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What I’m Playing on Vacation: Casual Game Mini Reviews.

When I left for vacation I brought two bags, one full of clothes and toiletries and the other packed with books and electronics. Portable gaming machines do not take up a huge amount of space but maximizing your gaming oomph and minimizing the amount of gear that has to be lugged around is a concern. Additionally I have not had a lot of time to sit down with a more involved game so most of my vacation gaming has been distinctly casual. In my opinion a lot of casual games are of the lowest quality. With that in mind this is the best of what I have been playing on vacation and what I would recommend for your casual game playing.

Line Rider iPhone:

I have been looking forward to Line Rider making its way to the iPhone since I saw some of the fantastic videos of the original flash version on YouTube. The game has caused enough of a splash to be ported both to the DS and iPhone. The game is barely a game in its original and iPhone form. Upon load the player is presented with a screen that is blank other than having a few drawing tools. There is no point or goal other then to draw a downhill course for a guy on a toboggan to sled down. The simplicity and creativity allowed are wonderful. With all the versions players can share their courses with other players which is very cool. It is pretty easy to pick up and put down and the game appears to auto save whenever the program is exited. The only gripe I have is that it is difficult to draw precisely with a finger on the tiny iPhone screen. Watch the video below and be amazed.

Check it out for free online at http://linerider.com/

Mawasunda Nintendo DS:

Mawasunda is a Japanese only mini game collection from Taito similar to Wario Ware for the Nintendo DS. The game does have a lot of Japanese which makes the game more challenging and interesting for a non-Japanese speaker. The games fall into 3 categories (Power, Technique, or Brain) and use what the games refers to as the MawasunderPAD which is a portion of the bottom screen that is rotated to play the mini games. Games have goals such as raising and lowering elevators or cracking safes in addition to slightly more outlandish goals such as keeping people upright on the subway or preparing food. Perhaps directly attempting to cash in on Wario Ware there are bits of vintage games included such as Arkanoid. None of the Mini Games feel quite as absurdist as the ones included in a Wario Ware Game however the sense of style that the game has somewhat makes up for the lack of over-the-topness. The gimmicky MawasunderPAD does get old after a bit however there are alternate controls for lots of the games. The biggest difference seems to be the amount of time spent playing the individual games. While Wario Ware mini games are very fast Mawasunda has a much more leisurely feel. It is not the perfect mini game collection but is a fun worthwhile diversion.

Puzzloop iPhone:

Puzzloop for the iPhone is a touch version of the flash game Puzzloop which people may know as Zuma or Luxor. It is the first of the match three games that have pieces that are on a spiral track around the center piece thrower. The game is really easy to play on the iPhone due to responsive controls and a generally well designed UI. I rarely find my finger covering important gameplay elements or accidentally touching the menu button which is a concern for almost all iPhone Games. The Puzzloop clone Zuma can be played at http://www.popcap.com/games/free/zuma and will give you a pretty good idea of what Puzzloop is all about.

Clubhouse Games Nintendo DS:

Clubhouse Games has something around 50 classic board and card games including solitaire, mahjong, and chess. They are all easy to play, with a good UI, decent AI as well as the option to play multiplayer either thru Local Wireless or Nintendo WFC. These are classics thru and thru. Value has been added by having a couple bonus modes that include Mission and Stamp. Stamp mode sends the player thru all the games one after another and Mission sets players up with specific goals to complete during play. For instance in the Bullshit Mission (the Clubhouse Games refers to the game as “I Doubt It”) the player must “Accurately call Cheater! (Bullshit) 5 times before anyone else wins.” Nothing groundbreaking however it does extend game-play.

Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters? PSP:

Honestly the PSP does not really have many quality casual style games and since the DS and iPhone are excellent platforms for casual gaming I had a bit of difficulty naming a quality PSP game. Lumines and Echochrome, neither of which I have played, may be the entire list of quality casual games for the PSP. I’d like to open up the comments for any opinions on what are some good casual games on the PSP. Come on lurkers, don’t be afraid to speak up. Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters is the only PSP game I’ve played for the PSP while on vacation. On the subject of vacation, check out what the 5-0 drive in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. This should more then make up for the lack of casual games on the PSP…

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