Friday, February 24, 2012

Third Rate Game Play: Freddi Fish in Kelp Seed Mystery

Game: Freddi Fish in Kelp Seed Mystery
System: Wii
Developer: Mistic Software/ Humongous Entertainment
Publisher: Majesco Entertainment
Player: Alex
Experience: Played demo in childhood

Many of us remember the days of old, spending our afternoons sitting at the computer and playing adventure games, from Hero’s Quest to Sam and Max. One of the biggest names in adventure game development was Ron Gilbert, known for bringing out the worlds of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. However, in 1992, Gilbert and LucasArts producer Shelley Day left the company to form a new, child-focused adventure game company, Humungous Entertainment. It is from this company that Freddi Fish and her games emerged, as well as a number of other franchise characters such as Putt-Putt and Spy Fox.

Freddi Fish in Kelp Seed Mystery is actually a Wii port of the character’s debut title, Freddi Fish and the Case of the Missing Kelp Seeds, which launched for PC in 1994. While Humungous was still active, Freddi Fish starred in four more adventure titles: Freddi Fish and the Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse (1996), Freddi Fish and the Case of the Stolen Conch Shell (1998), Freddi Fish: The Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch (1999), and Freddi Fish: The Case of the Creature of Coral Cove (2001). Amid the PC adventures, two Junior Arcade titles starring Freddi and her friend Luther were released in 1996: Freddi Fish and Luther's Maze Madness, and Freddi Fish and Luther's Water Worries.

Humungous would ultimately undergo a myriad of purchases in the late 1990s. GT Interactive purchased Humungous Entertainment in 1996, and GT itself was purchased by Infogrames Entertainment SA shortly thereafter. After acquiring Hasboro Interactive, Infogrames would rename its publishing title to Atari. The original founders of Humongous would try to purchase back Humungous, but as the tech crash hit, the deal fell through. Instead, the founders and a number of ex-Humungous staff created Hulabee Interactive, producing five titles in the early 2000s, including Disney Interactive’s Piglet’s Big Game and Plaid Banana’s Moop and Dreadly in the Treasure on Bing Bong Island (oddly enough, Plaid Banana was founded by ex-Humungous members and would later become part of Disney).

However, the life of Hulabee Interactive would also be short, this time in the face of fraud. According to reports, in 2005 co-founder Shelley Day had been found to be forging Letters of Intent and other documents in order to obtain loans from multiple foreign banks. The funding was thought to be going into a potential acquisition from Activision or Disney, but when the loans were due and neither corporation knew of any deal, the banks called Day out on fraud, leading her to 30 months jailtime with five years probation. Her arrest would lead to the end of Hulabee.

Meanwhile, the original Humungous would undergo layoffs and eventually close in 2001. A few years later, however, Humungous, Inc. was formed by a small number of ex-employees, and it was acquired by Infogrames in 2005. The new Humungous mostly licenses out its IPs to other developers, as in this case. Besides its older adventure titles, Humungous, Inc. works on developing its Backyard Sports franchise.

The actual developer behind the three Wii ports is Mistic Software. Formed in 1997, this Montreal-based company started with game development for airplanes, and it became a part of Atari in 2000, where it worked on interactive television products. It would shift back to handheld and console development in 2002. Its first Wii products, which included the three Humungous ports, emerged in 2008. The company’s products up to Freddi Fish include Dual Masters, Duel Quest: Expeditions, Kid Paddle, and The Price is Right for DS.

Publisher Majesco Entertainment was formed in 1986, acting as a reissuer of old, abandoned titles for Nintendo and Sega systems. Majesco would later rerelease the Sega Genesis, dubbed the Genesis 3, while Sega worked on the Sega Saturn; the company also rereleased the Game Gear as the Game Gear Core System. In the following generation, Majesco would begin game development under Pipe-Dream Interactive, producing such titles as a Dreamcast port of Q*bert and a number of Game Boy Advance titles. More recently, Majesco has been known to work on a number of franchises with smaller developers. It worked with Terminal Reality on BloodRayne and BloodRayne 2, both of which were met with some success. However, in 2003, the company was met with great financial difficulty; Double Fine Production’s Psychonauts had failed despite a large marketing campaign, while GlyphX Games’s Advent Rising was panned critically and, ultimately, failed to do well in sales, too. Another unique IP in development, Taldren, Inc.’s Black9, was cancelled in the final stages of development, also hurting the company’s finances. Further large cancellations occurred in 2006: Terminal Reality’s Demonik and Taxi Driver (a sequel to the movie). The company was able to pull through the hard times, thankfully, when it began publishing casual games, specifically the DS hit Cooking Mama (developed by Office Create, now titled Cooking Mama Limited). Prior to its collaboration with Atari and Mistic Software, Majesco’s most recent unique project would be Major Minor’s Majestic March, developed by Parappa the Rapper creator NanaOn-Sha.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: Mutant Mudds

