging the sword. There is a target sight in the center of the screen which turns red when you are within attack range of a slime. The d-pad doesn’t do anything and the only way to pause is to suspend the game or close the system, start does nothing. I don’t think the game saves anything or has a high score table or anything, either, which is unfortunate. Even so, with fast-paced gameplay and decent controls, Slime Slayer is a fun diversion. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Snow Moto Racing 3D Published and developed by Zordix in 2013. Other than the stereoscopic 3d visuals, this racing game is extremely average. This is the kind of game that on an older system might have gotten a budget physical release, but on the 3DS ended up being download-only. That’s too bad given that the shop is about to be shut down; though we aren’t losing ALL that much by not having access to buying this game, it’s still something people put effort into making and can be amusing for a little while at least. But anyway, Snow Moto Racing 3D is a snowmobile racing game. The game has a decent number of tracks in several cups. You start out with only a single snowmobile to race on, but can unlock a few more, one should unlock each time you beat a cup, though I couldn’t get this to work, the game would say I unlocked another machine but I still wouldn’t be able to switch. Ah well.

Once you get into a race, you will find these snowmobiles, driving on snow, to be incredibly good at sticking to the ground. Do you find the slidey controls of snowmobile racing games like SnoCross (PS1/N64) or EA’s for PS1 and PS2 frustrating? Well, good news, you won’t be doing much sliding here. Yeah, these controls are about as unrealistic as can be given that snow is, well, a bit slippery most of the time. Heh. The controls don’t feel all that great, either; this game is okay to control, nothing more. Beyond that, most tracks in this game have a main track on which you go at full speed, and off-track side areas where you go more slowly. Some areas or tracks are open and let you go anywhere at full speed, but this is a checkpoint racing game so you’ll need to go as directly as possible to the next checkpoint anyway. The tracks have some variety, with snowfields, frozen lakes, and more. There are also jumps to go over and everything looks nice in the games’ stereoscopic 3d.

You also have a turbo meter, filled by checkpoints (each one fills 1/8th of the meter) and by pickups. Those pickups are a bit odd though, because they don’t respawn. That’s right, once you grab them they’re gone and won’t be there for the later laps. That is how turbo works in, say, Hydro Thunder and Arctic Thunder, but those games are mostly point-to-point, while this is a lap-based racing game. And if you collect a turbo while the meter is full, it collects it anyway and does nothing, you lost that potential boost. It’s a bit annoying. Other than turbos though you don’t really have many means of gaining ground in this game, which means that once the races get more difficult, as they will by the second or third cup, you will probably have a hard time of winning. There are no weapons here, the turbo function is highly limited, there isn’t really a drifting system, and the controls are not incredibly tight and responsive, so I’m not sure what I should be doing to finish faster. I’m sure there is something, probably mostly about sticking to the best racing line or such, but I decided to stop playing instead.

This game overall is below average and I probably don’t recommend it unless it goes on sale again before the store shuts down. It’s not a bad game though, just very mediocre. I like that this indie game tries to be a full-on stereoscopic 3d racing game, and for cheap it’s worth a look for that reason, I just wish the execution was a bit better. I think that this game is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, though there was an iOS Snow Moto Racing game released several years before this one. This may be a conversion of that game, I’m not sure. A third title would release on Switch, PC, and PS4 several years later.

Space Defender – Battle Infinity Developed and published by Denzvla Estudio in 2018. Sleep-inducing is probably the best way to describe this tedious bore of a game. This game is in the bottom tier of 3DS games, as bad as the worst titles on the format. The visuals and controls are fine, but the game makes multiple awful design decisions which totally ruin it. Space Defender is a vertically scrolling shooter. That’s a genre I like, but not here. First though, this is another one of those titles where the menu system is mostly touch-only — buttons are only used for closing the tutorial/story text screens. That’s great, but the game is buttons-only, a combination which continues to make no sense to me. The controls are analog or digital, depending on which one you use, but there isn’t a touch option. The controls don’t feel great. But the gameplay is the problem here, not the menus. The visuals are decent, though. This game has no stereoscopic 3d, sadly, but does have nicely rendered backgrounds and menus. Unfortunately, those backgrounds will repeat over and over without variation, each level is basically identical. The game has quite a few levels, too, all basically identical.

The main problems with this game revolve around the gameplay, though, if you can stay awake. In each level, you fly upwards until you reach a certain score target. You have three different weapons, though only can use one initially and only get the others much later. Each is mapped to a different button. YOU HAVE LIMITED AMMO. In a shmup. I think that deserves all-caps. So, do NOT hold down fire, but instead only shoot when lined up with a foe. Don’t worry too much though, you’ll have plenty of ammo if you do that and should end every level with more ammo than you started with, because ammo and point pickups will also come down the screen, in addition to enemies. The levels are entirely randomized, with no predesigned content. At certain point totals you get one, then two, then three stars. Once you get the third star the level ends instantly. There are no bosses or anything.

That’s far from the worst of it, though. Through level four in the first of three worlds, which is as far as I’ve gotten, I have so far seen ONE enemy type. One. It is a small bloblike enemy which stands still in space, slowly shooting at you if you move in line with it. It only appears to move because you’re flying towards it, but otherwise they do not move. They can only hit you if you get in line with them because their shots, as with your first weapon, fires in a straight line. You will need to shoot enemies to be able to get enough points to complete the stages, though, so you will need to line up with them. Fortunately avoiding their very slow, straight, one-shot-at-a-time fire is easy. If you do get hit due to iffy collision detection or such, you will use a shield or life if you have one. If you run out you will get thrown out of the level and need to start over from tbe beginning. The game does save how much ammo you have left, though, so if you used it up you might want to go play the first level again since it usually starts out with a bunch of ammo pickups.

The game also has a shop where you can buy lives and ammo, though the ammo here is ludicrously expensive at 100 moneys for 5 bullets. That’s the same amount of money as a life costs, for the number of bullets in one bullet pickup that drop down the screen all the time anyway! I don’t know how they messed up the economy here so badly, but it is. If you want lives, though, buy those. I haven’t even gotten to the worst thing about this game, though, and that is its pacing. Most levels are slow, slow, SLOW. Thirty seconds might go by with nothing happening other than a few ammo or point pickups sloooowly moving down the screen towards you. Of course, even when enemies do appear they are just about the most underwhelming foes imaginable in this genre considering that they don’t do anything other than sit in place and very slowly shoot at you, but that’s better than nothing. Even if later on in the game the title introduces more interesting enemies, though, you’d have to get through all of this to get there and there’s no way that it’s worth it. Oh, and one last thing: the background graphics in the levels appear OVER the screen, obscuring your view of your ship, enemy bullets, and such. This game is just wonderfully designed. Avoid this game at all costs. This feels like an attempt to make the slowest-playing, most boring shmup ever programmed. If that was the goal they succeeded. This same developer has also made three endless runner games on the 3DS. I haven’t bought them yet but I somehow doubt they’re good. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.  There is also a Space Defender game for Wii U.

SpeedX 3D: Hyper EditionPublished by Gamelion in 2013. SpeedX? More like SlowX. MediumX? Anyway, SpeedX: Hyper Edition is an endless driving game, in the futuristic racing auto-driving genre which also contains games like the AiRace series. This game is ground-based instead of flight-based, but otherwise is very much one of that kind of game, just not as good as the AiRace games. It’s alright, though. In this first-person-view game you drive forwards, starting out somewhat slowly, and slowly increase speed the longer you survive. This game is a sequel to the original SpeedX, and changes things by having a hyper button on X which significantly increases your speed. If you hold down turbo you can explode if you overheat, though, so watch out and don’t have too much fun. The analog controls are a bit slow but work okay. Otherwise, the only other thing to know are the shield pickups. If you pass over blinking squares you get a shield, and you can hold up to four. Shields protect you from dying if a block hits you. If you go off the course or hit a block when out of shields, though, that’s game over. The game keeps track of your best score, but doesn’t have a full score table or online leaderboards or anything.

I do like the games’ visual design. SpeedX 3D has very simple visuals, with a grid-based track which isn’t just flat but also can curve into a tube, F-Zero X-style, and obstacles which are stationary or moving cubes or rectangular solids. The ground and obstacle blocks are all flat-shaded or wireframe. It’s a simple but nice look and the game has streoscopic 3d. As for the gameplay though, while it can be fun, I feel like the game wants you to go a bit too slowly. Turbo’s dangerous and will get you killed. And indeed, that’s probably my main issue with the game: if often feels like you lose at random because of some obstacle you didn’t see. Sometimes I can see the block that apparently hit me, but other times I have no idea why the game decided my run was over. Try again. Even so, SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition is okay. If the controls were more responsive and faster to react and the speed faster I’d like it a bit more, but as it is it’s probably average. I kind of like this game despite my criticism of it, but it is average. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

SssnakesPublished by EnjoyUp and developed by Software Scribes in 2016. Just as its name suggests, Sssnakes is, indeed, a clone of Nokia’s classic phone game Snake. Just as in Snake, you play as a snake in a top-down area, collecting a bunch of items. Every time you grab an item a section is added to the end of your snake, making it longer. If the head of your snake runs into a wall, enemy, or your own tail, you lose a life. Three deaths and it’s game over. This is a classic snake game but with some new obstacles beyond the original, and plays okay. The controls are delayed, though, since this is a tile-based game. You will turn at the next tile the snake passes through, not right when you press the button. This delay is hard to get used to and definitely holds this game back. Other than that this is a fine title, with a decent number of levels each with different layouts and a difficulty curve that adds more enemies and obstacles the more levels you get to. You will eventually face enemy snakes and one-way gates, for example. You can’t save your progress, though it does keep track of your best score.  Games are short enough that this isn’t a major limitation.

In addition to the main arcade mode there is also a Score Attack mode. Here you choose a level and play just that level for points. The game records your best score and also has online high score tables for Score Attack mode, a pretty nice touch. Once you get used to the controls, Sssnakes is a good time.  It’s simple but I do like it.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Stack ’em HighNew Nintendo 3DS required. Published by Starsign and developed by SIMS in 2017. In this highly frustrating puzzle game, 3d objects of various types fall from the sky, and you direct where they are dropping from in an effort to try to keep enough of them on a platform so that they pile up high enough to complete the stage. Each stage has a quite limited number of objects that drop. The challenge is, you have no control over anything in this game other than rotating the camera with the sticks or buttons and choosing the drop point with the stylus, and those objects that drop, which vary from stage to stage, have … very unrealistic … physics. Everything feels incredibly light, and the things will fall off of the little platforms with the lightest tap. So yeah, this game is very annoying to play, as you try to stack up these things which resist stacking due to their physics. This game has a decent idea, but I don’t find it all that fun to play and gave up at the third puzzle. I don’t think I will be back very often. Still, this game isn’t BAD, just hard. Puzzle game fans might want to give it a look. Otherwise skip it. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

NOTE: I’m not covering the DSi here, and will not before its purchasing is shut down along with the 3DS at the end of this month, but the first SteamWorld game is a DSiWare game, SteamWorld Tower Defense. It is one of the few DSi games I have played extensively, and it’s pretty good. I love tower defense games, and this is a solid one. The game is short but extremely difficult. I got to the last level but never managed to beat it because of how tough the game gets. Still, I certainly recommend picking it up while you can. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

SteamWorld Dig Developed and published by Image & Form in 2013. This popular sidescrolling platform-action game is pretty good! Yes, this game deserves the hype it got. The game is well made all around, with good graphics, music, controls, and gameplay. The game is 2d, but makes good use of stereoscopic 3d depth and it looks great. You play as a robot cowboy in a version of the Wild West fully populated by robots. For plot reasons you end up mining in this small town, digging deep in the dirt underneath the town looking for treasure, and danger, the space below. You can walk with the d-pad (the game does not support analog movement), jump and use items with the face buttons, and switch items with the shoulder buttons. You also can wall jump, a critical maneuver for getting back up the shafts you dig.

Watch out as you explore, though, because you have limited lamp fuel. You don’t want to get stuck deep down with no light. Some of your items use water as well, you’ll need to watch that meter also. And you have limited inventory space for pickups anyway, so this game is all about going down, digging, getting stuff, finding new areas, returning to the surface to sell your stuff and buy things, and repeating the process. You can chat to a few people, or robots, rather, on the surface as well. It’s a great game that’s good in all aspects, from graphics to gameplay.

As you explore, you will find that some areas in the depths are already open, some are made of unbreakable rock, and some are rocks you can break through with your drill. Some drillable blocks have gems and such in them that you can put in your inventory to sell on the surface. There are also enemies here and there, sometimes in open spaces scattered around the underground, but most of the more severe danger comes from the sub-areas. This isn’t just one big open underground to explore, it is a segmented one with a series of caverns to explore, each accessed by passages. The game knows that as you get farther from the surface getting back up takes longer, though, so there are several additional ways to get back to the surface, including unlockable portals to deeper points and teleport items you can buy and leave on the ground for an instant warp. You will need the help though, because it is easy to die and this game gets challenging once you get a bit farther in.

Overall, SteamWorld Dig is a must-play game. This game has fantastic, very responsive controls, great visual design, and fun and compelling gameplay. There is certainly some repetition to its main gameplay loop, but exploring down there is always fun so I think it works great just as it is. The game is on multiple platforms, but the 3DS version is the best one since it has a nice minimap on the lower screen that helps you navigate and has really nice stereoscopic 3d. Buy this game. Also released on Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, Google Stadia, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC / Mac / Linux (Steam).

SteamWorld HeistDeveloped and published by Image & Form in 2015. For their second 3DS game, Image & Form mixed things up and, instead of being a platformer, made a strategy game. This game is still a sidescroller set in the SteamWorld universe, with similarly fantastic visuals and audio presentation to all of the other SteamWorld titles, but the gameplay is different from Dig. It’s just as great, though. This time you play as a group of pirates and the game mostly takes place in ships, so it looks different from the dusty deserts and mines of the Dig games. This game is simple to learn, and yet has plenty of depth. You control a team of robots. You can move the camera around with the analog stick, and the character movement cursor with the d-pad. If you move next to cover a character will automatically take cover. Again, this is a side-scrolling strategy game, a somewhat rare thing, but it works great. The upper screen shows the main view, and the lower screen images you can touch to change characters, choose a weapon, or pause. The center has a smaller map of the area.

Once you choose a weapon by touching its icon, the d-pad changes from controlling movement to controlling aim, and up or down rotate your aim. Your shots can bounce off walls and such with many guns, which is pretty cool. A firing line shows where the shot will go and how much damage it will do. The game does a great job of balancing simplicity with depth, as you don’t need to open menus to open doors or go up ladders or anything, just move onto them and your character will do the right action for that spot. You can move within a certain range, shown with an orangish color, and still fire or shoot in that same turn. If you move farther, shown with a blue color, you can move but not attack that turn. This can be fine if you get behind cover, but objects like barrels have their own health bars, so that cover you’re using won’t be there forever. So the game has simple gameplay in some respects, but there is still plenty of strategy with where you should move to, which attacks to use, and more.

In between missions you can get new weapons to equip, and there are hats to collect as well. There is plenty of content here and as with all SteamWorld games there is plenty of challenge; none of these games are easy. This is a fantastic game with great graphics, nice stereoscopic 3d depth for its sprite-based art, and very well thought through gameplay that you’ll probably get hooked to. The 3DS version of this game released first and the game is perfectly suited for the system so pick it up while you can. I like the Dig games quite a bit, but this one might be the best of the three. Later on the game was also released on Wii U, PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), Nintendo Switch, iOS, Stadia (RIP), and Amazon Luna. The 3DS version is a digital exclusive. This game has a DLC addon on 3DS as well, so buy that too. It is a $5 purchase with some new missions. If more than one were planned they didn’t release, though, unfortunately.

SteamWorld Dig 2Developed and published by Image & Form in 2017. This digging-focused platformer is very similar to the first one, just with a new character and story and some gameplay improvements. This time you play as a female robot who was a side character in the first game. It’s set in the same robotic Wild West setting all the SteamWorld games share, but in a new place; you’re in a city this time, digging into the mines below. Again, the gameplay is very much the same as the first one just with a few mechanical improvements. You have new items at your disposal this time and some new moves making traversal more varied and interesting. You’ve got a gun that can blast away ground a distance in front of you, a grappling hook, and more!

The game is just as tough as its predecessor, but once again the difficulty is balanced very well, so you will want to keep coming back. The graphics and game design are great yet again, and the controls are spot-on. This game has very good art, great graphics, and better gameplay than the first one. There is a bit more story, too. What more is there to say, though? SteamWorld Dig 2 takes the first game and imrpoves on it across the board. Make sure to buy it while you can, as again this 3DS version is probably the best for its stereoscopic 3d and useful map and inventory information on the lower screen. This game is great and is a must-play. Also released on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam), PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Xbox One, and PlayStation Vita.

Steel Empire [Genesis remake] – Published by Teyon and developed by Mebius in 2014. Steel Empire is a nice port of a Genesis classic. As with the original version, this game is a horizontal scrolling shmup with a steampunk theme. You play as either a biplane or a small blimp. Just as with the original, the concept and theme here are great, and the stereoscopic overhaul this version gives the graphics looks quite nice.  I don’t love the gameplay quite as much as its style, but it is certainly good.  This game is NOT a one-hit-you-die game; instead, you have a health bar.  So, it’s not quite as tightly designed as many shmups, since it is designed for you to take damage.  It works.  I covered the Genesis version back in my Genesis Game Opinion Summaries list, so see that for my thoughts on the original version.  Enemies come from both directions in this game, so you can fire in both directions with different buttons, which is a nice feature.  You will need to pay attention to not get hit from behind, though.   Apart from the slightly improved graphics, nice use of stereoscopic 3d depth, and save feature that lets you continue from any level you have reached and saves your high scores, this is the exact same game as before. It’s a good shooter with solid controls, a great theme, and decent to good levels. I don’t think it’s in the top tier of Genesis shmups, but it’s a good solid game well worth playing. This is one of the better shmups on 3DS for sure.  This remake is 3DS digital exclusive.

