For 2 bucks and more!
For five small games, you're going to get five (well, four) small reviews. It's uncommon to see so much software together for the measly price of five dollars these days unless you really keep your eye out on Steam, but Frima Studios has decided to toss in five of its Playstation Minis into a grab bag where the cost is merely one dollar per game. Penny-pinching gamers hold out for deals like this. Problem is, they're usually holding out for games more worth their attention.
A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks! stands out as the premier title of the bunch, a game with its tongue so far in its cheek that it almost chokes itself. Not a pretty picture, but the player stands to benefit from this, as it's an entirely competent shoot-'em-up with various upgrading, special weapons, punishing difficulty, and humor that occasionally elicits a literal “LOL”. It'll command a few hours of time from fans of the genre and stand out as a memorable experience due to its dialogue. It's like a plain-looking girl at a formal who strolls in without a date and commands your attention just because of how loud and crazy she is. She may look and dance like everyone else there, but you won't forget them. [B]
Young Thor, on the other hand, is a tedious and unwieldy affair. It's a beat-'em-up, except the hit-detection is about as clean as a baby eating porridge. It's a platformer, except the platforms are designed in such a curious way as to mock you and inhibit your ability to tell where the hell they start and end. The presentation is grating and uncreative, and the all-around design is cookie-cutter.
The main problem is that the game is aimed at kids - it's young Thor and all - but suffers from technical issues that will prevent them being able to get through. Let's not even get into the bizarre level structure that reuses the same handful of poorly designed stages. It's a nightmare. [D]
Widget's Odyssey and its sequel, Widget's Odyssey 2, are essentially the same game but split into two chunks. Each can be completed in about an hour or less, but chances are extremely likely that after the first few minutes of trying to work through the less than intuitive puzzles and flimsy flash-game mechanics, players will just drop the controller. The comedic presentation is of the sort that will feel awkward and embarrassing to older audiences but younger ones very well may get a kick out of it, if they can endure the game contained within. It can be surprisingly difficult to navigate a level due to time constraints where getting hit – an easy task given how sloppy the mechanics are - results in chunks of time lost. [D-]
On a brighter note, Zombie Tycoon rounds out this bag of tricks with an amusing concept that falls short in execution. The setup involves using zombies to take over cities in a controlled fashion. Wannabe mad scientists toss jars of brains in any destination that would look better with a few good mindless thumpings. By controlling three groups of zombies independently – or usually all in one swarm, if you play Pikmin like I do – players can destroy buildings to remove hazards and collect equipment that enhances zombie performance. It's a novel enough idea if you haven't gone completely brain-dead (see what I did there?) over the overabundance of brain-suckers being slapped into every genre this generation.
Unfortunately after the first few levels, you begin to realize how unresponsive it is to navigate and control the three separate packs of undead, if you actually try to play the game the way it expects you to. And unlike Pikmin, which gives players enemy and level variety that requires tactical change-ups, Zombie Tycoon more often than not simply uses elemental hazards that are meant to be countered with the right protective gear, which means having to enter the equip screen and manually change each body part frequently. The game's concept is admirable and its presentation isn't half-bad for a downloadable portable game; it's just a shame that the experience becomes more tedious than its worth. [C-]
When looked at as the sum of its parts, this virtual buffet doesn't have much staying power. That said, Frima's Awesome Summer Mini-Bundle is only five dollars. Only two titles, though, are worth looking into. If you have a younger one who's looking to try out a few different kinds of games – especially on the go, being Minis, as these are – it's hard to argue with the price. Your five bucks will probably go a decent way toward entertaining less critical audiences. And you can always sneak in some Space Shooter on the side for yourself, you sly parent, you. Otherwise, you may be best served simply buying Space Shooter for two dollars and putting the other three smackers toward something else.