Game: Mutant Mudds
System: Nintendo eShop (3DS)
Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Renegade Kid

Cost: $8.99

Being a small developer is no easy feat, especially when original IPs are involved. In the case of Renegade Kid, they had a particularly difficult time bringing Mutant Mudds into existence; originally a 3D platformer on the DS, the game was rejected by publishers and failed to garner enough attention for a DSiWare release. However, Renegade Kid revamped Mutant Mudds’ idea and has made it into a refreshing 2D platformer on the Nintendo eShop. Thankfully, I can say the game was well worth the wait, even if it changed its looks along the way.

Mutant Mudds stars Max and his grandmother who, while playing video games, witness a meteor crash onto the planet, creating a myriad of monstrous beings called the Mutant Mudds. Equipped with the smarts to outdo the Mudds, Max takes hold of his water cannon and agua-powered jetpack in his quest to find the Water Sprites, the only things that can truly cleanse every Mudd from the world!

The first thing you will notice is the game’s retro-styled graphics. It might look like a classic game, but it is as new as they come. Max, Grannie, and the world around them are all designed to appear like a window into the past, although Max and Grannie do lack the extra details of the Mudds themselves. Regardless, the animations are smooth, and the framerate remains equally so for the majority of the experience. The depth present through the 3DS screen is vibrant and intense, and I only had crosstalk issues during one red-hued environment. To match the game’s delightful graphic style is the game’s soundtrack; Troupe Gammage produced every bit-based song with a level of energy that matches the popping visuals in-game. Together, the visuals and audio create a delightful aesthetic to encompass the game.

That Sprite looks close, but poor Max is so far away.

Mutant Mudds is a traditional platformer with a little bit of a 3D twist. In each of the game’s levels, players guide Max through numerous obstacles and enemies in order to reach the Water Sprite at the end. With his water cannon, Max can shoot and dissolve Mudds in his way, and he can use his jetpack for an extra boost across gaps. You will have to be careful, though, as there are no healing items nor power-ups within the levels, meaning those three hit-points are all you get. Assisted by a number of insta-death spikes and pits, the Mudds become increasingly difficult and numerous with each passing level. While the game remains easy at first, soon single mistakes lead you to an inevitable defeat. There is a problem with being too careful, too; each level has a four-minute time limit, ensuring that you are on the move at all times!

The twist in all of this, however, is the usage of depth to create layers of platforms for Max to travel across. By standing and jumping on particular platforms, you can leap toward or away from the screen, entering another area of the level. Furthermore, certain obstacles and enemies make usage of depth, sliding out to attack or swinging into the foreground with an ominous “swoosh.” In later levels, Max can be blown to the front of the level by mischievous clouds; you better be careful when you pass by them, especially when there are nothing but spikes on the front layer. It is this depth that turns the already solid game into an even better one.

Fireballs, spikeballs, and eyeballs, oh my!

The game is not just about collecting the Water Sprites at the end of each level, though. You also have 100 golden diamonds to collect, too. Collecting diamonds can allow Grannie to give you power-ups, such as a stronger water cannon or a vertical boost, which can not only help you complete the levels more easily but can also lead you to the game’s many sub levels. These sub levels, stylized like a Game Boy or Virtual Boy game (named G-Zone and V-Zone, respectively) have their own Water Sprites to find, effectively doubling the amount of levels to complete. The sub levels are a grade higher in difficulty compared to the main levels, providing more traps and plenty more spikes among the swarm of Mudds present in each. There are no diamonds in the sub levels, but the time limit still remains.

Looking at the game as a whole, there are twenty main levels with a sub level in each, totaling 40 Water Sprites to collect. In order to access the last world, you need to complete each of the four worlds before it, and even then, you need to collect all the diamonds in specific worlds in order to unlock the fifth world’s levels. Certain players might find collecting that many diamonds per level to be boring and distracting. Thankfully, once you have completed a level, the diamonds you have collected are permanently yours, so you can focus on finishing a level, even if you missed a couple diamonds along the way. And for those willing to fight through the last world for all of the diamonds, there is a nice surprise waiting for you.