Strike Force FoxxPublished by Big John Games in 2014.  Strike Force Foxx is a Choplifter clone. Just like in that classic, you control a helicopter in a side-scrolling level and need to find and rescue the hostages in each stage in order to proceed. In some levels you also need to destroy a certain number of enemies. The game also has a bit of plot in between levels to give it a bit more character. This game has 2.5d graphics with some stereoscopic 3d depth. It looks okay. Just like in Choplifter, your helicopter can face right, left, or straight on, so you can either fly quickly one way or the other while shooting at a diagonal angle, or shooting straight down at enemies below you. The straight on orientation is also best for picking up the hostages. You can only carry six hostages at a time so you’ll need to go back and forth to your base. If too many hostages die or you run out of health you lose, but you can just try again, you have infinite continues and the game saves your progress.

As with so many indie 3DS games, this game has a three-star system as well. Depending on your score at the end of a level you’ll get up to three stars. You can use those stars, and also the money you made from beating the level, to buy some upgrades for your copter. There aren’t a lot of upgrades, but it does give you something to work for. Strike Force Foxx is a completely playable game, with okay graphics, alright controls, and a decent amount of content. It can be fun, I’ve always liked Choplifter. It’s not anything special and isn’t up to the level of the best real Choplifter games, but Choplifter games are uncommon these days, so despite that this somewhat average effort is worth a look for anyone with a fondness for Choplifter as I do. Get it if you like this kind of game, it’s a decent one. I’d call this game above average.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

SubaraCity Published by CIRCLE and developed by Flyhigh Works in 2017.  This simple mobile port block-dropping puzzle game is the game in this update that I have played the most.  Yes, really, I got quite addicted to SubaraCity and still play it sometimes.  This is a city-building blockdropping puzzle game, essentially.  The game plays in a regular Tetris-styled puzzle game well, and blocks of various colors fall from above.  These blocks each have a different building on them. If you touch a multi-tile group of blocks of the same color they will combine into one larger building on the tile you touched.  Once you’ve combined enough buildings together they will max out and become a white apartment building.  These buildings cannot be moved around or combined with the regular colored houses, so they take up space in the quite limited play area.  You start with two undo or delete building moves available, and get one more every hundred years (turns), plus more if you build large enough special buildings; more on those later.   You can also earn these, as I will explain.  Undo/deletes are very important, and allow you to get rid of a block that’s keeping you from combining others you need.  Using them wisely is critical, you only start with a few and won’t get all that many more.

The basic concept of the game is to go as long as you can, combining houses into their maxed-out forms until you have no plays left.  Plan ahead with which colors you combine so that you don’t block off colors in places where you can’t get to that tile again unless you really, really have to.  The beginning of the game is key because this is the time when it’s easiest to get a whole lot of the white buildings, as I’m pretty sure that as the years pass the game starts throwing harder and harder drop patterns at you. Once you are stuck and have no plays, it’s time to click on one of those white buildings and combine them into a monument building.  The number of connected white buildings will determine which monument building you end up with, the more the better.  I’ve gotten most of the monument buildings but not all of them because the last few are pretty insane, you’d basically need to have almost the entire screen full of white buildings.  That would require some crazy-good luck.  Monument buildings can be destroyed with undo/deletes, but otherwise permanently take away tile of your play area.  They cannot be combined together, you can only combine the white buildings into monuments.

However, if you delete a regular or monument building you lose the population that lived in that building, which is bad because your score is the population of your city.  So, only do that if really, really necessary. Eventually though you will run out of moves, and once you cannot combine any tiles and have no delete/undos left the game is over.  There is a high score table showing your biggest cities, though sadly it does not separate or mark easy from normal difficulty, which is kind of lame; it really should not combine the two, the easy mode is dramatically easier from normal.  Still, it’s a nice score table which gives different ranks for cities of different sizes. In addition to regular endless mode play in either regular or easy modes, this game also has Achievement-style characters to unlock.  Each unlocks when you meet a certain building goal, and once unlocked you will see those characters on the field during play.  I’ve unlocked all but five of them.  Having this is nice since it gives you something to play for beyond score.  There is a viewer showing all of the buildings that you have unlocked and showing how many white buildings you’d need to combine to get the rest of them as well.  For the lower-level buildings you can switch between two different visual style for each building, for either a newer or older look.  Overall this is a great and very addictive title that I highly recommend.  It is also on other platforms, but this is a great version with ideal controls for this kind of game.  Buy it while you can.  Also released, digital-only, on Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam), iOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. I’d rather play it here on the 3DS, I prefer stylus controls for this kind of game.

Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console] – Published by Kaga Create and developed by Kid in 2013. Recca is perhaps the NES’s most impressive shmup, on a technical level. Or at least, it is certainly the closest thing to a bullet-hell game on the NES, or, rather, the Famicom, since this game didn’t get a US release until this digital 3DS version. This extremely fast-paced shooter is a crazy game for the original Nintendo, with enemies zooming in and shooting at you as quickly as the hardware can handle. This emulated port runs exactly like the original thing, except for being on a small screen this time, and with a savestate option.

Recca is a fantastic, and very difficult, shooter, but it is accessible since your shots destroy enemy shots, so you can survive things that you otherwise wouldn’t. Also, if you stop shooting you will build up a bomb-like attack in a large ball in front of your ship which blocks enemy fire from the front. Using bombs at the right times is key. Also the game has a simple powerup system and this isn’t a full-on bullet-hell game as would become popular several years after its release, just a fast-paced shooter with a lot of bullets. This game has absolutely no slowdown, which is amazing. This is as fast-paced a classic shooter as you’ll find. It does have constant flicker, but you’ll get used to it. And when you die you will have a chance on your next life, because there are lots of powerups to grab. Recca is a masterpiece for its console and this re-release is fantastic because the actual cartridge is very expensive and uncommon; the game only had a limited release. Definitely buy this, it’s cheap and even if you probably won’t get more than a level or two in without quite a bit of replay, with the fast pace, constant action, and great visuals and enemy patterns it’s a very fun time even if I’m not getting far into it.

And all of that is why it’s so frustrating that this 3DS version is the only re-release Recca has ever had! Why couldn’t it at least also have released on the Wii U? This game is fantastic, but it’s better on a big screen; the sprites on the 3DS are visible, but small. It’s definitely an easier game to play on a TV, where you can see all of those small sprites more clearly. I hope that Recca gets another re-release soon on modern platforms, it’s both a technical showcase and a very good game. This game has a reputation of being only for serious shmup diehards, but I think anyone with any interest in shooters should play it. You might be surprised at how much fun it is. Buy this game, now. Also available physically on the NES (in Japan only). That release is rare and very expensive. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Super Destronaut 3DNew Nintendo 3DS required. Published and developed by Petite Games in 2017. Do you like Space Invaders? It’s pretty fun. So, this developer had a very original idea: how about … I make a game that’s a lot like Space Invaders, but with newer graphics but worse controls and design? … sorry, I am probably being too harsh, but this game is indeed a Space Invaders-style static-screen shooter. You are on the bottom of the screen and move left and right, shooting up at the rows of enemies above who move left and right while they shoot at you. The game diverges from Space Invaders here, though, as the enemies don’t move down the screen towards you adn don’t speed up as you kill more of them within a wave. Instead, they shoot bullets at you in various different patterns, so you will need to do more bullet-dodging as you would in Space Invaders since this game has no shields to hide behind.

The game has three modes. Classic gives you three lives to try to get through as many waves as you can. Time Attack starts you with 30 seconds, and you must clear the wave within that time. If you get hit you lose 10 seconds, and if you compelte a wave you get some time back. Trying to kill the enemies quickly is a nice challenge. And last, in Hardcore mode you die in one hit. See how far you can get in what is otherwise Classic mode. The game has simple chunky-pixel sprite art graphics, but I like the art design here, it looks nice. There is a bit of stereoscopic 3d; even though the background is solid black, the sprites to pop out some. Still, with such basic gameplay, there isn’t much reason to actually play this title. It’s not awful or anything, what is here works, it’s just very basic and bland.

I like classic arcade games, but the classic-style game here isn’t anywhere near as good as a better pre-crash-era game, it’s too bland. The enemies often take multiple hits to kill so the pacing is slow, the controls, which have both digital and analog support, are fine but not anything special, and you’re missing the thrill of having to shoot that last alien before it closes in on you that Space Invaders does so well. This game tries to have more bullet-dodging instead, but this is far from a bullet-hell game, it’s classic… but not one of the better classic shooters. Despite its issues though, I did have some fun trying to stay alive in this game. I did play Super Destronaut 3D enough to get a decent score, so something kept me coming back for a little while, but this game is average at best. If it’s on sale and you love shooters perhaps check it out, but probably skip this one. Also released, digital-only, on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam) and Wii U.

Super Strike Beach VolleyballPublished by Natsume and developed by Arc System Works in 2016. Essentially part of the same series as the Family series of very simple sports games on WiiWare, this very simple volleyball games has the same characters from the game, renamed at least in this US release, now playing volleyball. So there are eight playable characters, one of each gender for four age categories from young to old. The game has solid stereoscopic 3d graphics. The game is a 2-on-2 team game, as beach volleyball generally is. This game plays on the slow side, perhaps to make it accessible to younger players, but otherwise is an okay volleyball game. You move with teh stick, jump with B, and hit with A. If recieving the ball, first one teammate hits it up with A, then the other can spike it by jumping with B where it’s landing and hitting A with the right timing to hit the ball hard towards the other side. Indicators on the screen show where the ball is going to land, and an indicator appears showing the best timing for smashes, so this game is fairly easy to learn and play. You can move the indicator showing where you’re going to hit the ball to with the stick, though you have VERY little time to do this so all you can really do is adjust it slightly, not fully choose your target location. The ball in this game moves tediously slowly, but not quite slowly enough to fully let you aim shots.

For modes, there is a tournament mode where you play against a bunch of other teams and get points for winning matches that you can spend upgrading your characters’ stats, a single match mode where you choose teams and a court and play, and an endless challenge mode where you see how many other teams you can defeat without losing. The main game mode isn’t the longest, but it’s a decent featureset for a cheap downloadable title like this. Super Strike Beach Volleyball is, overall, mediocre, with slow ball movement and very simple play, but it can be amusing in short play sessions. There are better volleyball games out there, but there are also worse ones. Still, for being so slow paced, with how the ball just hangs in the air for so long on almost every hit and for having so little time on each strike to adjust where you are hitting the ball to, I can’t recommend this game. It’s kind of poor. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Sweet Memories: BlackjackPublished by CIRCLE in 2012. In this mediocre card game you play blackjack against anime girls, mostly high school girls. You never see your character but presumably you’re playing as some boy in their school. This isn’t a game with much of a plot, it’s mostly just a basic blackjack simulator with anime girls. As a note, the girls in this game are always fully clothed, this isn’t that kind of game. You play this game with the 3DS rotated sideways. An image of the girl appears on the upper (lefthand) screen, and the play window with the cards and such on the right (touch) screen. You play with the stylus. The game has no stereoscopic 3d, but considering that you hold the system sideways there isn’t much that could be done, I don’t think the 3d effect would work correctly. The 3d models of the girls are well made at least.

There are two modes. In Normal mode you play against your selected opponent, initially only one girl but also others at specific times of the day or if you have accomplished their unlock conditions. This mode keeps track of your total winnings and your goal is to win blackjack rounds against these girls over and over and over and over until you unlock more stuff. You choose how much to bet before each round. The manual says that there are three levels of your relationship to the main girl, and getting ???? coins after ???? games played will level you up. I’ve played hundreds of rounds and aren’t anywhere near level two so yeah this game wants you to play blackjack a whole lot to get anywhere in its very minimal plot. I, probably like most people, are not interested enough in this incredibly repetitive game to want to do that.

In the Score mode, you play a shorter game, initially against the first girl. Once one person reaches 1000 points they win. The winner of each round gets 100 points, though you can choose two options, Plus Game if you want the winner to gain 100 points and the loser to lose 100, or Minus Game if you want the winner to get nothing and the loser to lose 100. This mode is how you unlock other girls to play against, if you do the specific things the manual tells you, such as play 1000 rounds, beat Kasumi 8 times in a row, etc. Additionally, the other five girls, not the main one who will appear anytime, only appear at certain times of the day, real time. None of the other five will appear between 10pm and 5am. The main girl changes costumes and locations depending on time of day, as well. This system is conceptually interesting, but is kind of annoying in practice because if you’re often playing the game at the same time you won’t see the other characters. And why do multiple characters only appear from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday? How annoying.

As for the gameplay, it’s blackjack. I generally have absolutely no interest in casino games, real or digital, but blackjack does have a little bit of strategy so it’s okay I guess. It’s not something which is going to hold my interest for anywhere near long enough to get very far in this incredibly repetitive game, but it’s okay. And yeah, this is a blackjack game. You are given a few cards, and need to choose to keep them or drop them and whether to add more cards as you try to add up to 21. The gameplay is fine but given how simple it is I would hope it would be. The main game mode does change backgrounds depending on the real-world time of day, but this is kind of annoying because if you’re often playing at the same time you’ll never see the other areas. I don’t like that. Overall there isn’t much reason to buy this game, probably don’t bother. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

The Sword of Hope II (Game Boy Virtual Console) – Published and developed by Kemco in 2012. The original Game Boy version released in Japan in 1992 and the US in 1996. Sword of Hope II is a first-person RPG. This may be a Kemco game, but this is classic Kemco, not their modenr mobile-focused stuff. Unlike, say, Wizardry or Etrian Odyssey, however, in this game each screen is a single location, connected to other locations as in an adventure game or such. You can’t rotate in place to face different directions, each location is what it is and moving any direction goes to a new location. The view of your location is tiny, as most of the screen is dedicated to stats, a text info box, and other displays.

For the most part, this is a fairly conventional JRPG, with a heroic quest for our lone hero to embark on, standard turn-based battles, and the like. In each location you also might find items or things to speak to or interact with for puzzles and such. The main thing holding this game back for me is that there is no in-game map, so you MUST draw one yourself, or print one from the internet. You will need a map in order to get anywhere in this game. Sword of Hope II is a classic, and if you can get into it this game is definitely good, but know that this is a classic first-person RPG and you will need to be prepared for that. Originally released on Game Boy. If you want this game digitally the 3DS is the only way.

Swords & Soldiers 3D Published and developed by Two Tribes in 2014. This is a simple strategy game. The idea here is that you’re basically playing a side-scrolling RTS where you have no control over your units, and no economy or town building. Instead, all that you do is build units that then automatically walk forward and fight, and use special ability spells and such that you can directly affect the world. You can also choose which way your soldiers go at some points when they hit branching paths in some stages. In order to win, you need to get soldiers from the left side of the stage to the right and capture the enemy’s base there. The game is fun, but probably a bit too simple. As much as I love strategy games and RTSes, I just don’t feel like there is enough for the player to do here. A lot of the time this game plays itself while all you do is just occasionally build a soldier. It’s incredibly stripped-down, and that makes it accessible, but I thought that it also makes it kind of boring. This game does have nice cartoony art design and stereoscopic 3d visuals, as the title suggests, but I mostly lost interest after a few levels. I’d rather have more actual gameplay in my strategy games than you find here. Still, it’s good I guess. This game was released on multiple platforms and is similar across versions. Also available digitally on the Wii U (as Swords & Soldiers HD). The HD version was released, all digital-only I believe, on PC / Mac / Linux (Steam), PlayStation 3, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii U, Wii (WiiWare), iOS, and Android.

Title Rankings

The best games in this update:

Summer Carnival ’92 RECCA [NES Virtual Console]
SteamWorld Heist
SubaraCity

Also pretty good:

SteamWorld Dig
SteamWorld Dig 2
Swords & Soldiers 3D
Steel Empire [Genesis remake]
Sssnakes
Silver Falls – Ghoul Busters

Average:

Silver Falls – Undertakers
Strike Force Foxx
Slime Slayer
SpeedX 3D: Hyper Edition
Sword of Hope II [Game Boy Virtual Console]
Super Destronaut 3D
Sweet Memories: Blackjack
Smash Cat Heroes
Silver Falls – 3 Down Stars
Snow Moto Racing 3D

Subpar to Bad:

Super Strike Beach Volleyball (for being slow)
Stack ’em High
Space Defender: Battle Infinity

 

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 8: Q – Sh

It’s another update after only a week?  Yes, I do want to get this done this month.  It’s almost like a real website for a few weeks!  Heh.

 

Table of Contents: Q-R-Sa to Sh – 22 games

Quarters, Please!
Quarters, Please! 2
Quell: Reflect
Quell: Memento
Quest of Dungeons
Quiet, Please!
Retro City Rampage: DX
Robot Rescue 3D
Runny Egg
RV-7 My Drone
Samurai Defender
Samurai Sword Destiny
Sanrio characters Picross
Secret Agent Files: Miami
SEGA 3D Classics Series — OutRun
Senran Kagura Burst
Severed
Shakedown: Hawaii
Shantae [GBC Virtual Console]
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Shift DX
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove

The Summaries

Quarters, Please!Published by Nostatic Software in 2019. This is a collection of five homebrew remakes of classic arcade games. There is no stereoscopic 3d here. You start out by choosing a character to walk around the arcade with. It defaults to the girl who is the main character of the developers’ adventure game series (Quiet, Please!, Candy, Please!, and such), but you can also play as a bunch of other characters from the games. This doesn’t mean much since most of your time will be in the games and you don’t see the character while playing, but it’s there. In the arcade, you walk around to go to the arcade machines or look at the handful of other things to do in the arcade, though there isn’t much. You can’t leave the area, it’s just one one-screen building to explore. Having the arcade at all is nice but I was hoping for a bit more interaction. Once you enter a game the lower screen goes totally black as you play on the upper one.