Some elements will literally blow you (or Max) away!

Mutant Mudds is a darn good adventure, but there are a few dings in its armor. Perhaps the difficulty can be a little over the top further in, what with no actual healing items of the sort. In some cases, I would kill myself if I did not make it through a point without fail. Furthermore, some later levels like to make moments which are do-or-die, and for me, I found death to be much more common. It is a good thing the game has no lives to speak of, but some levels probably could have been a tad shorter or have checkpoints. Thus is the fate of a retro-styled game; we get the aesthetics and the difficulty!

The game’s simplicity works for the most part, but near the end it occasionally calls out for more. The game seems a little too simple early on, but as the levels progress and new ideas are introduced, the game hits its stride. Just as the game begins to accelerate with new ideas and concepts, it slows back, opting to include all obstacles near the end rather than going beyond the game’s main mechanics. I was somewhat disappointed that the game lacked any real boss battles or radical twists in the gameplay to surprise players further in the game. In spite of this, the game does pull through with its simple yet challenging game design for the three-to-five hours you will spend completing it (and that is if you are particularly good at collecting all those diamonds on the first run-through).


Mutant Mudds exemplifies everything that the eShop should contain: small, simple, but altogether delightful and entertaining experiences for players to enjoy for a fraction of a full-retail price. The difficulty fits its charming retro style, and its level variety and hidden depth make the game a full package deal. Renegade Kid could have gone further with the concept and added boss fights or something to spice up the game at times, but even without them, the basic gameplay is altogether solid and welcoming to the majority of gamers out there. Just do not expect a cakewalk all the way through.

Mutant Mudds is a simple but charming game which makes use of its concepts as far as it can, providing a fun, if sometimes a little frustrating, experience for all to enjoy. This game is a perfect fit for the eShop, and we cannot wait to see more.

+ Wonderful retro-styled music and graphics, also making great use of 3D.
+ Multitude of worlds and levels expand the game’s length beyond what is expected.
+ Solid mechanics and fast-paced levels make for a smooth and charming adventure.

- Difficulty can be a problem for certain players, without items or checkpoints.
- Collecting all of the diamonds might turn off certain players from full completion.
- Some boss fights or expanded mechanics changes might have helped build game up at the end.


*Downloadable titles are currently being rated on a three-scale: Yes, No, and Maybe. As a Yes title, this game is highly recommended to those familiar with the genre and also generally recommended to most everyone.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

eShop Sales-Ratings: January 2012

The Nintendo eShop is Nintendo's online shop through the 3DS where people can download games from old Nintendo hardware, DSiWare games, and new download software specific for the 3DS. Because Nintendo does not disclose sales numbers, and developers are most likely barred from revealing them, we do not know how games are doing on the service.

But we might have at least a small hint.

After playing a game on the 3DS for over a hour, players are capable of rating these games via the eShop, and the totals are shown on each game page, showing up to five stars based on what the population thinks. At the very least, we now have minimum sales figures for the games, but with a very large disclaimer: these numbers represent the users who have done the following:

1) Purchased the game
2) Played the game for over an hour on the 3DS, and
3) Chose to rate the game on the eShop.

People who play the games on their DSi systems cannot rate games, nor can people who have not played the games for less than one hour. Since rating cannot be done outside of the eShop, some might have forgotten to or chosen not to rate said games. Also note that a rating does not necessarily correspond with a sale in the month in which it appears, only emphasizing the number of additional people who completed the above steps.

With that disclaimer in mind, let us take a look at how the games performed.


Free Apps
1 3 Swapnote 13752 19277
2 1 Nintendo Video 12880 48813
3 2 Pokedex 3D 12071 58941
4 4 Netflix 7316 30541

As Swapnote went through its first full month, its ratings skyrocketed, putting the game at the top of this month's ratings chart. Now, the game still has a ways to go to brush up against the top two apps, but Netflix will no doubt he taken over in the next couple months. Meanwhile, Nintendo Video and Pokedex 3D remain increasingly close to one another on a monthly basis; overall, Pokedex 3D remains just over ten thousand ratings above all other apps on the list.