The games here are Meteor (Asteroids), Nebula (Galaga), Dino Dig (Dig-Dug), Face Invaders (Space Invaders), and Bound ‘n Bash (Bump ‘n Jump). The games play a lot like their classic arcade counterparts, though generally not quite as well as the real things. Meteor’s controls feel a bit off, for example. Games are controlled with the dpad or analog stick and the A button. B or Start pause and let you quit back out to the arcade. Each game saves the top five best scores, with initials, which is nice. Perhaps the biggest problem here isn’t gameplay though, it’s audio. There is no music during play, at all. Some games have better sound effects than others, but none have music. Playing Nebula is kind of boring without anything at all replaing Galaga’s iconic musical bits! Some of these games have at least some sound which approximates the real things, such as Face Invaders and Bound ‘n Bash, both of which do sound alright if only with simple beeper sounds, but the other three really are lacking. There is some basic music in the arcade so the developer is capable of something, but it’s not in the actual games. When you combine that with the fine but not anything special play of the games themselves you get something I can’t quite recommend. This collection’s okay and the games play well, but you’re probably better off with the real things somewhere else. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Quarters, Please! Vol. 2Published by Nostatic Software in 2020. This is a second collection of homebrew remakes of classic arcade games. This collection is very similar to the first one, with the same arcade, the same selection of characters from the developers’ adventure game series to walk around the arcade as, and five new games to play. Stuff was moved around the arcade and some colors were changed and such, but it’s mostly the same. You still can’t play that ping-pong table sitting there in the arcade, unfortunately. Bah. And again there is no stereoscopic 3D and while in a game the bottom screen is just solid black. Shouldn’t it show arcade controls or something?

As for the games, this time you have: Guardian (Defender), which as usual for this series has okay NES-ish graphics, decent gameplay, and incredibly minimal sound effects that totally fail to represent Defender at all; Badger (Frogger), an okay Frogger clone; Space Attack (Missile Command), a decent Missile Command clone which would be a lot better with touchscreen controls instead of dpad or analog, but sadly it does not have that and is buttons-only though at least it does support analog with the analog stick; Decipod (Centipede), a solid version of Centipede with sounds as the enemies move around and analog controls; and one original title. This is Karate Battle, an endless runner with more mid ‘80s style visuals and actual in-game music. You run along at high speed and need to press down to slide, X to attack, or A to jump at the right moments to not die to the obstacles that come at you. Overall, I’d probably call this collection a bit better than the first one, as the games included are done slightly better and there is a bit more audio, though it still isn’t nearly as good as the sounds from a classic arcade machine. The original title is fairly bland, I’m not an endless runner fan, but it’s something. As a big Defender fan it’s too bad the version of Defender here is probably the weakest of the four classic arcade ports, but it’s still fun. If you get one of these two collections, get this one. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Quell: ReflectPublished by Circle and developed by FK Digital in 2014. Do you like ice puzzles, where you cannot stop while in motion but instead slide until you hit something? Do you like the idea of facing plenty of puzzles like that? Well, if so, this is the game for you. If not… probably don’t buy the Quell games. If you do though, start with this one bcause it starts out much more approachably than the second game. The game has simple controls, you choose with way to slide with either the touchscreen, dpad, or analog stick. Controlling orb-like raindrops, you need to collect all of the items on each stage to complete it. Various obstacles exist to get in your way, including spikes which pop up after you pass over them and more. A touchscreen icon or the Y button resets the stage. Eventually you get stages with multiple orbs to control as well, and can switch between them by touching them or with the R button. Each puzzle easily fits onto the lower screen, there is no scrolling. The edges of the screen do, however, connect. This means that infinite loops are a danger, since the edges of the screen connect to eachother. You will need to figure out the correct path to get through the level without getting stuck in a loop and needing to restart. The game keeps track of how many moves it took you to complete each level.

There is also a story here, about memories and the passage of time, but the main focus is on gameplay, the plot is minimal. It’s more an atmosphere than a story. This game is decent, it starts out easy enough and gets harder. Once the puzzles get hard, of course, the game is very frustrating; like most people I find this kind of puzzle frustratingly difficult and I’m not sure if this game is actually fun, but still, it does do what it does well. The visuals are simple, with basic 2d for the puzzle on the lower screen and a simple image on the upper screen that unfortunately is not in stereoscopic 3d, but the gameplay’s the focus here. Overall I’d call Quell: Memento an average game that is far more frustrating than it is fun. That is as intended, of course, but do you want to play this kind of game? If you do, pick it up. Also released on Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam), and PlayStation Vita.

Quell: Memento Published by Circle and developed by FK Digital in 2015. Essentially, this game is a level pack to the first one above. Similar to its predecessor but harder, this is a very difficult, but simple, logic puzzle game about sliding raindrops around mazes, trying to collect all of the items without hitting a spike or getting stuck in an infinite loop from the connected edges of the screen. Sliding-tile puzzle fans will like this, but for anyone else I’d call this game maybe a bit less good than the first one since it gets so frustrating. I think this game is average due to getting frustrated at how difficult it is, but people who like hard logic puzzles will surely like this game. If you are among them, pick it up. Also released on Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, and PC (Steam).

Quest of DungeonsPublished by Upfall Studios in 2016.  This is a top-down action-rpg roguelike dungeon crawler with nice sprite-art 2d graphics but no stereoscopic 3d. It was first released on PC and mobile, and got other console ports later. This is a decent but overly simplistic game, as you might expect from its mobile roots. Of the indie games like this I’ve covered in this series on 3DS Quest of Dungeons has probably the best sprite art and music, but for overall gamepla, similar to Bit Dungeon, it is of middling quality, unfortunately well behind Alchemic Dungeons. In this title you play as one of four guys, warrior, wizard, assassin, or shaman, and can choose from four difficulty levels before you begin. Each character has slightly different gameplay. In the intro the four of them are together, then the three you didn’t pick suggest that you go alone into the dungeon while they stay there. Heh. Well, you’re probably going to die.

This game is relatively simple as far as roguelikes go, it is a fairly straightforward action-RPG gameplay-wise, but it’s still tough. As with most games in this subgenre, the dungeon is randomly generated. Rooms are generally rectangles with enemies and breakable objects with items in them scattered around, along with doors to other rooms. There are also warps that take you to different points in the map. Your goal is to find and kill boss monsters. They are pretty hard, though, so you’ll need to grind to level up enough to be able to fight them without dying. Your health regenerates slowly while not in combat, but it’s probably too slow, so you end up walking in circles a lot. The game gives you no indication of which rooms have tough enemies in them, too, so it can feel cheap at times; be ready to run. The lower screen has a map of the area, which is useful. It is fairly zoomed-in, but you can scroll around it with the stylus to view the rest of the map. As expected for this genre you auto-attack when you move to a space with an enemy on it, or you an use a skill mapped to the A or B buttons if you have one equipped you want to use. Each class has different skills, of course. It’s simple but fun enough… until you die from a strong enemy you couldn’t have seen coming and have to start all over from the beginning.

The core gameplay loop here, then, is to explore, kill regular monsters, level up, get skills and items, defeat bosses once you’ve levelled up enough, and repeat. If you die, that’s it; there is no continuing here, and this game is not a rogue-lite, nothing carries over from one run to the next other than the dungeons that you have unlocked — you can start on any unlocked dungeon. Other than that, you died, try again. I’m fine with this structure and prefer it over one like Rogue Legacy’s where you unlock permanent upgrades as you play the same dungeon over and over, but best of all is just, you know, letting you make permanent saves. You can do a temp save here to suspend a game in progress, but not a permanent one. This game does have an ending, it’s not infinite. It will be hard to get there, though. I sure haven’t. Overall I’d probably have to say that this game is slightly below average, but I do have some fun with it despite that. The game is fast-paced and can be fun as you zip around killing things and collecting items. It doesn’t have the gameplay depth of the better games in this genre — there is no hunger meter, no crafting, and such — and has more grinding than I’d like, but what is here is decently fun for a while. Still, I’m not sure if I can recommend this one. Maybe. If you buy this game for 3DS you are given a 100% discount on the Wii U version of the game, and vice versa. Also available on PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), iOS, Android, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Quiet, Please!Developed by Nostatic Software in 2017. This is a three-in-one pack of indie adventure games. This is another adventure game in Nostatic Software’s series of very chunky pixel-art graphic adventure games starring a young girl in the ’80s or ’90s. I previously covered the Halloween and Christmas games, though going sequentially this goes first, it released first and contains games made before the later two. This title contains Quiet, Please!, Quiet Christmas, and Vacation Vexation. In each game you wander around a fairly small game world, trying to figure out what to do. You aren’t given much direction, but the game worlds are quite small and you do have an objective, so it works. Most of the games in the series re-use the same house as their main setting, the family’s home, but Vacation Vexation has a different setting as the name suggests, so there is some variety.

I’m not going to describe all three games in detail, but in the first game, Quiet Please, for example, the heroine doesn’t like all of the annoying noises coming from around the house and wants some peace and quiet, so you need to figure out how to make all of them stop using only the items found around the house. Mom won’t let you go upstairs to your room until you do your homework, but you don’t have any! How can you distract her? You can only pick up one item at a time, so gameplay is simple and approachable. In that classic adventure game style, puzzles here consist of trying to figure out where to use each item. Unlike most classic adventure games, though, conversations here are a single line of text long, or maybe two at most. There are no dialog options. That’s kind of disappointing, but still the core item-use gameplay is strong. The game controls with the d-pad and buttons and plays fine. I’d certainly recommend this series to adventure game fans, they are simple, cheap, and fun. They’re nothing incredible but are good enough for anyone with an interest in the genre to enjoy. Recommended. Also on PC (Steam), and originally on Xbox 360 Indie Games, though that store was delisted years ago.

Retro City Rampage: DX Released by Vblank Entertainment in 2014. This fairly popular multiplatform indie hit is basically a homage to the early top-down Grand Theft Auto games, but with an ’80s setting absolutely loaded with references to NES games, ’80s movies, and the like. The 2d pixel art graphics look nice, but unfortunately the game makes absolutely no use of stereoscopic 3d. It’s a shame, because it could have looked nice to have some depth. As for the gameplay though, being a GTA knockoff, the game is a mysanthropic, violent game where you run around murdering people at will. GTA’s enduring popularity really says something about 21st century culture; this game may have NES or DOS PC-inspired visuals, but this gameplay would not have done well back then, it’s too hatefully violent against innocents.

The gameplay here really is pretty much overhead GTA with small but nicely drawn sprites, but it has a few twists. You get a large arsenal, and can run, steal cars, shoot or hit people, etc. Ammo is limited, but ammo drops are frequent. You also can jump, and, amusingly, kill people by jumping on them — hit the attack button in midair and you’ll knock out the person. Heh. The controls are good, and the game has auto-lockon — hold down the fire button with a gun and you’ll lock on to enemies and be able to circle-strafe.

As you wander around, you can murder civiliants pretty much at will. This will increase your threat meter and get the police to come after you, but they are easily avoided, just escape them for a few seconds and you’re fine. Kill some police and maybe one will drop a ‘police will forget about you’ item and walk off. Yeah, as I said, it’s the same mysanthropic stuff as GTA. It’s mindless fun for a few seconds but it’s not something I want to play a whole game about. If you want to do actual missions, fortunately this game does make that easy. Missions are linear objective-based stages, and they are marked on the map with icons. This game may make no other use of the 3DS hardware, but the lower screen map is, at least, incredibly useful. In an open-world game, even one with a fairly small open world like this one, having a map telling you where everything is, including the exact locations to start all the main or side missions, is great. The missions themselves really are just ‘here’s a sequence of references, can you recognize them all?’ though, which gets old fast. Overall, this is a well-made game with good gameplay, but I greatly dislike open-world games and don’t often like playing as a villain in a game so I’ve played very little of it and probably will not go back.

As an added bonus, you can unlock the NES version of the game, ROM City Rampage, in this title. It is a real NES game rom and is unlockable in a bunch of versions of the game. Retro City Rampage was released on PC (Steam) first, and then many platforms. It got physical releases on Wii, PS3, PS4, Vita, Nintendo Switch, and DOS PC (many of them limited-production-run releases), digital releases on all the modern systems it had physical releases on, and digital-only releases on PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, Android, and iOS. It’s cool that the retro versions were made, I just wish that it was a kind of game I actually enjoyed. It isn’t.

Robot Rescue 3DPublished by Teyon in 2013. In this three-pack action-puzzle collection, you get Robot Rescue, Robot Rescue 2, and Robot Rescue 3D. All three games have the same gameplay and graphics, though: a puzzle game where you move multiple robots around a single-screen maze, all of which move at the same time when you move. They just get harder as you go from title to title, as more objects are introduced. If you press left, all robots move left. If you press right, they all move right. All you can do is move, which is done with the d-pad, there are no other controls. And if the robots touch eachother or if any robot is destroyed by an obstacle such as a laser trap or such, you lose and the stage restarts. As you might imagine, things get tricky quickly. Sure, at first it’s easy enough, but the puzzles later on require very precise timing. You’ll need to hit the correct directions at just the right moments or you will die and restart. It’s an unforgiving game, but it is fun.

The game has nice sprite-art 2d graphics, and does have stereoscopic 3d, as you play on the upper screen and the field pops out over the background. The controls are pretty odd, though — even though the in-game controls are controlled with the d-pad only, all menus are touch input only. I have no idea why this is the case, but it is. The presentation is good, with nice art and menus and such, but why is this dpad-controlled game touch only in the menus? It should have either button or touch support. But anyway, Robot Rescue 3D is a quality but quite challenging puzzle-action game. The first part in this game, Robot Rescue, may be beatable, but but the third part, Robot Rescue 3D? Good luck. Still, I recommend giving this game a try. It’s well made. The first two Robot Rescue games in this title were originally released on the DSi DSiWare eshop, while the third is exclusive to this collection.

Runny Egg – Published by Tom Create in 2015. This is a 2d platformer where, as the name suggests, you play as a chicken still inside of an egg. This game is a simple, somewhat short, and quite charming game that platformer fans should play. The game is NOT an auto-runner, it is important to note. Speed is important here, but you have full control of your cute little egg. In each level your primary goal is to get to an egg cup at the end of the level, but there are also a few secondary objectives in each one, usually about beating the level in a certain short amount of time and with a certain large number of collectibles picked up. There is also a bonus objective if you find a hidden golden egg in each level.

Control in this game is simple. You can run, jump, double jump, wall jump, and that’s about it. You can take multiple hits, but after about three hits your egg will break and you’ll lose a life and go back to the last checkpoint. Running is one of the key mechanics here though, and you build up speed as you run. If you are going fast enough and run down a hill, you will start rolling. While rolling, you can defeat enemies and bounce over water. The rest of the time, though, this is a non-violent avoidance-based game. As with many modern games, this game has RPG elements as well, as you get points for level completions which you can spend on upgrades for your egg. It’s a simple mechanic which works. The game also lets you change difficulties on the fly between easy, medium, and hard.

The 16 levels in this game are linear but frequently have multiple paths. Each level is a large space full of a whole lot of yellow rubber duckies to collect, both on a main route and hidden in various alternate paths, and enemies to avoid. Each level ends with a “boss” section, but instead of a battle it’s a little platforming challenge section. It fits the mostly non-violent nature of the game well. It’s fun to zip through the levels as quickly as you can, but going slowly to collect a lot of the stuff is also fun. Runny Egg controls well and looks nice, with cute graphics. This game may not be anything really special, but with solid, cute graphics, good level designs, some variety, and good controls, I definitely recommend picking this game up while you can. It’s a good, charming little game well worth playing. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

RV-7 My Drone – Published by EnjoyUp Games in 2016. In this … uh, flight action game? Racing game? Something like that. Anyway, in RV-7 My Drone you control a helicopter-sized drone. It’s basically a helicopter, gameplay-wise. The game has nice stereoscopic 3d graphics and in-game has an overhead view at a slight angle. You might think of Desert Strike, visually, but the actual gameplay here is very different from that one. For one thing, My Drone levels are entirely linear. Each stage is a fairly narrow, just over one screen wide, but decently long corridor. You fly your drone with the analog stick. You have no height control, so even though you are flying this is basically a 2d game. The controls are quite floaty, but this is probably appropriate. In each level you have an objective that you need to accomplish in order to beat the mission. Generally this involves picking things up and then dropping them off at the end of the stage. You also have a battery charge meter, which you can refill at recharge stations. You can’t shoot in this game, but do have a tractor beam with which you can pick up boxes or people who need rescuing. and if you win get additional stars for beating a time limit and finishing the level with full health.

Oh, this is another one of those odd 3DS games with touch-only menus but buttons-only gameplay. It’s odd but okay, whatever. There are a decent number of levels, each with different objectives and obstacles, but unfortunately stage layouts are randomized. The nature of the mission and the types of obstacles you will face, including trees, missiles, UFOs, laser towers, and more, is preset. The layout OF those obstacles, though, is randomized each time you try. This even applies to after you die, so if you fail a mission at some obstacle, next time it might well not be like that anymore, it’ll be redesigned into possibly an easier layout. That’s a little disappointing, as is the crutch of relying on random generation in a game like this instead of what would be better, premade level layouts. Even so, RV-7 My Drone is a solidly fun time. This game is an above average little obstacle-avoidance and racing game. How quickly can you avoid all of the obstacles in a level to get all of the boxes to their destination at the end? It’s nothing amazing but is reasonably fun. The presentation is good for an indie game as well. There are ways that this game could have been better, but it still might be worth a look. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Samurai Defender Published by CIRCLE and developed by Link Kit Co., Ltd. In 2013. This game is a defense game, but it’s not quite a tower defense game as you might expect. Instead it’s an action/tower defense hybrid of sorts. The is a conversion of a Japanese cellphone game with the pay-to-win elements removed. You play as a force defending a Japanese castle. Your gate is on the left, and enemies approach from the right. You have several archers above the gate. Somewhat like the ’01 PC freeware game Castle Attack but nowhere near as great (that game is a promo bonus game for the PC simulation game Stronghold; I played a lot of that flash game back when it was new…), your main method of defense in Samurai Defender is these archers. You control where they are aiming with the stylus, analog stick, or d-pad, though the stylus is by far the best way. The upper screen shows the full field with approaching enemies, and the lower screen just shows an image of the field with nobody on it, ally or enemy. You touch the lower screen to place an X that marks the firing target where the archers will be shooting at on the upper one. With the button controls, you move a hand cursor around and place the firing target with a button press. There is also a slider on screen to change whether the archers’ arrows should converge or spread as they go across the screen.

Additionally, you have several different special abilities that you can use. You will slowly get more as you go through the game, but the first few include an attack that hits most enemies, walls to slow down the enemies, and repairs for your castle during a stage. Using these special abilities requires MP points and have cooldowntimers. MP regenerate, but you can’t just keep using abilities repeatedly, you will run out. Win or lose, after each stage you get money to spend on upgrades for your abilities and basic archers and castle defenses. If you win you go on to the next level and if you lose you replay the current one, but it is nice that it just lets you keep trying, while getting money you can use to make the next run a bit easier. This does mean some grinding will be required, unfortunately, but the game is mostly well balanced. The game is lacking in variety, though, it’s all pretty much the same. It isn’t as exciting as I’d hope for, either. Castle Attack is a fast-paced and exciting game, but Samurai Defender’s somewhat bland. Your archers fire slowly, there’s only a moderate sense of danger since failing just means you try again with some stat boost, and such. It will get repetitive. You do need to pay attention, though, because you will need to change firing locations often and use the special abilities well in order to complete stages beyond the early ones. This is a kind of game I like a lot and it’s done okay, but it just is a bit too slow-paced and bland to really excite me. It’s above average but only bit a bit. Also digitally released on iOS and Nintendo Switch.

Samurai Sword DestinyPublished by UFO Interactive in 2012. In this sidescrolling action game you play as a female samurai in some requisite skimpy bikini armor, going to the right and as the name suggests slashing everyone apart with your samurai sword. Unfortunately, it’s not any good. The weird controls, where you move with the dpad or analog stick (though control is not analog) and attack by drawing lines on the touchpad to slash or do distance slashes, functions. However, oddly for a side-scrolling game, you can’t jump in this game! No, you are stuck to the ground. So, you just do slash-dashes left and right until eventually you die or get lucky and somehow win. I imagine that there are ways to play this game that aren’t awful and random-feeling but I really doubt that it’s worth the time to find them.

On the other hand, though, this game does have pretty nice graphics. The sprites are all very nice looking and well-drawn, and the game has great stereoscopic depth, with the sprites strongly standing out over the backgrounds. It makes heavy use of the touchscreen too, of course. The audio is fine. You do make money as you play, even from defeats, and can spend that money on ability upgrades. And the game has some auto-runner QTE-ish stages, though I hate that kind of thing more than anything so that’s yet another big negative for me. But even just focusing on the main game, the issue is the gameplay and how bad it is to play. This was a pretty early 3DS game, so at the time of its release the visuals alone probably sold some downloads, but now? There is very little reason to waste your time unless you really like slashing the stylus left and right over and over and hoping you can do that with the righ, timing to avoid enemy attacks. There is absolutely no variety and pretty much depth beyond ‘get better at timing your left or right slashes’. No thanks. I’d rather play anything else in this update. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Sanrio characters PicrossPublished by Jupiter in 2018. Jupiter’s final Picross game for the Nintendo 3DS was… a Hello Kitty game? Yes, it’s true. This game has a lot of polish, though, and in visuals and features is probably the best of the Picross games on 3DS. I’ve never had any interest in Hello Kitty or any of Sanrio’s other characters and don’t know much about them, but that doesn’t matter all that much; this is a Picross game after all, so the main focus is on solving those wonderful nonogram puzzles. As far as the number of puzzles goes, this game has the same amount of content as the last few Picross e titles, so there are 150 puzzles that have both regular and Mega puzzle versions and three Micross puzzles. This game mixes things up by not just letting you play the Micross puzzles, though; instead you have to unlock the blocks of the Micross puzzles by completing the regular puzzles. It’s a solid idea. The game also has all the options. You can enable or disable hints in the pause menu and everything, it’s totally up to you! Fantastic. Additionally, as you complete regular and mega puzzles you get stickers which you can place in sticker book pages. There are a lot of stickers of various Sanrio characters in this game. I don’t know them but it’s all very charming stuff. This game is great, definitely pick it up. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Secret Agent Files: MiamiPublished by Joindots in 2013. Note: this game does have smoking shown in game and is not for children. This game is a hybrid of a hidden-objects game and a traditional adventure game. It tries to do interesting things but is pretty average at best, I think. The game starts out with some backstory. You play as a member of the CIA named Mia. She’s been written off by the agency and had her identity erased for some unspecified (at the start) reason, and as the name suggests is in Miami… which happens to be her hometown, so you start out by visiting her mother. Then, she tells her mother that she’s a CIA agent. Yes this plot sure is plausible… uh. The story is kind of weird but is okay I guess. The controls are kind of annoying, though — the main gameplay mostly uses touch, for touching the hidden objects and such, combined with either the dpad, analog stick, or face buttons for moving the lower screen around the image on the upper screen as you look for the hidden items. That’s fine, but in the story scenes, you need to use the A button to advance the text. Only A works. So, put down the stylus, hit A until the story part’s over, then pick it back up again… that could have been done much better.

This game is also difficult for several reasons. First, I looked but can’t find any guides for this game online. Next, you don’t get to see images of the things you are looking for, just one-word descriptions. The objects are often quite well hidden in the backgrounds, even right from the beginning of the game, so actually finding things can be pretty frustrating. There is a hint button, but you start with only a few hints and get only ONE hint back after each screen, so it’s incredibly limited. I imagine plenty of people will give up here after running out of hints. On a positive side, while each screen’s image is always the same, if you replay the game it does randomize which items you need to touch. Items you must collect for your inventory will always be required, but the other items you just need to touch for the game to let you proceed will be different.

As for the adventure game element, as I said, some items go into your inventory. Then you can drag those items out and try to use them on something else in the scene. Good luck figuring out where to use what, the game gives you no hints. There isn’t any kind of onscreen indicator showing where you can use an item, it usually just does nothing. If you want to look up help online… well, I tried but couldn’t find any for more than a couple of puzzles. How unhelpful. I eventually gave up, as most people probably eventually will. There are also some minigames described in the nicely detailed manual, but I didn’t get far enough to play any of them. This game is okay, but I’ve never been a big fan of the hidden object genre, and this game has some design issues. It’s a decent low-budget indie title, but the low budget shows, this game needed more polish. If it sounds interesting definitely pick it up, though. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

SEGA 3D Classics Series — OutRun Published by SEGA in 2015. OutRun is, deservedly, one of Sega’s most popular games of the ’80s. I should have covered this game when I discussed the rest of the 3D Classics titles I have digitally in part one of this series, but I didn’t, so here it is. OutRun is a super scaler racing game. You zoom forward along roads in a Ferrari, following a branching path from the start to one of five endings five stages later. This is a linescroll-style racer, so it can only do smooth curves with no hills, but that’s fine. OutRun may be a short game, but you have a very tight time limit to complete each stage, so very good driving will be required to finish even the easiest route. The effort is worth it though, because OutRun is brilliantly designed, with great graphics, music, and controls. It’s a fantastic game that will keep you coming back for some time.

This is a fantastic version of this all-time classic, and indeed in some ways is the best version of the game. The stereoscopic 3d is fantastic, and the illusion of depth it gives you adds a lot to the game. This version of OutRun is, for the most part, the arcade game with the usual Sega CD Classics options, including a savestate and some options. It has one major option that the arcade game doesn’t, though, and that is a 60fps mode toggle. At the time of this versions’ release only the Saturn and 3DS versions had 60fps support, and the Saturn doesn’t have stereoscopic 3d so I’d put it below this version for sure. This game is a definite must-buy and is maybe the best game in the Sega CD Classics line for the 3DS. OutRun is available on many platforms, but this 3D version is 3DS-exclusive.

Senran Kagura BurstDeveloped by Tamsoft and published by XSEED Games in 2013. This is an enhanced version of the original, Japan-only Senran Kagura title. We didn’t get that game in the US, but did get this version. Unlike Japan, here it was a digital-only release, which is why I’m listing it here. Senran Kagura is a beat ’em up with lots of visual novel-style story sequences between the simple but fun action. The story is surprisingly serious. It’s not too dark, but isn’t just fanservice-bait comedy. The characters have interesting stories and it is well-written. The game stars an all-female cast of schoolgirl ninjas and definitely tries to sell based on their looks. The game is set in anime high school, and has two different factions of ninjas, one good and one evil. You can play as either side, and need to play as both to get the whole story. There are five playable characters per faction.

This game is not like its sequels, though. This series became somewhat infamous for being overly sexualized, and that is true, but the original two 3DS games are tamer than their sequels on other platforms. There is no nudity or underwear in this game, for example. All characters can have their uniforms torn off, but they just have bathing suits on underneath. Senran Kagura games would get much racier after leaving the 3DS for platforms like the Vita and Switch. I think this relative restraint is better design overall. The storytelling styles are also very different — this game is, again, a game which has both serious and comedic moments and does both well. The serious side is significant. But the later games? They are mostly to entirely excuses for sexualized fanservice, with plots with little seriousness or depth. It’s barely the same franchise from the Senran Kagura you see in these two 3DS games and the anime, which I liked at the time and which is tonally much more like the 3DS games than the nonsense that came after them.

As for the gameplay, Senran Kagura Burst is simplistic and mostly easy, but I think it’s the fun kind of simple. The combat levels in this game are classic-styled isometric beat ’em up stages. You pick a character and outfit and go fight against the other faction. Most of the time you beat up generic foes with regular attacks and basic combos. Each character has a regular form and a powered-up super form, and you can switch to super mode with a button. Of course, if knocked out of super mode you’re in trouble. Occasionally you will face off against bosses, often one of the other factions’ five main girls, or perhaps somebody else important to the plot. The gameplay is pretty fun. The variety may be limited and the challenge moderate, but there’s enough fun beat ’em up action to keep me interested. Overall Senran Kagura Burst is a good game. I’d say pick it up while you can if it seems interesting. Just know that it is a different thing from the post-3DS series. This game also has a sequel on the 3DS, but that one did get a physical release in the US so I’m not covering that here. Senran Kagura 2 does have some free DLC though, so make sure to get it while you can. This game is a Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive in the US, though Japan got a physical release. This game has a remake on modern systems with the combat style of the newer games in the series called Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal. I don’t have that version so I have no idea if it’s any good, but it clearly plays very differently.

SeveredDeveloped and released by DrinkBox Studios in 2016. This game is an indie first person dungeon-crawler RPG. The game is from the same developer as Guacamelee (which I covered in my PC platformers list some years back), but I like this game a lot more than that one. With pretty good, original art design and solid gameplay that is both conventional and unique, this game will get your attention with how original it is while also being familiar enough to play. This is one of the better indie RPGs on the 3DS, it’s quite good. You play as a female character in a somewhat tribal jungle setting. It’s probably supposed to be Mesoamerican, given the studio. Bad stuff happens at the beginning and you lose both one arm and your family, and you need to find them. You do get a creepy magic sword with an eye in it though, and will use that a lot in this game. The visual design is modern, but the controls are classic first person dungeon crawler stuff: you move between preset spots and rotate around in place with the analog stick or dpad, you can’t freely move. The lower screen always shows the dungeon view, and you can switch the upper screen between a larger stereoscopic 3d view with a small minimap showing the area directly around you, or a full-screen map showing much more of the current dungeon. The stereoscopic 3d looks great, but the larger map is often more useful.

You attack by drawing lines on the touchscreen to swipe around your weapon. You can also interact with levers, wheels, and such with the stylus; this game is designed around touch input and it works very well. This game does NOT have random battles, which is pretty nice. If you are going through areas you’ve been in before, looking for the way forward or a solution to some environmental puzzle, you won’t be fighting constantly as you go. I love that. The puzzles are clever and well thought through, too. Once you do get into a battle, they are action-style touch-based fights. Enemies can be on multiple sides, and you choose which one to face. The others can attack you while you’re facing away, of course. As you swipe enemies with the stylus they will react by moving shields around, so you will need to swipe in the directions they are not protecting themselves in. It’s fun stuff. As you defeat enemies you get monster parts that you can upgrade your stats and sword with. And then it’s on to more exploring, finding your way around, solving puzzles, and fighting monsters. The dichotomy between the really nice, quite modern animated graphical style and the more traditional gameplay works well. Severed is a game not to be missed, pick it up for sure while you can. Also available digitally on the Wii U, iOS, Android, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. If you buy this game for 3DS you get both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game for a single price, and vice versa. Very nice. Because of the controls and stereoscopic 3D, this 3DS version is probably the best version of the game.

Shakedown: HawaiiReleased by Vblank Entertainment in 2019. Shakedown Hawaii is the ‘90s-themed spiritual sequel to Retro City Rampage, above. The gameplay is very similar to the first one, except it’s set in Hawaii now and instead of 8-bit-era-style visuals you get 16-bit-style visuals, and a Hawaiian setting instead of a generic Northeastern city. Do you like walking or driving around a top-down city, causing random chaos and killing innocent people? Or do you like being a criminal, doing missions killing other criminals? Or do you like this games’ new element, buying properties and doing generic missions to get protection money from the inhabitants? I think I said my opinions on that in my Retro City Rampage review above, I don’t like this genre conceptually and don’t like open world games in terms of design so this is DEFINITELY not for me. Even aside of my dislike of the games’ genre, sure, the world’s not going well in a lot of ways these days, but reacting to that with this kind of pretend celebration of very violent crime feels wrong. I mostly just got this because it’s interesting to see 3DS games released this late. Maybe you’ll like it, though reviews of this game weren’t as positive as Retro City Rampage’s were, reviewers like this game less. It’s more repetitive, I guess, though I didn’t get far enough to run into that and nor do I want to. And unless you count the Wii, which I wouldn’t, there aren’t any classic versions of this game, which is unfortunate, so there are no equivalents to the DOS or NES versions of RCR. Ah well. Also released on PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), PlayStations 3, 4, 5, and Vita, Wii (physical release in Europe only), and Wii U. Most of those other platforms got physical releases of this game, but not the 3DS.

Shantae [GBC Virtual Console]Released by WayForward in 2013. The original Shantae was a late Game Boy Color title which released in 2002. As someone who had a GBC but not a GBA yet, I wouldn’t get myself a GBA until ’03, I should have been very much in the target market for this game… but I didn’t buy it. I’m not sure why, other than that I’ve rarely been much of a fan of open-ended “Metroidvania” platformers, of which this is one. I prefer a game that may have some options along the way but has you follow a linear path to one where you have to wander around lost a lot. For a similar reason, even though Wario Land 1 is one of my favorite games ever, I didn’t buy Wario Land 3 until many years after the GBC was dead. In both cases, I don’t regret my decisions. They are good games, certainly. Maybe even great ones. They just aren’t my favorite style of game. I still don’t own Shantae on cart, unfortunately, because the game got quite expensive in a hurry. I did finally buy it on 3DS, sometime after getting Pirate’s Curse (below), but while the first Shantae is clearly a good to great game I still haven’t ever gotten all that far into it.

Anyway, in Shantae you play as a half-genie girl named, well, Shantae. The game has pretty good cartoony graphics in that classic WayForward style. This game definitely tries to sell based on Shantae’s good looks and skimpy clothing, it must be said. The game beyond that is good, but it’s worth mentioning for people who are bothered by that. The game has great controls too. As for the gameplay, though, you wander around a town trying to figure out where to go, then go to various sub-areas where you explore, fight enemies, and look for stuff. This is a platform-action game with powers to get as you proceed which let you access new areas in previous parts of the game. So, as I said, it’s a metroidvania-ish platformer. It’s good to great, but as with many games of this style I lose interest after a while. That’s just me, though. Despite my qualms I do like this game, it controls and looks great and is fun to play when you know where you’re going. While for a while it seemed like the game would be a one-off, it has ended up being an ongoing series with quite a few entries. This digital release is a good way to play Shantae on a handheld for a fraction of the cost of the original cartridge. Recommended. Also digitally released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

[Shantae and the Pirate’s CurseReleased by WayForward in 2014. This is the third Shantae game, but it is the first game in the series that I bought and played. This game started out as a digital exclusive, but had a physical release in 2016. So, I probably shouldn’t cover it here ,but since I do have the game digitally and have played it I will in brief. The second Shantae game started out as a DSiWare game, though both are also available on other platforms. This one first released here, on 3DS. This title is a very nice-looking 2d platformer with good use of stereoscopic 3d and plenty of fun platform-adventure gameplay. Despite my somewhat lukewarm statements above I think I might actually like the first Shantae game the best, but they’re all good games and this one is no exception. The game is a lot of fun at first, as you explore islands, find powers, and fight badguys. The problem is how I handle getting stuck in a metroidvania-ish game. I eventually got stuck at some point and while I definitely like this game, I wasn’t loving it quite enough to look up what to do, so instead I stopped playing. I am okay with that though, with how many games I try I think it’s fine that I don’t finish most of them. That I liked it enough to get hours into it says something about the games’ quality. Pick it up, it’s quite good. If you like stereoscopic 3d definitely get this game for 3DS. Ports of this game were released on Wii U, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Amazon Fire TV, and Xbox One.]