What should be more intriguing is just how many ratings were made. There were a total of 46,019 ratings for Free Apps in January, bringing total ratings in Free Apps to 157,572. That means that this month's ratings account for just under a third of all ratings for Free Apps. The holiday season did good for the 3DS, it seems, but will it spread to the other categories?

Also, no Hulu yet again. Nintendo has stated that new free applications might be made in the future, following Swapnote's success, but we'll see about that. Also, as a side note, I would include demos in here as they were added to the eShop this month, but they are attached to the actual games and, therefore, will not be counted.

Video Downloads
1 1 Thriller 97 355
2 2 Night of the Living Carrots 79 274
3 3 The Pig Who Cried Werewolf 28 80

I'm rather surprised no other videos have appeared for purchase. Nintendo Video has a lot of content popping in that some might want to purchase such as the new Kirby video or Dinosaur Office, but we will have to make do with Dreamworks for now.

Pre-eShop DSiWare*
1 1 Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! [CN] 1867 6187
2 2 Plants vs. Zombies 1003 6724
3 3 Photo Dojo 825 5108
4 4 Cave Story 418 4171
5 8 Mario Clock 416 2035
6 20 Dr. Mario Express [CN] 406 1213
7 5 Inchworm Animation 389 3276
8 9 Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From the Abyss 342 2359
9 6 Zenonia 284 2095
10 10 GO Series: 10 Second Run 235 1626
11 11 Tetris Party Live 233 1737
12 7 Shantae: Risky's Revenge 216 2710
13 12 Bomberman Blitz 164 1728
14 13 Nintendo Countdown Calender 161 966
15 15 Crystal Monsters 146 1207
16 16 Pop Island - Paperfield 129 1325
17 18 Mario Calculator 100 546
18 14 Army Defender 76 1082
19 17 Soul of Darkness 73 946
20 19 JellyCar 2 69 936
21 30 Gangstar 2: Kings of L.A. 65 390
22 22 Dark Void Zero 51 850
23 25 My Farm 51 474
24 23 Earthworm Jim 49 369
25 24 Touch Solitaire 42 495
26 32 5 in 1 Solitaire 39 313
27 34 Anonymous Notes Chapter 2 - From the Abyss 35 527
28 21 Glory Days: Tactical Defense 35 497
29 29 Blazybloo: Super Melee Action Battle Royale 33 382
30 28 Extreme Hangman 32 580
31 27 Pop Island 30 521
32 36 My Exotic Farm 29 280
33 31 Arcade Bowling 22 421
34 37 AiRace 22 265
35 41 Petz Dogz Family 22 114
36 26 Paper Airplane Chase 21 374
37 42 MySims Camera 21 68
38 33 Castle Conqueror 20 283
39 35 WarioWare: Snapped! 18 275
40 40 Escapee GO! 15 172
41 38 GO Series: Defense Wars 14 220
42 39 Faceez Monsters! 13 200
43 44 Petz Kittens 11 78
44 43 A Topsy Turvy Life: The Turvys Strike Back 10 96

*This list consists of a selection of DSiWare games that released prior to June 2011 and does not reflect the actual rating listing of every previous DSiWare game released.
[CN] Game has been made freely available via Club Nintendo and may skew data as a result.

This particular list is becoming fairly uninteresting. There are shifts, yes, but they do not appear to be that great to note, outside of Club Nintendo selections. Mario Vs. Donkey Kong remains on top and is now the second-most rated Legacy DSiWare game on the list, and if it does not slow down, it will surpass Plants Vs. Zombies. Dr. Mario Express benefited greatly from Club Nintendo, having received half of its original ratings total in a single month.

There has been an increase in ratings for the month overall, but that may be mostly attributed to Mario Vs. Donkey Kong continuing to be rated in high frequency. In both months, 17 games had more than a hundred ratings, and only one more had two hundred ratings last month.

February's Club Nintendo choice is Art Academy: First Semester. It and its sequel will be added next month alongside:

Music on: Retro Keyboard 141 141

Post-eShop DSiWare
1 1 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition** 15221 47829
2 2 Bloons TD 603 1351
3 3 Cut the Rope 401 813
4 8 Come On! Heroes 134 185
5 67 Cake Ninja 120 123
6 13 Rytnik Retrobits 114 144
7 16 Doodle Fit 105 132
8 4 Afterzoom 71 664
9 11 Castle Conqueror: Against 69 104
10 37 Elite Forces: Unit 77 66 76
11 5 Extreme Hangman 2 60 467
12 6 1001 BlockBusters 48 204
13 18 Escape Trick: Convenience Store 47 86
14 27 Chronicles of Vampires: Origins 46 61
15 10 My Australian Farm 42 183
16 7 Let's Create! Pottery 39 333
17 9 GO Series: Fishing Resort 39 234
18 34 Word Searcher 4 36 47
19 12 Magical Whip 32 208
20 14 The Lost Town: The Dust 29 297
21 73 Slingo Supreme 29 31
22 21 My Asian Farm 28 137
23 17 Calculator 27 129
24 20 Moto eXtreme 25 174
25 19 Stratego: Next Edition 24 170
26 23 Build-a-lot 24 112
27 22 Make-Up & Style 23 153
28 24 Crazy Hamster 23 107
29 15 Go! Go! Kokopolo 19 198
30 28 Christmas Wonderland 19 33
31 33 Academy Checkers 18 42
32 31 Antipole 12 163
33 41 GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars 12 87
34 43 Defense of the Middle Kingdom 11 55
3 Heroes: Crystal Soul 11 11
36 38 Pro Jumper! Guilty Gear Tangent!? 10 100
37 66 Furry Legends 10 30
38 25 Castle Conqueror: Revolution 10 76
39 63 WordJong Arcade 10 14
Hip Hop King: Rytmik Edition 10 10
41 40 Farm Frenzy 9 70
42 35 Kung Fu Dragon 9 58
43 26 Simply Minesweeper 9 59
Anne's Doll Studio: Gothic Collection 9 9
45 42 Zoonies - Escape from Makatu 8 67
46 36 Break Tactics 8 66
47 30 Castle Conqueror: Heroes 8 32
Gaia's Moon 8 8
49 58 Roller Angels 7 46
50 54 Trollboarder 7 51
51 57 Bugs 'N' Balls 7 33
52 59 House M.D. - Skull and Bones 7 23
53 29 Halloween: Trick or Treat 7 54
54 48 Heart Spaces Euchre 6 54
55 32 Blockado - Puzzle Island 6 61
56 52 1950s Lawn Mower Kids 6 19
Quick Fill Q 6 6
58 39 Hidden Photo 5 54
59 53 Jewel Keepers: Easter Island 5 68
60 70 Puzzle Rocks 5 15
61 44 Escape Trick: Ninja Castle 5 39
62 45 Play & Learn Chinese 5 15
63 62 House M.D. - Crashed 4 17
Flipper 2: Flush the Goldfish 4 4
65 68 Gold Fever 3 25
66 60 Puzzle Fever 3 39
67 50 House M.D. - Blue Meanie 3 51
68 56 DotMan 3 26
69 46 House M.D. - Under the Big Top 3 11
70 75 Just SING! Christmas Vol. 3 3 4
71 64 Delbo 2 34
72 65 Boardwalk Ball Toss 2 25
101 Pinball World 2 2
74 47 Zimo: Mahjong Fanatic 1 31
75 61 Just SING! 80s Collection 1 10
76 69 Oscar's World Tour 1 17
77 49 Play & Learn Spanish 1 22
78 51 Crystal Caves of Amen-Ra 1 25
79 72 Battle of the Elements 1 3
Lola's Alphabet Train 1 1
81 76 Beach Party Craze 0 25
82 74 B-Team - Episode 2: Ice & Venom 0 7
83 55 Go Fetch! 2 0 25
84 71 Bridge 0 5
85 77 Double Bloob 0 0

** This game is freely available until February 2012.

There was a bump from the post-holiday downloads, but only some games benefited from that, particularly the November and December releases. Both Cut the Rope and Bloons TD did very well this past month; in fact, Bloons TD became the first new DSiWare title to have more than a thousand ratings (outside of the free Zelda title). Cut the Rope looks set to pass that milestone in the next few months, as well.

Three games released last month received more than a hundred ratings this month: Cake Ninja, Doodle Fit, and Rytnik Retrobits. Even Come On! Heroes received more ratings in the past month than it had received in total beforehand. Other month-old titles shot to the top of the charts, but Double Bloob remained completely unrated, becoming the first DSiWare title to lack a rating after two months of being on these charts. Four other games were unrated this past month, including Beach Party Craze which was unrated last month, as well.

Now what about the new releases? Well, they did not do all too well. The most-rated debut goes to 3 Heroes: Crystal Soul with a paltry 11 ratings, the lowest most-rated debut since tracking began. In the aggregate, this category did better by almost a thousand ratings, but the spread has declined. 40 of the 85 games had more than 10 ratings, which was more than in December, but with 8 new games and little shifts upward in monthly ratings, it appears that more effort will be needed to get attention brought to these DSiWare titles.

As Zelda stops being freely available next month, it may begin to ebb away, but considering how ratings continue to flow, I suspect it will take several months for it to be overtaken by a newer DSiWare title.

Classic Games
1 1 Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 1305 18768
2 5 Kirby's Dream Land [CN] 1218 4946
3 2 Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 1046 4734
4 3 Super Mario Land 610 10895
5 4 Metroid II: Return of Samus 425 1162
6 25 Tetris 266 273
7 6 Donkey Kong 209 4319
8 7 Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge 163 980
9 9 Game & Watch Gallery 100 1225
10 8 Mario's Picross 98 1242
11 10 Gargoyle's Quest 62 685
12 23 Bionic Commando 57 68
13 12 Pac-Man 52 244
14 11 Catrap 45 210
15 14 Blaster Master: Enemy Below 39 82
16 18 Double Dragon 32 146
17 13 Adventure Island 24 75
Lock'N Chase 21 21
19 22 Radar Mission 19 260
20 15 Alleyway 18 713
21 17 Avenging Spirit 16 224
22 16 Burger Time Deluxe 16 92
23 20 Qix 15 230
24 27 Golf 11 40
25 19 Balloon Kid 11 89
26 26 Tennis 9 176
27 28 Fortified Zone 5 115
28 21 Baseball 5 192
29 24 Side Pocket 4 26

[CN] Game has been made freely available via Club Nintendo and may skew data as a result.

I have a theory why Nintendo let the Virtual Console sit dormant this month, but it still makes little sense. I suspect the releases were kept short here to bring attention to the new 3DS Download Software and DSiWare releases. Regardless of conspiracy theories, the Virtual Console received but one game, Lock 'N Chase, and it debuted with a low 21 ratings. Games which debuted in December got a boost, as expected, and Tetris received the biggest boost of them all.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX still sat on the top despite Club Nintendo affecting Kirby's Dream Land's ratings. LA looks poised to pass 20,000 in the next couple months, so that will be fun to watch, just as Super Mario Land had made it to half that. Metroid II finally passed the thousand-rating mark, and it looks like Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge will be the first third-party game to do the same come February or March.

To date, outside of the new debut, Side Pocket is the least-rated game on the list.

3DS Download Software
1 1 Pushmo 3002 5872
2 2 FreakyForms: Your Creations, Alive! 1736 4702
3 3 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure 1341 3305
4 8 VVVVVV 1229 1400
5 6 Mighty Switch Force! 1028 1511
Zen Pinball 3D 649 649
7 5 3D Classics: Xevious [CN] 610 2358
8 4 3D Classics: Excitebike* 406 20133
Mutant Mudds 382 382
Samurai Sword Destiny 290 290
11 7 Let's Golf! 3D 228 2363
12 10 3D Classics: Urban Champion 100 836
13 11 Pyramids 93 381
14 9 3D Classics: Twinbee 62 499

*Game was available for free during June 2011.
[CN] Game has been made freely available via Club Nintendo and may skew data as a result.

No doubt about it, the month of January was all around good for 3DS Download Software. Pushmo, which was the chart-topper last month, remains on top, more than doubling its total ratings in its second month. It is now the most-rated 3DS Download Software not available for free at any moment, and even without that final clause, it is one-fourth of the way to matching Excitebike's ratings in a mere two months (which, by the way, passed 20k in January). FreakyForms did well for itself, as well, but even as it grows, Pushmo will remain the better performer. Both of those games will, no doubt, surpass 10k ratings in the next year.

The other December games, Mighty Switch Force! and VVVVVV, received over a thousand ratings a piece, no doubt promising signs for their futures. Of course, as new games emerge, the monthly ratings will decline, but we will see how long it takes for them to really slow down. In the end, five games had more than a thousand ratings in a single month, the most since we started tracking.

The month was pretty good for new games as well. Zen Studios' Zen Pinball 3D was the highest with 649 ratings; it will pass the thousand mark in February no doubt. Renegade Kid's Mutant Mudds seems to be doing pretty well, as it had less than a week to garner ratings for this month; I suspect a it will surpass a thousand ratings by March or April. As for UFO's Samurai Sword Destiny, it will probably grow slowly as the months go onward, sitting in the lower end of the monthly ratings. Speaking of slower growers, 3D Classics: Urban Champion is poised to pass a thousand ratings in the next few months.