Shift DXReleased by Choice Provisions and developed by Cosen in 2017. Shift DX is a 2d puzzle-platformer game where you rotate the stage with L or R in order to flip the screen. One way and, with the default black-and-white color palette, you are standing on the “ground”. Hit a shoulder button and now the world is flipped over and you are inside the block at your feet, on what used to be the ceiling of that block underneath you but now is the new ground. You play as a female character, and there is no plot here. This title is about the gameplay. There are additional unlockable characters to play as if you progress far enough, though they all play the same. The game has a nice black-and-white visual style with solid art direction. If you dislike that palette though, you can use others, and will unlock more as you progress.

As for that gameplay, for the most part all you do is run around, jump, and shift. The controls are fine, though nothing special as far as responsiveness gopes and such. Your jump is fairly low, you can only jump about one tile high, so the primary way to get around is through shifting. You can only shift while on solid ground, though, so for instance you can’t switch into a ceiling in mid-jump, unfortunately. That would make things too easy. You’ll need to figure out the puzzle instead, and that can be tricky. In those puzzles you have an entrance point and an exit door you must reach, the two colors of blocks which flip, and various things in the stages, including tiles which flip you when you enter them, keys which remove locks from tiles that block you from flipping into those tiles, cross-hatched titles that you cannot flip into, and more. This is a platformer but it is not an action game, so there is no combat or enemies present. That’s certainly for the best, the game shines by sticking to what it does well, its unique take on puzzle-platforming.

This screen-flipping concept is not new, and wasn’t even when the Shift series began with a flash game in 2008, but it is done very well here, with a good sense of style and nice music. There isn’t much if any use of stereoscopic 3d, but that’s okay. There is a lot of content, though — this title includes all of the stage layouts from Shifts 1 and 2 for the PC, plus 100 new levels only in this version. There’s even a level editor, though there is no online level trading so its use is somewhat limited. Each level is a challenging single-screen maze of blocks, and after the early rounds it will take some serious thinking, and flipping, to figure out how to get all of the collectibles and to get to the stages’ exit. It’s very rewarding when you finally figure out a stage and make your way to the exit. This is yet another tough but well-made puzzle game on the 3DS, and it’s definitely recommended! Handhelds are a perfect place for puzzle games with fairly short stages like this one, it’s a great pick-up-and-play title to play for a few minutes here and there. Definitely recommended. Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove Published by Yacht Club Games in 2014 (though this fully DLC-updated version is from 2019). Shovel Knight is a very popular NES-styled, though not NES graphics-accurate, 2d platformer released on a lot of platforms. The 3DS version is as good as any, and does have stereoscopic 3d. However, it also has a physical release. So why am I listing it here? Well, the game had several downloadable addon campaigns released after the main title. The 3DS got two DLC packs, each with another campaign. There was a last part that wasn’t released on 3DS because it is multiplayer-focused, but the 3DS got all of the single playe content. They were released for free, very generously, but given that demos and such will go un-downloadable after the shop’s purshasing shutdown, I very much doubt that anyone who buys the physical version after the shop shuts down will be able to play the other three campaigns, only the first one, which is the only one on the cart release. So, if you want to play this very good platformer classic, pick it up while you can.

Each of the four campaigns has you playing as a different character who controls totally differently, so there is some nice variety here. I won’t describe all of them, play the game and find out for yourself. The first campaign’s main character, Shovel Knight, controls a bit like DuckTales for NES’s Scrooge McDuck but with a dig mechanic added, but the others are quite different. I’ve never loved this game quite as much as some people and didn’t get addicted to it, probably as much as anything because it isn’t NES-accurate and has parallax backgrounds and extra colors and such, but it does play well and has decently good level designs. I’m not quite sure why this game was such a massive hit while other games I liked just about as much or more are obscure, I’d rather play Mutant Mudds or Chicken Wiggle than this game for instance, but even so Shovel Knight is a good game well worth playing. Also released on PC/Mac/Linux (Steam), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Wii U, PlayStation 3, 4, and Vita, and Amazon Fire TV.

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 7: P

Yes, I got the next update done already!  I definitely wanted to make sure I finished this update while the store was still up, it’s got a lot of fantastic games covered.

 

Table of Contents for this update

 

Parascientific Escape: Crossing at the Farthest Horizon
Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas
Parascientific Escape: Gear Detective
Parking Star 3D
Pazuru
Phasmophobia: Hall of Specters 3D
Phil’s Epic FIll-a-Pix Adventure
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
Pic-a-Pix Color
Picross 3D Round 2
Picross e
Picross e2
Picross e3
Picross e4
Picross e5
PICROSS e6
Picross e7
Picross e8
Ping Pong Trick Shot
Ping Pong Trick Shot 2
Pirate Pop Plus
Pocket Card Jockey
Psycho Pigs
Pushmo
Puzzle Labyrinth
PUZZLEBOX setup

 

The Summaries for letter P – 29 games

 

Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas Published by Circle and developed by Intense in 2015.  This is a somewhat simple but great adventure game.  You play as a girl in a group of girls stuck on a sinking cruise liner, and you need to figure out how to get off alive. The game has a first-person viewpoint, with prerendered rooms which you view and can interact with with the stylus on the lower screen.  You will collect items and use your abilities in order to solve puzzles.  While inspired by escape rooms and such, though, you can’t actually lose in this game, which I at least really like. I don’t like the pressure of having a time limit before your character dies or something, so this game, which has the tension of that kind of setup but doesn’t have the actual danger, is perfect. As the name suggests, the main character has psychic powers. She’s able to use several different abilities, and you will need to use them in the right places in order to solve the puzzles. Now, this is a small download-only title, so it is not especially long. The difficulty level is also somewhat moderate.  There are some tricky puzzles, sure, but for the most part this game isn’t that hard.  That was entirely fine with me, though, and I really liked this game. The four girls are all good, interesting characters, the puzzles are fun to figure out, and the visuals and setting are good.  I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil the story! I highly recommend any adventure game fan should get this game while you can.  I’d say that it is a fun little adventure that probably won’t take too long and is lots of fun while it lasts.  The game did well enough to get two sequels.  I like this first one the best, though.  It’s great.    Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Parascientific Escape: Gear DetectivePublished by Circle and developed by Intense in 2016.  This title is a sequel to the one above.  This game has similar gameplay to the first one, but makes a lot of changes along the way.  Most notably, this time you play as a guy detective.  He’s got a sidekick girl who likes him.  Additionally, you aren’t stuck in an escape room-style setup this time. Instead you’re a young detective, as the name suggests, with a detective’s office.  Of course, you’re about to be pulled into a dangerous mystery. This is still an adventure game with psychic powers and items to collect, though, so apart from the change in setting and characters the core gameplay is familiar.  This game has a bit more consequences for failure than the first one, so I guess other people didn’t like that you couldn’t actually lose in the first game. I liked it better that way, but still this is a good adventure game well worth getting.  It’s cheap, good, and, again, entirely 3DS exclusive.


Parascientific Escape: Crossing at the Farthest Horizon
Published by Circle and developed by Intense in 2017.  The third and final Parascientific Escape game brings back both protagonists from the first two games, and switch between them at points in the story.  This game feels a bit more ambitious than the previous ones and has some good puzzles.  As with the second game it definitely has choices that can lead to a bad ending. I don’t like that kind of pressure, probably unlike most people, but still this is a good adventure game with an interesting story, good characters, and nice visuals.  As usual the psychic powers thing is a somewhat gimmicky puzzle-solving mechanic for the most part, but still this is a good adventure game I certainly recommend picking up while you can. This trilogy, based entirely around stylus-based precise touch controls, would not control anywhere near as well on the Switch as they do on 3DS, but even so it’s a shame that the series hasn’t returned.  I like all three of these games quite a bit, they’re short-ish but well made and very fun adventure games that any genre fan should definitely play.  Everyone knows the Ace Attorney series, but this series of smaller titles shouldn’t be forgotten. Pick them up.  3DS exclusive.  Buy it.   Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Parking Star 3DPublished by Circle and developed by Easytech in 2014.  This game is a driving puzzle game, but definitely not a racing game.  It feels like a mobile port, but it’s alright.  As the name suggests, this is more of a simulator, a parking simulator in specific. Using either button or touch controls, and the best option is a mixture of both, you try to park a car.  The controls are on the lower screen, and the fairly basic 2d overhead-view graphics on the upper screen. The game makes minimal use of stereoscopic 3d, unfortunately.  It is there, but not much of it.  In each level, your challenge is to park in a specific parking space, fully in the space with the parking space lines showing on all sides of the car, without hitting more than one thing.  You can bump one thing and keep going, at a cost of rating for the requisite three-star rating system seemingly all mobile games use, but a second bump means you fail, try again.

The controls are simple but take a little getting used to.  You have a forward or reverse lever, either on the dpad, face buttons, or on the right of the touch screen; the wheel, either on the touchscreen (preferred!) or on the analog stick; and a brake, either on the left of the toughscreen or on the shoulder buttons.  Using touch for the steering is preferred because you don’t turn the car like a normal car in a videogame.  Instead, you have to spin it as if it was a wheel, even with the stick.  This works well with the touch controls, just turn that wheel with the stylus.  It feels very odd to be rotating your analog stick around in circles, though, but that’s what you have to do here.  Yeah.  As with a real wheel it stops at certain points once you’ve turned the wheels as far as they can go, and then you will need to turn it back around.  The wheel doesn’t auto-center at all, it stays exactly where you leave it.  As for speed control, you can adjust your speed kind of, but it doesn’t feel fully analog.  For reverse basically you move at a standard speed as soon as you go into reverse, stopping when you let off it.  For forwards you can kind of control your speed, but you mostly have a speed you go at.  Fortunately, it is slow enough to work. Once you figure out the controls this game plays fine, as you go forward and back and turn in order to work your way into each parking space.  There are plenty of puzzles on offer.  It’s a decently average little game that you might want to pick up if it sounds interesting.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive, as far as I know.

 

PazuruPublished by Joindots in 2015.  Pazuru is a puzzle game with one-button controls. This is baasically one of those bounce-the-light-on-angled-mirrors games, but with a bouncing ball and a timing element. The game plays on the upper screen, has basic sprite graphics, and doesn’t use any stereoscopic 3d, so it is certainly technically unimpressive. The gameplay is plenty challenging and interesting, though, so it may be of interest. This game has a light Japanese ninja theme, but mostly you are just watching an object bounce around the upper screen. Whenever you hit the A button, objects change depending on their type. Some angled blocks will turn on and off each time you hit the button, others will rotate each time you press it, and such. Each puzzle is a single screen and there are several gold shurikens scattered around that you are trying to collect all of with a single try. The challenge is, there are multiple exits scattered around the level, so you will need to hit the button with the correct timing to make everything line up correctly so you don’t end up in one before getting them all. After completing each level you get a rating on the standard mobile game three-start system Based on your time and if you got them all and such. Pazuru is simple, and probably is a mobile port, but it’s a decent puzzle game and is average or slightly above that.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Phasmophobia: Hall of Specters 3DPublished by In-D Gaming in 2019. New Nintendo 3DS required. This title is an extremely simple and short little game jam demo that you pay for, basically. It’s kind of neat though. This game is someones’ attempt to make a 3d, first-person take on Pac-Man. On the upper screen you see the first person view, and on the lower screen a map of the maze. It’s the standard Pac-Man maze. The map shows your location and the locations of the four ghosts. In this maze, you need to explore around and collect 12 pages attached to the walls. The pages are NOT marked on the map, so you will need to look around and find them. If you get caught by a ghost you lose a life, three lives and it’s game over. You move with the left stick and aim with the right analog nub. I kind of hate the analog nub, so it’s unfortunate that this game doesn’t have touch aiming, but sadly it does not. It also doesn’t have stereoscopic 3d; despite requiring the New 3DS, this game looks the same with the 3d slider up or down. Too bad.

If you can manage the camera stick the controls are alright, though this is about as basic a 3d environment as you will see on 3DS, but there’s literally minutes of gameplay here — there is only one level. You will definitely die several times before beating the level, but once you beat it the only other thing to do is Insanity mode, where you have only one life and a time limit. That only took me a few minutes more and with that the game was done. There is very low replay value here, it really is a techdemo. It’s cheap, can be fun to play, and it’s cool that it got released at all, but still, I’m not sure if it’s worth buying or not. Do you not mind buying one of the shortest games on the system in order to support an indie game jam project that actually got released on the eshop? I don’t regret buying it, but make your own choice.  Also released on Android and PC/Mac/Linux (itch.io). Note that while there is a PC/Mac/Linux (Steam) game named Phasmophobia, that is an entirely different game by a different developer.

 

Phil’s Epic Fill-a-Pix AdventurePublished by Lightwood Games in 2017. This third party somewhat Minesweeper-meets-Picross game is a huge disappointment.  This game has over a hundred huge, scrolling puzzles.  Numbers around the field tell you how many blocks next to each space need to be filled in. Picross-style you either fill in spaces or don’t, there aren’t multiple colors.  The concept is sound, I love both Picross and Minesweeper so sort of combining the two is a good idea.  Sadly, but you won’t want to try to solve these puzzles.   Of all 3DS puzzle games I have played, this is the only one at all like this which is missing something critical.  You see, this puzzle game… has button-only controls.  And I mean it has NO stylus support, not even in menus.  On the 3DS. I have no idea at all what the developers were thinking, but who would want button-only controls in a 3DS puzzle game like this? Why would anyone actually publish a puzzle game like this on 3DS with no stylus support? The game concept is great and is exactly my kind of thing, I love both Picross and Minesweeper and this is a nice cross of the two, but without stylus support my interest in the game goes way, WAY down. I don’t know how this happened, but it should not have been released like this. Skip this mess. This is the same publisher who released the pretty good ____-A-Pix games and this released after Pic-a-Pix Color (below), so I have no idea what happened with this one, but don’t buy it.  Also on Vita, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.

 

The Phoenix Wright seriesThe four titles released in 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017.  Four Phoenix Wright games, including a collection of the three GBA games and three standalone releases, released in the US on 3DS, and two more in Japan-only, though they did finally get Western releases on Switch. I was going to cover these, but … I’ve still never played any of them, and I don’t think I could cover them now in the depth any fans would want. So I won’t. I will only say that these games are very good versions of these popular adventure games, and that these games are digial-only in America and are ideally suited for this system. With touch controls designed for a stylus touchscreen like this and stereoscopic 3d graphics that are much improved over those in the GBA and/or DS versions of the games which are ports from the previous generation, these are probably the best way to play the games. They have some DLC as well.   I don’t think any are 3DS exclusive.

 

Pic-a-Pix ColorDeveloped by Lightwood Games in 2017. Pic-a-Pix Color is a good, and pretty interesting, Picross clone. The main unique feature here is that unlike official Picross, the tiles in this came are in multiple colors. You switch between colors with L and R, and play with the stylus (or buttons if you really want). Because there are multiple colors, this makes for a pretty different game from classic Picross because different colors can be contiguous. So, where in regular Picross there are always white spaces in between the black blocks you carve out, Pic-a-Pix Color puzzles can have a string of differently-colored blocks that are all touching, without there definitely being spaces in between. I love Picross so this is a pretty neat take on the genre. The controls and gameplay are just as you’d expect. As wtih all of the ____-a-Pix games, you have a button that will tell you if you have any errors in the puzzle, and gives you the option of correcting mistakes if you wish. And as wtih all of these games, you get a gold medal after completing each puzzle if you don’t use the autocorrect feature. You can use the ‘how many errors are there?’ feature as many times as you want, that’s fine and isn’t punished at all, and as usual this is easy to abuse if you wish. The game does keep track of how long it took you to solve each puzzle but the only medals are for not using error correction. That is somewhat unfortunate, but even so this is a good Picross-style game with a nice twist.

And, it doesn’t end with the puzzles included: unlike the other ___-a-Pix games, this one has DLC. There are several dozen $2 puzzle collections available, and if you want to play them on 3DS, and I at least definitely do, buy them before 3DS purchasing shuts down. I wish that the other games in this series also had DLC, it’s unfortunate that they do not, but hey, I’ll take what I can get and like this game for sure. It has solid puzzle gameplay, a lot of content, and is definitely worth buying. Its DLC is as well. Also on Wii U, PS4, Vita, and Nintendo Switch.  Personally I would much rather play it on this system than any of those due to the combination of stylus controls and portability.

 

Picross 3D Round 2Developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo in 2016. This title is the second and sadly so far last Picross 3D title. This sequel to the original Nintendo DS game is fantastic, but unfortunately is cut down and lacking in features compared to its exceptional predecessor. The first Picross 3D is my favorite game for the DS, but this one is “merely” a very good game. On the positive side, the graphics here are very nice with good stereoscopic 3d, the puzzles are interesting, and there is a fair amount of content. However, the first game had a puzzle editor and lots of downloadable levels that you could download for free. Of course you can’t download anything in the original DS game now, but even so it still has more content than this one, and that puzzle creator. This game doesn’t have any of that. It has fewer puzzles built in, too. I love that the game is in actual 3d now, and the gameplay of chopping out the blocks of a 3d cube to make a picture is as amazingly fun and rewarding as ever. It’s just really sad that this game is so cut back versus the first one. This game had a physical release in some regions, but unfortunately not in America, so it is on this list. This is one of the best download-only 3DS games here, but it’s a pale shadow of its amazing Nintendo DS predecessor.

Picross eDeveloped by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2013. I’m something of a Picross addict, and have slowly been playing through the 3DS Picross series, one game at a time. I’ve finished every puzzle in the first four games now, and have played a lot of several more. This series slowly improved over time, but all of the games are well worth playing if you like Picross. Picross, or picture crosswords, are nonogram puzzles which are simple and yet challenging. The board is a grid of squares. Numbers along the left and top sides of the screen show you how many tiles in each row need to be carved out. Picross is simple, since tiles are all either white, uncarved, or black, carved out. The grids can get large, particularly in later titles in the series, but the core is simple and approachable. You just need to figure out which tiles need to be touched by using logic, deduction, and, if you get stuck, guesswork. The game has a timer, and if you try to touch the wrong tile time gets added to clock. With each mistake more time gets added than the last time you guessed wrong. If you complete the level in under an hour of time, you win, get to see the image in color, and it is considered completed. Take longer than that and you will need to try again. Each Picross e titles breaks its puzzles up into several categories, and if you complete all puzzles in each mode a medal appears on the main menu showing that you have completed it.

This first game has 15 Easy puzzles of sizes 5×5 to 10×10, 60 Normal puzzles of sizes 10×10 and 15×15, and 60 Free Mode puzzles also of sizes 10×10 and 15×15. Free Mode is harder since you aren’t allowed to use hints while playing any of these puzzles. Most later games only have three Free Mode puzzles on each 15-puzzle page, but this one has more. And lastly, the game has 15 Extra mode puzzles, also 10×10 and 15×15. This game doesn’t have as many puzzles as the later ones and the maximum size is relatively small, so it’s a good starting point.

The core systems are similar across both this series and the several other licensed Picross titles, including the Hello Kitty one, the Pokemon one, and the mini Zelda Twilight Princess one, but they do add new features over time. The core controls are the same, but the later titles add larger puzzles, new modes, more puzzles, and some control improvements that make the games a little easier to use. However, start from the first one and it will feel good. This first game may not have the large images or such, but it does have plenty of puzzles mostly in smaller sizes, so it’s a perfect starting point for new Picross players. Buy all of these. If you’re only getting one the later ones are better, they add things like marking if you used any hints when you solve the puzzles instead of only ‘did it take you under an hour or not’ and improve the controls a bit, but such, but I at least say, get all of them! It’s great.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e2Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2013. Picross e2 is very similar to the first one, but with new puzzles. The number and block size of puzzles in the Easy, Normal, Free, and Extra categories are all identical to the first game, so you have 15 Easy puzzles, 60 puzzles each for Normal and Free, and 15 Extra puzzles, and a 15×15 max puzzle size. Additionally though, the new Micross mode is added. Micross puzzles have you making a famous work of art. The artwork is broken up into a grid of 8×8 tiles, some of which will be empty and some of which contain parts of the image. You touch each tile to start that puzzle, then try to figure out that block. Each block of the artwork is, as with the main puzzle, only 8×8, so these puzzles are easier to solve than the regular one. This game comes with five Micross puzzles, a nice amount. I like Micross mode, it’s fun seeing the larger image come together.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e3Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2013. Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2015The third Picross e game again is based off of the first one with new puzzles. You get fewer regular puzzles this time, though, unfortunately. This time you get 15 Easy puzzles (5×5 and 10×10), 45 Normal puzzles (10×10 and 15×15), 45 Free puzzles (10×10 and 15×15), 15 Extra puzzles (all 15×15), and 30 puzzles in the new Mega Picross mode, in sizes of 10×10 and 15×15. Micross sadly doesn’t make an appearance in this game. It is missed.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

Mega Picross somewhat makes up for the lack of puzzles in this entry, though, because these puzzles are harder than those in the other modes due to reduced information. You see, in a Mega Picross puzzle some rows are combined into paired rows. You will see only the block totals for both rows or columns combined, instead of for each one separately. Additionally, some numbers, in a black outline, are for a group of blocks which go across both rows in this group. Regular numbers are only in one lane or the other, as marked, and will never be directly touching another row. This makes solving the puzzles much trickier, as you can’t X out blocks nearly as easily because you could go sideways instead of just up and down. If that sounds a little complex, well, Mega Picross can be a bit frustrating sometimes because of how much harder it can be to figure out what you can X out or chip away. Still, it was a good addition and this is a good game. I wish it had more regular puzzles and some Micross, though.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.


Picross e4
Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2014. For the new year, this game mixes up the menu system a bit. Now, the Easy and Normal categories are combined into one mode just called [Regular] Picross. This mode has 105 puzzles of sizes 5×5 to 20×15, so a new larger puzzle size has been added. Three puzzles on each page of 15 are Free mode puzzles, the rest regular ones where the game docks you time for each mistake. This 20×15 size would be the largest size in the Picross e series. You also get two Micross puzzles, 45 Mega Picross puzzles of sizes up to 15×15, and 15 bonus puzzles, five of which unlock for each of the first three Picross e games that you own on your 3DS. Considering how muchl onger Mega Picross puzzles take and that the new size is larger, this game has a solid amount of content.

You get some new options, too — from Picross e4 on, in this series you have Hint Number Auto-Check, Hint Roulette, and ? Navigation options on the pause menu. If you turn the first of those options off the game will no longer tell you if you make mistakes, or dock you time if you do so. If you turn the second off, the game will stop asking before every puzzle if you want to have it start out by filling in one row and one column. And if you turn the third off, the hint mode will be disabled even on puzzles where you are allowed to use it. There are some nice new features here.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e5Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2014. This second 2014 Picross game is very similar to its predecessor, though with a bit of a graphical improvement; the on-screen interface looks a little better than it did before. This title has 120 regular Picross puzzles in sizes of 5×5 to 20×15, with three Free mode puzzles per 15-puzzle page; three Micross puzzles; 30 Mega Picross puzzles in sizes of 5×5 to 15×15; and 15 puzzles that unlock if you have the first three Picross e titles. Yes, it’s always just the first three that unlock bonus puzzles. It’s another great entry in this series.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e6 – Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2015. At this point, Picross e became a yearly series instead of one more frequent. This game has 150 regular Picross puzzles in sizes of 5×5 to 20×15, 150 Mega Picross puzzles in sizes of 5×5 to 20×15, three Micross puzzles, and 15 puzzles which unlock if you have the first three Picross e titles. This may sound like a huge number of puzzles, but the last three Picross e games “cheat” by not actually making new puzzles for Mega Picross mode. Instead, you get 150 puzzles for regular Picross, and those same puzzles in Mega Picross mode, just harder now due to how much tougher that mode is due to more limited information. The puzzles are not in the exact same order so unless you can identify the image and cheat by looking at it in the regular mode you probably will need to do the puzzle again, but it was a clever solution to significantly increase the amount of content in these games without needing to create new puzzles.

Also in 2015, Jupiter also made the free-to-start but pay-to-finish Pokemon Picross. It’s fine I guess, but expensive compared to the rest of the series — playing the whole thing will cost about $30, far more than any of these other titles, for not THAT much more content. It’s wildly overpriced, I think, but the actual gameplay is the same great stuff of course. And no, you cannot play it all for free; after a bit you need to pay in order to get the play points to continue.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e7 Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2016. This game released more than a year after its predecessor, and it shows — the series has had a full graphical overhaul. This time you get 150 regular Picross puzzles in sizes of 5×5 to 20×15, 150 Mega Picross puzzles in sizes up to 20×15 which again are the same puzzles as regular mode just put in a different order, and three Micross puzzles. Additionally, there are 15 puzzles which unlock if you have certain other Picross e titles. The regular, Mega, and unlockable puzzles have three Free mode puzzles per 15-puzzle page, where you are not allowed to use hints and the game will not tell you if you are chipping out the correct spaces or not. In other puzzles the game tells you when you try to do an incorrect move and you get a time penalty. However, this game has the great feature that there is now a medal to earn on each puzzle. If you complete the puzzle with no errors or help, you will get a medal shown on screen. Make even one mistake, though, and you won’t get that medal. As usual if you complete the puzzle with under an hour of time used it appears on screen in color and is considered complete, but if you want to go back for some additional challenge, try to beat puzzles without using hints to get those medals. It’s a great feature which only the later Picross e titles have. This is a fantastic Picross game with nice graphics which are improved over the earlier titles, great touch controls, and lots of puzzles. Highly recommended; this series got better over time.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Picross e8 – Developed by Jupiter and published by Nintendo in 2017. The last main-series Picross e game on the 3DS is very similar to its predecessor. This game again has 150 puzzles for regular and Mega modes, reused in both modes as with the previous two titles but harder in Mega mode of course due to that modes’ rules, with the same sizes as before of sizes up to 20×15; three Micross puzzles; and 15 special puzzles which unlock if you own the first three Picross e titles. All of the features are the same as e7, so it has the medals to earn on each puzzle. The puzzles are a bit harder than e7’s are, though, so this last one is likely the most challenging and probably the best Picross e entry. I highly recommend getting all of them, though, it’s a just fantastic series which will take many, many hours to puzzle your way through. This game would be the last of the numbered Picross e titles, but Jupiter would make one more Picross game on 3DS after this one, 2018’s Sanrio characters Picross. I will get to that one later, but it’s great whether or not you care about Hello Kitty.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Ping Pong Trick ShotPublished by Starsign and developed by SIMS in 2016. This is an action/puzzle game where you need to toss a ball into a little cup. I recall there was a WiiWare game like this which the developers had to rename from “beer pong” to “ping pong” because Nintendo didn’t want a name referencing drinking in their shop. These 3DS games follow that trend by being that concept, but without any references to drink. No, this is a puzzle game where your goal is to throw the ball with the exact right speed and angle in order to get it to go into the cup. The game keeps things interesting by having each stage have a different layout. You will need to deal with walls, moving platforms, angled holes, and more. This game is from the same developer as Collide-A-Ball and such, and has the same style, interface, and simple shaded-polygon visual design as their other games. You control the game with the touch screen, and it controls well. There is a slider for your shot power and you aim with the stylus. I like this game, this kind of precise aiming is quite rewarding when you get it right. This is a short game since there aren’t all that many puzzles, but it’s fun while it lasts and I recommend picking it up. Objectively the game is average, but I enjoy it.  Also available on iOS. Or at least it was at one point.

 

Ping Pong Trick Shot 2Published by Starsign and developed by SIMS in 2017. This game is more of the same. This is a level pack for fans of the first one with basically no changes except some somewhat more challenging puzzles. So yeah, I say pick it up, it’s a good game. More of the same is fine when you’re making more of a good and short game, and the added challenge makes this game slightly better than its predecessor. Pick it up if you like the first one, as I do.  This game may be a NIntendo 3DS exclusive, though it’s probably a phone port.

 

Pirate Pop Plus Published by 13AM Games and developed by Dadako Studios in 2016. This game plays exactly like Capcom’s classic game Buster Bros.. The game plays exactly like that game, except with not quite as good controls but some nice Game Boy-ish graphics and filters. Just like the game that inspired it, you move left and right with the d-pad and shoot straight upwards with the fire button. When you shoot, it drops a line down from the top of the screen at that point. The enemies are bouncing balls, and when they run into the line they take a hit and split apart into smaller balls. Sort of like in Asteroids you need to avoid them and keep hitting them until they all are destroyed, at which point you move on to the next level. There’s plenty of content here and I do like the screen filter options. This is an okay take on a classic, but the imprecise, mushy controls are a disappointment; I was hoping this game would be more fun to play than it is. With better controls this game could have been good, but as it is it’s below average, unfortunately. Also available on Wii U, also digital only there. The two versions are basically identical other than screen resolution and such.  Also on PC/Mac (Steam) and Nintendo Switch.

 

Pocket Card JockeyDeveloped by Game Freak and published by Nintendo in 2016. This solitaire card game got quite a bit of press when it released, so I picked it up… and was quite disappointed. Pocket Card Jockey is a solitaire card game with a horse racing theme. Basically, you are a jockey, and as you go around the track you will be faced with games of solitaire. If you do well and clear them quickly you will move ahead and maybe win the race, but if you struggle and fall behind things won’t go well for your horse-racing career. The game has nice sprite-art graphics with some use of stereoscopic 3d, but I find the actual card games far too frustratingly random. My main issue is that this game punishes you quite a bit when you end up with a random card layout that is hard to solve quickly. It’s not my fault though, it’s all the luck of the draw… but the game doesn’t care. The game has a whole bunch of systems to learn, so it will take a while to figure out and going through all of the tutorials is highly recommended. I did that, it makes sense eventually. My problem is not the complexity, it’s the randomness. I think this game is way too luck-based and punishes you too much for having bad luck of the draw. I don’t like this game much at all and can’t recommend it, though given that plenty of people do like it maybe you will disagree. For me though this is one of the worst games in this update.   I have no interest in playing it again to describe the details of its gameplay, sorry.  The game was originally 3DS exclusive, but since has had newer versions made on other formats.

Psycho Pigs – Published by Bergsala-Lightweight in 2016. This is based on a Jaleco arcade game from the ’80s. Psycho Pigs is a remake of a classic arcade action game about pigs throwing bombs at eachother to try to blow eachother up. This one is a bit interesting because the game never released before in the US. It was originally a Japanese arcade game, which, like many Japanese arcade games, got a bunch of ’80s home computer releases in Europe that never got released here in America, which is surely why the Swedish company Bergsala-Lightweight ended up publishing this remake of the game. I believe that this version is the first one we got. It’s kind of odd playing a graphically enhanced remake of a game I’ve never played, but that’s what this is. The game has polygonal character models and is played from an overhead perspective with a single screen, on the upper screen, per level. The lower screen shows your status and such. For such a simple game there are an oddly large number of different things displayed around this screen, including your stats, items, and more.

The controls are simple, either the d-pad or analog stick moves, and you do have analog directional control but not movement speed, you either move or you dont, and two buttons throw bombs and use items. You can switch items with L. Still, though, this is a weird game. Rounds are often incredibly short, first. If someone gets blown up with a bomb they’re out, and with a single not-very-obstructed screen to fight in this usually won’t take long. We’re talking ten or twenty seconds per round, often. There are several ways to blow either your or the other pigs up, including by directly hitting them on the front side of their character, getting blown up by an exploding bomb on the ground since each one has a timer on it which will eventually go off, or being caught in a chain explosion as bombs set eachother off. It is important to note though that hitting someone from the rear doesn’t blow them up, in that case the bomb drops to the ground next to them. The result is a probably overly simplistic, but quite chaotic, game as the four or so different pig characters run around, picking up and throwing bombs at eachother, until only one is left. You can pick up powerups, some of which are items to use and others which will boost your stats.

Naturally, this game would be best in multiplayer. Unfortunately, the multiplayer in this game is local only. If you do have several 3DS systems though, give this a try, it’d probably be fun. Against the AI, though, while the concept is initially entertaining, with incredibly short round lengths and very basic gameplay, I find myself losing interest in this game quickly. It has much less strategy than Bomberman, this is mostly just chaos. It’s moderately amusing but shallow and mediocre. Being a classic arcade game there also isn’t a lot of content. There are arcade modes in several lengths, local multiplayer, and one or two player endless modes. The endless modes are a nice addition, but the gameplay here is my main issue, not the amount of content. I just don’t find this game interesting enough to play for more than a few minutes. If you do stick to it though there are different costume pieces to unlock, which is nice, but with very little depth and somewhat forgettable gameplay I’m not entirely sure why this game got a remake. Still, it’s okay. A bit below average, but okay. This game is strange and obscure and you might want to check it out, but I don’t know if you want to buy it or not.  This version of the game is Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Pushmo – Published by Nintendo and developed by Intelligent Systems in 2011.  Pushmo is the first game in a series which would have a decent number of entries on the 3DS and Wii U over several years.  I mentioned Crashmo, a later title in this franchise, in a prior update, but this game is somewhat different from that one.  It is much simpler and easier.  In this game, 2d images have turned into 3d puzzles.  Each image is made of blocks, and you can pull out the blocks up to three spaces in order to find a route up to the top of the image.  This is different from Crashmo in that the image can’t change, you just need to try to figure out the route to climb each otherwise-static picture by pulling out blocks.  You move around with the analog stick, jump with A, and .  There are a few modifier objects, but for the most part this is a pretty simple game.  I like Pushmo, it is good, but I don’t think it has the depth to be great.   The totally flat nature of the original pictures limits the game, making the 3d merely isometric, and the unmovable blocks make this really just a game of ‘can you see where to jump to get up’.  As I said, it’s just barely good, but that’s it.   I’d say I recommend it to genre fans but probably not to everyone.  The game does have a puzzle editor where you can make your own stages though, that’s pretty nice.  Sadly you can’t share them online, only play them locally.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Puzzle Labyrinth – Published by Circle and developed by Intense in 2016. This is a first-person dungeon crawler puzzle game. Yes, it’s a puzzle game, not an RPG, there is no combat to be found here. Instead, you explore small dungeons and solve puzzles in them. You can pick up items from specific spots and try to figure out where to use them while interacting with the various tricky elements of the current stage as you try to figure out what to do to proceed. This game has simple graphics with solid stereoscopic 3d but very basic dungeon graphics and fine button-based controls. The main draw here, though, is the puzzles, and I would say that it delivers there. This game starts out easy enough, but it gets pretty hard after not that long. Once you’re dealing with warp tiles that travel through time as you try to figure out how to make a flower grow in a specific space and such, you will realize that this game is NOT easy. There isn’t really an in-game hint system, but you can find a guide online. Even if the game is hard it is good, though. Puzzle Labyrinth is a simple but challenging game that any adventure or puzzle game fan should definitely check out. I would say that due to the simple design and sometimes high frustration factor the game is good but not great, but it’s certainly worth a play. This game seems to be 3DS-exclusive, too, so pick it up while you can. It can be compelling. This game is quite different from Intense’s Parascientific Escape trilogy, but is just as much worth getting as the later titles in that series.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

PUZZLEBOX setup Published by Bplus in 2014. This is a sadly simplistic block-filling puzzle game in which you hold your 3DS upside-down. Yes, really. You hold the system with the upper screen facing you as a lower screen, and play with the stylus on the now-upper lower screen. This means that your hand will be partially obscuring the screen, but that is as intended. There are two modes here, both of which involve dropping colored blocks into spaces that are marked with the correct block color that needs to go into that space. In Classic stages, you go through and auto-scrolling level. The lower screen shows the block pattern you need to fill, with the correct color marked, and you touch the space directly above that spot on the upper screen to drop a block of that color into the space. The 3d screen does have stereoscopic visuals, which is nice. You can’t fill something with the wrong color, the game won’t let you. You can fill empty spaces with blocks of any color, though. The game does keep track of how many blocks you needed to use versus the minimum number, though, so if you want a better rating you should avoid this. The game also keeps track of how long each puzzle took you to complete.

In the other stage type, Copycat, you fill in an image on a single screen. The core gameplay is the same, fill in the blocks wit hthe correct colors, but instead of this time you are actually filling in an image, instead of just filling in blocks for no reason other than to do so. Copycat puzzles can be zoomed out so as to fit more rows of blocks onto the screen, and as expected the game keeps track of how long it took you and teh number of dropped blocks required. The two modes are similar, but the Classic levels are often boring, as you need to wait for the blocks to slowly move onto the screen, so I definitely had more fun with Copycat. Either way, though, this is a very basic game probably mostly for children. After all, you can’t actually get anything wrong and the only challenge is just to hit the button(s) for the correct color(s) in each row. It’s a very basic, overly simplistic game that did not hold my interest. A younger audience might like it though, I don’t know. I’d call this quite forgettably basic, though, apart from the way you hold the system.  Nintendo 3DS digital exclusive.

 

Best games in this update:

Picross 3D Round 2
Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas
Picross e series (all 8 games, but particularly the last two)

Worst games in this update:

Pocket Card Jockey
Phasmophobia: Hall of Specters 3D
Phil’s Epic Fill-a-Pix Adventure

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Game Opinion Summaries: Digital-Only Nintendo 3DS Games, Part 6: M-N-O

Introduction

So, I didn’t worked on this series at all for months. That’s not good when the time limit until 3DS eshop purchases are shut down at the end of next month in late March, so I had three choices: give up on it, make like one more and continue the series after the shutdown, or try to make shorter and less comprehensive summaries in order to try to get this done. The last is unfortunate because there is more that could be said about the games, but… well, I really want to publish SOMETHING about these games while they can still be bought, so I’m going to try to do that.  It’s likely I won’t finish before the shutdown, since it’s under a month away and finishing the last four parts of the original list before then will take a lot of effort… and even if I somehow do get that done, there are a lot more games to cover beyond that because I’ve bought a lot more digital 3DS games since starting this list, many of which I haven’t played yet and did not add to the list.  Ah well.  I’ll probably continue this after the shutdown, since there are other ways of playing 3DS games if you have a modded system, something I do not have.  Anyway, here is the next update, for M-N-O games. Expect more soon.

This article is not really finished yet — as you will notice, I have not yet polished it with adding the publishers and release years for the games, other platforms the games are on, a working table of contents (yes I know, I’ve been slacking off on those for a long time now…), and such.  I will do that later, getting it posted is the most important part.

Table of Contents

Mario and Donkey Kong; Minis on the Move
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
Mega Man IV (Game Boy Virtual Console)
Mercenaries Saga 2
Mercenaries Saga 3
Mia’s Picnic
Mighty Gunvolt
Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Mighty Switch Force
Mighty Switch Force 2
Miles & Kilo
Mini Golf Resort
Mini Sports Collection
Mom Hid My Game!
Mutant Mudds Deluxe
Mutant Mudds Super Challenge
My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess
Nano Assault EX
Ninja Battle Heroes
Noah’s Cradle
Of Mice and Sand
Ohno Odyssey

M-N-O – 22 games

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move – This title is basically a Mario take on the classic puzzle game Pipe Dream. This game is good, if you like Pipe Dream. You place tiles of various shapes to get the mini toy Marios along a path from start to finish, much as in Pipe Dream and the many titles it inspired. The challenge is that each tile type moves the minis in a specific direction, and you lose if they go off the track or walk into a spike block. The problem is, as I said I’m not exactly the biggest Pipe Dream fan around. It’s alright, but I’ve always found that game very frustrating. This title is no exception. This game is played with the stylus, as you would expect, so the controls are great. Each level plays on a grid, and some tiles start out filled in with spikes or curved road pieces. You need to get your mini from a start square to the end square without going off course. As you play, random pieces slowly fall in in a hopper on the right. You need to put down the correct tiles to fill in a continuous path from start to finish, preferably while also grabbing the three M-logo icons along the way in order to get a star on the level. You cannot remove any piece that has been placed in the level unless a Bomb item drops which can do that for you. You can always throw away pieces in a block dedicated to that in the corner of the level, though. You can only have five pieces in your queue at a time, so this will be needed. Touching the next piece icon will cause it to drop in more quickly.

So yes, it’s basically Mario’s Pipe Dream. The game is mostly good, but it’s got that usual Pipe Dream gameplay frustration of being stuck waiting for that one piece you need but the RNG will not give you it and … oops, that took too long, your mini walked off the edge. Game over, try the puzzle again. It’s a good game, but that stuff is always annoying and will happen often in Pipe Dream games. Of course, the better you get the better you will do, but still I’ve always had some issues with the concept. Overall, this game is a good, fine puzzle game with nice graphics and solid puzzle gameplay, but whether you stick with it or not will depend on how much you like this style of puzzle game. I only kind of like this kind of game, so I’d say that Minis on the Move is good, but not great. I’d recommend it to puzzle and Pipe Dream fans for sure, at least.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars – from Nintendo. This title is also a puzzle game. The game was released on both 3DS and Wii U, and is pretty much the same on both platforms. This game builds off of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games for GBA and DS, as they moved from platform-puzzle games to puzzle only. Very much like the last DS game, MvDK: Mini-Land Mayhem or Nintendo’s oddly Japan-only SNES title Mario vs. Wario, this game is a puzzler where you place objects on a 2d stage, trying to get your auto-moving characters from the start to the end safely. Think Lemmings, except instead of putting abilities on characters you connect points to build platforms and walls in order to get the minis to go the way you want them to. The game is controlled with the stylus, which is perfect for this kind of game. While I found the first two MvDK games disappointing, I loved Mini-Land Mayhem! It’s a fantastic game and one of the better puzzle games on that system. I found this game a small step back from that classic, but it’s still great. It’s just less original than that one and its online is shut down.

As with Lemmings or the other Nintendo games I mentioned above, the genius here is that the game is a puzzle game, but there still is an action component. You don’t just set up your stuff and watch, but you need to build floors, move pipes, and such as the minis are moving around, with the right timing, in order to get them where you need. You can only interact in certain pre-selected spots, which is quite limiting and makes the game simpler, but stages still can get plenty tricky until you figure out the solutions to the puzzles. Figuring out what items to place where to get Mini-Mario and friends to each stages’ goal is great fun, and the challenge level is just right. This game has a great difficulty curve from easy to hard, it’s balanced well. There are 96 puzzles, a good number, and there is some replay value if you want to go back and get better ratings in the stages. This game is an must-buy game for any logic puzzle game fan, buy it while you can!

However, there is one catch, and it’s a big one: when this game was released it had online level trading. You see, this game isn’t just a fantastic pre-designed puzzle game, it also has a level editor… and online level trading. However, the online level trading servers were taken down years ago. If you want to play the hundreds of levels people uploaded, from easy to hard, good to bad… you can’t. I have no idea why Nintendo took these servers down so quickly but it was a real tragedy, this game is amazing and should have stayed up long-term. As it is this game is great and I certainly recommend getting it, even just for what you do get this is a top-tier A-grade hit. However, the major missing feature of the removed online play is incredibly unfortunate and holds it back a lot for anyone who didn’t play it back when they were up. I am very glad I did get this game before the servers were taken down, there are a decent amount of levels in this game but after not all that long I finished them and wanted more. And they had that… until they took it down. Jerks. Sadly, Nintendo hasn’t made another game quite like this one. I hope they do soon, it’s fantastic and needs to come back. Also available, also digital-only, on the Wii U.

Mega Man IV (Game Boy Virtual Console) – from Capcom. I only own a few Virtual Console games on the 3DS, mostly because I own so many original games, but even though I’ve got my boxed original copy of this game, I had to buy at least this one on virtual console because Mega Man IV is the first Mega Man console game I owned and is a game I deeply love. This fantastic action-platformer is one of the all-time greats, and is every bit as great as Mega Man’s best NES games. This title may reuse bosses and level settings from the fourth and fifth NES games, but the level layouts and stage orders are all-new. This game also introduced a shop to the Mega Man series. Many enemies drop P items, and from the stage select screen you can go to a store and spend your earnings on powerups and such. With some of the best stage designs and gameplay in the series and a solid balance between stage difficulty and boss difficulty, Mega Man IV is one of the all-time great 8-bit platform games. These outstanding games have not been re-released again yet, so unless you want to buy the expensive original carts, I highly recommend buying this release while you can! Make sure to also get the third and fifth Game Boy Mega Man games too, they are also fantastic. The first game is alright and the second poor, but the series got a lot better after that and ended with two of the better 8-bit action/platformers around. This is a fantastic game that probably is a bit under-rated, just because the level themes are reused from the NES series does not mean that it isn’t original, or top tier! It is both. The Mega Man series doesn’t get much better than this. And Mega Man V is just as great.

Mercenaries Saga 2: Order of the Silver Eagle – This is a tactical strategy game. For some reason the first game in this series wasn’t brought to the 3DS, it was left on cellphones, but the second and third ones were. This is a simple and straightforward little tactical strategy game with a fantasy anime war theme. You play as a group of mercenaries who get involved in greater events. The story is fine but fairly standard stuff, and the same goes for the gameplay. This is your standard tactics game, with an isometric grid, decent sprite-art graphics, and average gameplay. Each character is slightly different, some are melee warriors, thieves, have ranged weapons, magic, and such. You start out with three guys but will slowly get more as you go along. Between missions there are story scenes, and you also can manage your team from a menu. Here you can buy items, use points you earned in the battles to upgrade your characters’ skills, and choose who you are bringing to the next mission, though at first you’ll just be using everyone. It’s all conventional, standard stuff, and no element of this game really stands out, but nothing about it is bad either. Overall this game is a competently made average tactical strategy game. Fans of the genre might want to check it out. It is somewhat generic-feeling all around, but plays well enough. There is a Nintendo Switch collection which includes both of these games plus the previously cellphone-only original title. I’m glad I have them on 3DS though. This series has several more entries on the Switch past that.

Mercenaries Saga 3: Gray Wolves of War – Very similar to its predecessor but with a new story and new characters, Mercenaries Saga 3 has a slightly strange plot. You see, you start out controlling a group of four mercenaries working for a powerful nation that is invading another continent and trying to take it over. They question their mission, but the locals are religious zealots so their side doesn’t seem like a great option either. The story this time seems a bit more interesting than the quite generic second one, but the gameplay is the same as before, with the same loop of generic story scene, then battle, then camp where you can spend your skill points and buy items and such. So, this is still a very standard tactical strategy game with alright sprite art graphics and an isometric perspective. It’s clearly running in the same engine as the last game and looks extremely similar graphically. Expect more okay but not particularly thrilling tactical gameplay. It’s fun enough but is still quite average. There is a Nintendo Switch collection which includes both of these games plus the previously cellphone-only original title. I’m glad I have them on 3DS though. This series has several more entries on the Switch past that.

Mia’s Picnic – Released in 2020 by Nellyvision. This is an indie puzzle game. This developer made two puzzle games on 3DS. Both released late in its life and both are partially fun and partially very annoying. This is a tile-matching game played on the lower screen. The tiles are all different kinds of fruits in this game — red and green apples, cherries, strawberries, lemons, and more. The graphics are nice and large and well-drawn, though there is no use of stereoscopic 3d on the upper screen unfortunately. You use touch or the dpad to select contiguous (left/right/up/down only) matching-icon tiles the tiles that you want to collect and add to your tiles. You can also double-tap a tile, or highlight it and hit a button, to remove a tile from the field without collecting it.

This all may sound reasonably standard and it is, but the game does a couple of somewhat unique things. This game isn’t just about staying alive as long as you can, it’s a mission-based game. In each stage you have an objective, and a VERY tight time limit to complete that objective in. Objectives either are ‘collect X amount of these specific types of fruits to complete the stage’ or ‘collect X number of specific fruit lineups to complete the stage’. As an example of the second type, you may need to match ten green apple – red apple – green apple combinations. The objectives give this game a different feel from standard tile-matching games, but the extremely strict timers make Mia’s Picnic very frustrating. Can you beat it with enough retries, yes. But luck will matter as much as skill, sometimes, since what tiles drop in after you make a match is the luck of the draw. Get too many of the wrong tiles, or have too many rotten green apples drop in and corrupt your regular green apples, and you’ll run out of time and have to try again. Fortunately the game saves after each stage so you can keep trying from where you are, but of the tile-matching games on 3DS this one is probably the most frustrating due to the timer. Still, it is fun when you do well and the RNG cooperates, so it may well be worth a look if you like puzzle games. Also available on Switch and PS4. I’d rather play it on 3DS if I had to pla ythi sgame though due to how well stylus-based touch works for this kind of game.

Mighty Gunvolt – This Inti Creates game is a NES-style platformer. This spinoff crossover of the not exactly popular Mighty No. 9, the pervy shooter series Gal Gun, and the slightly more popular Gunvolt series goes back to the roots of both series and makes something inspired by the series that both of those franchises are based on, Mega Man. This is no Mega Man game in quality, though, not even close. More in keeping with the often-lacking quality of Inti Creates titles, this game is a very short and basic little title. There are only maybe five or six stages here, and they are all very short and basic. For the most part you just walk to the right and sometimes jump over things, while shooting the enemies. This game has decent NES-ish graphics, but with such a limited amount of very basic gameplay this game will not keep anyone interested for long. Some people liked this game more than Mighty No. 9, and with how flawed that game is I get it, but I’d rather play that game than this one; it has SOME good points, more interesting stage layouts, and at least it won’t be done in half an hour. I don’t know that this game is really worth playing. It’s alright but a bit below average.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst – This sequel is improved over its predecessor. You have several characters to play as and better levels than that last game. Once again, Mighty Gunvolt Burst is a NES-inspired platformer. This game still isn’t as good a Mega Man game as the NES-style Bloodstained games are Castlevania games, but it’s a decent time while it lasts. As with most of Inti Creates titles this game is a whole lot easier than the NES games that inspired it and I would call it a short and easy game, but at least this time the stages are more interesting than they were in the first game and the game is a bit less short. This game might be worth playing, at least for Mega Man fans. Go in with low expectations and you might have fun for a little while. I think some people overstated how good this game was back when it came out, it’s no match for Mega Man games in level design or challenge, but it’s still a decent time and is above average to good.

Mighty Switch Force – This WayForward game has their typical good art design. The game is a 2d platformer, as with many WayForward titles, with a twist. In this quite puzzley platformer, you play as a police girl, and need to find and capture five criminal girls in each level, who are all blondes. The criminal girls don’t move, so the challenge is finding where they are hiding and touching all of them to capture them. The game is certainly sexualized, but it is pretty good. The controls are also spot-on, control of your character is responsive.

The main gimmick is hinted at in the title, switching. You have the standard jump and shoot buttons, but your third action button switches certain blocks on and off. Each time you hit it some blocks, launchers, and more will switch between being present active objects, or being shadowed out backround items you can’t interact with. You will need to switch in midair in order to flip types to make it through walls of blocks, switch with precise timing to get either you or a bomb enemy into a specific launcher to shoot it off in the direction you need to go in, and such. Beyond the nice sprite art graphics this is a fairly simple game, but it gets challenging eventually and beating all of the levels will take skill. Because levels end not when you reach the end but when you find all of the criminals, exploration is key here. Fortunately levels are relatively small, so the challenge here is not inordinate amounts of exploration but instead is in trying to figure out how to get past the obstacles in front of you. This is a good game well worth playing, the frustration of the later stages is well worth it to experience this WayForward classic.

Mighty Switch Force 2 – This game is similar to its predecessor, except you’re a firefighter girl now. As with before the plot is very minimal. You need to rescue five people in each level from fires that have broken out all over town. As with before, all of the people are beautiful blonde women. Because you are a firefighter now, and this is a new character and not the same person as the sprite art and voice acting are different, you have a water cannon instead of a regular gun, and there are fires and mud blocks and such in the levels that you will need to break down with that water cannon. You don’t need to worry about water or anything, your water gun has infinite water somehow. There isn’t even a hose. So yeah, this is not exactly a firefighting simulator, but it is a good platform-puzzle game with plenty of good to great levels to figure out. As with the first one this game isn’t especially long, and is well worth playing while it lasts because of the great controls and very good gameplay. This game has a bit more going on in terms of stage objects than the first one, which is great. The mud blocks, pipes, and more add some welcome depth to this game. I like trying to figure out the puzzles here. And as with before, if you want to get some more out of this game you can try to finish all of the stages faster, since both games save your best times, and also can try to find an optional baby who is hidden in each level. Some of the ways you get to a level’s baby are pretty tricky, it’s good stuff. Overall, this game is great. Buy it while you can. It takes everything the original did and improves on it.

Miles & Kilo – This is a 2d platformer game with decently nice sprite art. I mentioned this game previously. The previous game was an endless runner, but this time you get full control of your character, thankfully. The game has some auto-runner sections, as you get pulled along behind your out of control dog, but most of the time you you control your movement. The game is much, much better for it! I’m not much of a fan of autorunners, but even so it is kind of amazing how much better this game is than the last one just because you aren’t always moving anymore. This game has nice visuals, solid controls, and mostly good levels. This game is fairly standard stuff as you walk, jump, and attack enemies along straightforward linear levels. The game doesn’t have the most variety, but it does have some, with the autorunner sections to mix things up from the regular platforming. Overall it’s a decently fun little game and I do think platformer fans should want to check it out.  This is far better than any autorunner, it really is amazing how much this genre is improved by having control over your character.

Mini Golf Resort – Mini Golf Resort is a mini-golf game with nice stereoscopic 3d graphics. That’s great, I like minigolf. However, this game is not great. There is a huge amount of content here, with a character creator to create your golfer and a lot of quite lengthy holes to play through, but the controls are extremely weird and hard to get used to and the hole designs are heavy on things like very annoying ramps and bridges you need to hit perfectly to get over. You’d think that a 3DS minigolf game would have a stylus-based system where you have an on-screen indicator showing how hard you’re hitting the ball, but this game isn’t simple like that, oh no. Instead, this game has a weird hybrid system where you can use either the buttons or the stylus, but neither works well. You can rotate your club and turn the camera up and down with either the stylus, analog stick, or ABXY buttons. You hit the ball by touching a ball indicator in the lower right corner of the touchscreen. This makes a power level slider appear on screen. Now you select the power you want to hit the ball with. Yes, it’s just a selection slider, not a power meter. How odd, for a golf game. Then you touch the screen and move the stylus down and then up in order to mimic a hitting motion. The ball will only go straight if you move the stylus straight up and down, vary and you’ll go off course. There are no indicators on screen showing how your shot will go, you’ll just need to hope that it goes the right way. It’s odd, but you do get used to it.

Once you get the controls down, though, those incredibly annoying level designs, and the often extremely long holes, are there to ruin any fun you might have been having. If you can aim your shots just right, sure, you can get through holes in just a few shots. But a minigolf game where extreme precision is required on many of the MANY MANY holes in the game or else you’ll take dozens of shots to complete a hole? That’s no fun. And you can’t just play a single hole, either; instead you need to play a full course in a single sitting. Each is made up of multiple holes, and you can’t save a game in progress and will need to start it over if you quit. For a handheld game that’s not good design at all. After completing some of these holes I never want to play them again, but might have to. Overall, Mini Golf Resort is disappointing and critically flawed. While there may be a huge amount of content here, with odd controls, no saving of a course in progress, and very irritating course designs, it’s a poor game with major problems. I can’t recommend it at all.

Mini Sports Collection – This is an olympic-style sports minigame collection. The game has nice stylized graphics, with graphics which have flat sprites in 3d worlds with some solid-color outlines for people. It is in stereoscopic 3d and I like the look. Once you get into the game, though, it has issues. This title has twelve minigames. You can either play each one independently, play some four-minigames challenges, or play all twelve one after the other. Whatever the mode, the only challenge is you against yourself: there is no AI opponent, only a high score counter with letter grades based on hitting certain required scores in that minigame and some achievement-style objectives for each of the mnigames. The addition of the achievements and grades is nice, because otherwise this game would be over in ten minutes. It still can be if you don’t care about grades, score, or achievements, but it is nice that the game gives you multiple things to work for beyond just finishing the minigames. As for those minigames, they use the d-pad or analog stick and not more than one button. There is a helpful control screen before each one telling you what the controls are. Most of the minigames are either about well-timed reactions or focused inputs. They can be pretty frustrating, getting good scores in this game is not easy. Some learning will be required if you want to master this game. Is it worth it I’m not sure, the timings required can be tight and I get frustrated. But for a title with this little an amount of content there is a decent amount here to do if you get into it. This game is average at best but some might want to give it a look. I’m glad I picked it up.

Mom Hid My Game! – This indie adventure game started out on cellphones and became fairly popular after its release. The game got several sequels and is still alive today. Unfortunately only the first game got a 3DS port, but it is a good port well worth playing if for some reason you haven’t played this title. This is a short and simple little game, but it’s great fun for the few hours it lasts. You play as a young boy, probably Japanese, and in each stage your goal is to find the handheld game console that your mother hid. You play with the stylus on the lower screen, touching things you want to interact with. When you touch things something happens. Most stages are just a single screen or only a few screens, so there usually are only a few things to interact with, but it does get moderately tricky eventually. Still, this game is pretty easy and won’t last all that long, but it’s quite fun while it lasts so that’s fine. I definitely recommend this game, and its sequels as well. It’s too bad the sequels didn’t get 3DS releases, anything with touch controls like this is significantly better with a stylus on a reactive screen like the 3DS’s.

Mutant Mudds Deluxe – From Renegade Kid.  Mutant Mudds is an indie 2d platformer from the same developer as Chicken Wiggle, though this title released before that one. You play as a boy going on a great adventure, in that classic platformer fashion. You have a regular jump, a shot that doesn’t go all the way across the screen, and a jetpack with a fuel meter that refills when you land. From these simple basics come some pretty good challenges. This game was somewhat popular and has multiple ports, and indeed I covered the original PC version of the game some years ago, but this improved 3DS version is perhaps the best because this game makes great use of stereoscopic 3d effects. This game feels somewhat inspired by early ’90s PC shareware platformers, which is fantastic since I love those games, but it also takes visual inspiration from Virtual Boy Wario Land, since as with that game it has multi-plane stages with plenty of obstacles that move around in and out of the screen and plane-switching jump pads. The 3DS Kirby games would similarly use these VBWL-inspired design elements, but this game did it first. Naturally, while it is also on PC and Switch and such, the best way to play this game is on the system where it’s in stereoscopic 3d, the 3DS. And this is definitely a good game, for its gameplay is very bit as good as its visual effects, or better. This is a challenging but fun platformer with great controls and large levels that are a lot of fun to explore.  This game is fairly simple and easy to understand, but with classic design inspired by games I love, good controls, good graphics, and good level designs, this is a good to great game without question.  I might like Chicken Wiggle even more, but Mutant Mudds is an almost-classic and shows off stereoscopic 3d quite well.  This game is good and is absolutely recommended.

Mutant Mudds Super Challenge – From Renegade Kid.  This sequel to the original Mutant Mudds is pretty much the same as the original in visuals and gameplay, but, as the name suggests, it is harder. The all-new levels feel aimed at players who have beaten the first game, so this feels kind of like an expansion pack sold on its own. That’s fine, just know what the game is. The question is, do you want a much more challenging Mutant Mudds game? I think that the first game got its difficulty balance just about right and was plenty challenging, so as much as I like it I’ve never cared quite as much for this one; it’s perhaps a bit too hard. Of course you have very good controls and nice 3d stereoscopic visuals, and you can keep trying levels as many times as you want, but I’ve never stuck with this one all that long. It starts out well, but after dying a lot I eventually stop. Even so, this game is good and is worth a try for sure. Just be warned, it IS hard.

My Nintendo Picross: The Legend of Zelda – Twilight Princess – This title is only available as a My Nintendo reward. Spend enough coins and you get a code for this game. I hope that it is still available as a reward, at least until the eshop shutdown, but aren’t sure. Anyway, despite costing quite a few points, this title is not a full game. Instead, it is a mini-game with 25 Picross puzzles of various characters and objects from the Gamecube classic, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I love Picross, and this title is great with all of the fantastic touch or button-based controls and classic puzzle gameplay of Picross, it just won’t last long because of how few puzzles are included. For those who do not know, picross is a picture crossword logic puzzle game series from Nintendo and Jupiter. From sets of numbers along the right and top sides of the screen, you need to figure out which blocks need to be cut out from the grid of blocks on the lower screen. The upper screen, meanwhile, shows the current image. As a big Twilight Princess and Picross fan I love this title, and that it’s kind of free more than makes up for the limited amount of content. If you can still get this, definitely pick it up.

Nano Assault EX – This is a shmup from Shin’en, a small German game developer behind games such as Nanostray on the DS. Shin’en games consistently have great graphics with very good use of hardware, but whether the gameplay is as good as the graphics are is highly variable. This game is a rail shooter, sort of like Shin’en’s first console game for the GBA, Iridion 3D, but better. You control a miniature nano-sized craft, flying through living beings to defeat the dangerous invading cells. This game gives you no control over the camera or your movement speed, you just move your ship around the screen to avoid obstacles and shoot at foes. That makes this game conceptually a lot like the ’90s game Microcosm. I like rail shooters, but I do think they are better when you can move around more, as opposed to this very strict ‘it plays a video and you move your cursor-like ship’ style. It also can be hard to tell when you’re going to be hit, since you see the ship dead-on so judging distance is tricky. The visuals here are great, but the gameplay isn’t quite on that level. As for the controls, you have analog control of the ship, but the change from slow to fast motion is abrupt. You are either barely moving or zooming across the screen. I’ve found myself getting killed by this more times than I’d like.

And as you play you will need to focus, because the game has long levels. You get limited lives per level and die in one hit. You do respawn where you died so long as you have lives left, but once you run out you’ll need to restart that level again from the beginning. This is a challenging game that you will not easily get more than a few levels into. This game can be fun as you look at the cool visuals and shoot at dangerous cells and the like, but with the too-railed design and sometiems iffy controls, while there is plenty to like here with the interesting enemies and obstacles and challenging stages, this style of rail shooter, the ‘it’s kind of a FMV cursor’ style, has never been my favorite. So, this game has issues, but even so it is good overall and certainly is worth playing if you like shooters. This game is probably good overall, but barely.  It’s in between above average and good really.

Ninja Battle Heroes – Released in 2012 by Tom Create. This is a 2.5d platform/action game. It’s alright. You play as an anthropomorphic ninja animal guy on a mission to save fantasy ancient Japan. There is a plot told by short cutscenes between stages. You move with the analog stick and can attack both melee and ranged, jump, block use special abilities, and, by pressing down on the stick while not moving, draw in souls. The combat has a little depth as you do have to use some strategy with bosses, but it is still mostly simple. It’s alright, but it’s perhaps a bit too much of a sidescrolling beat ’em up for my tastes, combat-wise. That’s just not my favorite kind of combat.

The analog-only movement works, and you do have proportional speed control, but sometimes I did wished that you could use the d-pad as well. It’s fine though. As for the gameplay, this game is decent but a bit generic in feel, somehow. It does feel nice when you run through the levels slashing enemies, but the visuals and stage designs aren’t anything too special. The controls, menus, and interface are all extremely similar to those of the other Tom Create games for 3DS, several of which I have covered. You can buy special abilities with the souls you can collect, though at first you can only equip one at a time so you will need to choose what you want. Fortunately, eventually you do get to equip more specials. This game is alright to good. Tom Create’s games all have a decent sense of style, with higher production values than many download-only 3DS games. The graphics are good and it is in stereoscopic polygonal 3d. People who like sidescrolling beat ’em up combat, with blocking and such, should get this. As for me, I’ve gone back to it here and there but don’t love it despite recognizing its above-average quality. It’s fine.

Noah’s Cradle – This game supports the added buttons of the 3DS controller addon unit or the New 3DS. This is a 3d flight combat game with modern aircraft. It’s technically a sci-fi game, but doesn’t really look like it. This title is no hardcore sim, it’s pretty simple, but while I do like some sci-fi flight games, ones like this have never interested me much at all. This game makes an okay first impression, but I rapidly lose interest. That may just be me, though. The game has decent graphics with stereoscopic 3d, and it makes good use of the added buttons of the New 3DS or 3DS controller addon — LZ and RZ control your throttle. Otherwise you need to adjust it on the touchscreen. The button option is nice. Otherwise, face buttons control your bullets and missiles, use an afterburner, and lock on to a target in front of you. Oddly enough, you can also strafe with L or R. Yes, strafe sideways, in a plane. I am not sure how a plane can strafe by seemingly adjusting its flaps, but okay. You fly around with the left analog stick. In addition to the throttle, the lower screen has a map and shows your weapons. You can enable or disable weapons by touching them.

In each mission, you fly a plane around in empty space and have to accomplish missions. Most missions are basic ‘kill all the enemy fighters’ stuff. This is an indie title, so there isn’t full ground here, you are higher up. The graphics are alright and the plane controls are okay, so it’s a decent game I guess. The way the plane tilts around as you move the stick is odd, but it is realistic I believe. Basically left and right rotate your ship and up and down tilt it, so you need to turn by angling in the correct direction while holding down L or R to activate those flaps. Once you’ve got that down, though, figuring out where those enemies ARE can be difficult. If enemies are close they will appear on your radar and you can lock on to them, but there isn’t a larger map you can bring up to tell you where enemies are. Sure, the game may start you near your foes, but they’re in planes, they fly around. Lose track of them and they’re just gone, good luck finding them again. And this is where the game completely loses me. Other than this problem Noah’s Cradle is a decent game which can be fun for its genre, but sorry, I have no interest in aimlessly flying around looking for missing enemies.

If you do stick with it, the game has various different weapons and several planes to buy, and you can replay missions and they won’t be the same every time. Or rather, you will NEED to replay missions, because I don’t think there are all that many in this game and if you don’t lose track of the enemies they are pretty short, and they pad it out by not unlocking the next level right away. Instead you need to play the same stages over and over and buy better stuff and such. They very slowly get harder the more times you play them. And… yeah, no thanks. If this sounds like your kind of game by all means pick it up while you can, but it’s not mine. It’s too aimless and repetitive. Not recommended.

Of Mice and Sand – This is an interesting, but flawed, indie strategy/simulation game. You control a large tracked vehicle full of sentient mice travelling through a post-apocalyptic desert. This game has nice 2d sprite art graphics. It doesn’t make much use of stereoscopic 3d, but still the visuals are good. This game has mostly touch-based controls. You manage your mouse tank-colony by placing rooms and giving the mice tasks. This game is both really interesting, and quite boring. I like the post-apocalyptic theme, and the graphics are nice. The concept of managing a colony is also a good one, and I love strategy games and like building sims as well. However, a lot of the time there just isn’t enough to do to keep me interested. As you play, you travel around between locations in the desert. You watch your vehicle move, and as you go you automatically pick up some items on the ground that you will need, such as scrap metal. Then, you tell one of your mice to turn that scrap metal into refined products such as pipes and the like in the Workshop room in your colony. Once you reach a location, you can buy and sell items, of which the game only has a relatively small number of types, get quests which generally amount to ‘bring me X amount of some item type’, and pay people for information. You will need to buy pretty much all information options in order to proceed, as you can’t get to new locations until you learn from people where new places of interest are in the desert.

A lot of this kind of game are rogue-lite titles with a lot of danger, games where you are always on the edge of failure and might get something if you lose. This game is not like that. Instead, most of the time you are not in much danger to anything other than quitting out of boredom. You absolutely can fail this game, as if you take too long to proceed to new areas monsters will destroy your colony and it can take a while to get enough resources to be able to build enough items to both be able to sell stuff to make money for food, fuel, and the information you need. However, most of the time you are just going back and forth between locations, slowly picking stuff up, while next to nothing happens. There are a few events here and there and the towns and writing are charming, but it’s just a bit too slow-paced and tedious. I like the concept of this game, but the tedium of the core gameplay loop is flawed. It doesn’t have enough building simulation elements to keep you interested like a dedicated building sim does, but also doesn’t have enough threat to hold your interest like a rogue-lite colony sim does. Of Mice and Sand does its own thing, and I kind of like it, but it just doesn’t have varied or interesting enough gameplay to keep me coming back. Raw material collection, particularly, is too dull. This game is above average but could have been better. There is also an enhanced Nintendo Switch version of this game which adds more content. The controls here are better, as the game is perfect for control with a stylus, but the added content would be nice.

Ohno Odyssey – This is a 2.5d puzzle/platformer game. No, not that kind of puzzle-platformer. This game is one part endless runner and one part level editor. The game has a great concept, but fairly average implementation. Each level is made up of curving platforms floating in the air. You start out in an editor. When you press go your orblike alien character will move forward along it. Your objective is to place objects along this track with the stylus in the simple stage editor so that you will be able to reach the goal. Once you hit go, you only have limited control of your character. Some powerups give you a jump you control and such, and you will need to time uses of the jump powerup in some levels so some platformer ability is required, but the puzzle element is the main game here.
You just need to set up the level so that the Ohno alien will complete the stage. As such, the main challenge here is in the puzzle solving.

It’s a good idea, and a really good implementation of this could have been some cross of The Incredible Machine and a platformer, but unfortunately this game isn’t that title. Ohno Odyssey is a very easy and simple game. The puzzles do slowly get a bit more complex, but with how few items you get in each stage, most of the time the puzzles are far too easy to figure out. Put ramps over pits, blocks to keep you from hitting bombs, and such. Sometimes you can do neat stuff, but only infrequently. The platformer isn’t enough to keep me interested either, since it’s mostly an automatic game which you don’t interact with at all most of the time. Many levels don’t have any interaction at all, you just hit go and watch. If the puzzle setups were trickier this would be fine, but they aren’t. This game is a mildly amusing little thing, as you place items and then watch your orb-guy zip along the course, but there isn’t enough substance here to keep me interested for long. It’s probably slightly below average.

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