1 1 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition* 15221 47829
2 2 Pushmo 3002 5872
3 6 Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! [CN] 1867 6187
4 3 FreakyForms: Your Creations, Alive! 1736 4702
5 4 3D Classics: Kirby's Adventure 1341 3305
6 5 Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 1305 18768
7 30 VVVVVV 1229 1400
8 18 Kirby's Dream Land [CN] 1218 4946
9 7 Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 1046 4734
10 14 Mighty Switch Force! 1028 1511
11 9 Plants vs. Zombies 1003 6724
12 10 Photo Dojo 825 5108
Zen Pinball 3D 649 649
14 12 3D Classics: Xevious [CN] 610 2358
15 11 Super Mario Land 610 10895
16 15 Bloons TD 603 1351
17 3 Metroid II: Return of Samus 425 1162
18 16 Cave Story 418 4171
19 23 Mario Clock 416 2035
20 8 3D Classics: Excitebike** 406 20133

*Game is available for free until February 2012.
**Game was available for free during June 2011.
[CN] Game was available for free via Club Nintendo for one month.

No surprise, Zelda sits at the top, being the only free game on the listing. In hindsight, making it a Free App might have been better, but it could very well appear as a paid download soon. In fact, in February the game is expected to end its free existence in the eShop. It will not decline off the top spot for a couple months, I suspect, unless it is entirely gone from the eShop, which I equally doubt. In case that is to happen, though, I will gather data for it before the end of its availability.

Only one new game appeared in the Top 20, and that was Zen Pinball 3D at 13. Mutant Mudds and Samurai Sword Destiny are in the Top 30, though (24 and 26, respectively). As for last-month debuts, Pushmo was the highest at number 2, followed by VVVVVV and Mighty Switch Force! Club Nintendo shot Kirby's Dream Land up ten places, and Dr. Mario Express was just outside of the Top 20. Overall, five games in the Top 20 were available for free at some point, which makes sense considering that these are ratings and not true sales.

Other debuts not in the Top 20 include the only new Virtual Console title, Lock 'N Chase, at 98, and the most-rated debut DSiWare title, 3 Heroes: Crystal Soul, at 120. Out of the 175 titles in the listing thus far, 45 received more than a 100 ratings, 16 of which had more than 500, 11 of which had more than a thousand, and only two had multiples of that.

Only 7 of the games in the Top 20 are DSiWare releases, showing signs that the Virtual Console and original Download Software are becoming increasingly prominent in the sales of the eShop. The big question is how much longer will DSiWare see releases; my answer is probably in the next two years.

Now, as for February, what should we expect? Well, Nintendo's next game Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword begins the month, and more demos should appear, although that has little bearing on this information. As for other notables, Nintendo will most likely add more Virtual Console games this month as the bigger third-party Q1 releases emerge this month. We'll just have to wait and see if that's the case!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Third Rate Game Play: V-Smile Collection

Alphabet Park Adventure
Little Einsteins
The Backyardigans: Viking Voyage

Console: V.Smile V-Motion
Developer: VTech
Publisher: VTech
Player: Vinny Ucci
Experience: Blind


Let’s be honest here. To describe the history of VTech and its education systems might be pointless to the majority of this site’s readers. Not only that, the actual history of VTech-based products is pretty hard to come by, too. So, bear with me on this.

VTech is a Hong Kong-based company formed in 1976. Otherwise known as Video Technologies, this company developed a number of communications devices, including telephones, single-function computers, and most importantly to us, education entertainment hardware and software.

The V.Smile product line is not the first time VTech developed educational software. In 1988, the company released the VTech Socrates, which relied on infrared communication to controllers. Games used with this console included Facts 'N Fractions, State to State, and Amazing Mazes. Needless to say, many gamers are probably unaware of this console’s contents. Outside of this failed console, VTech continued developing computer devices until it would reemerge into traditional educational entertainment devices. That brings us to today.

Game Overview(s)

The V.Smile TV Learning System is a console focused specifically on children aged 3-7 with a focus on educational gaming, using franchises from a myriad of sources such as Nick Jr. and Disney. Since its debut in the mid-2000’s, V.Smile has been redesigned at least twice, adding microphone compatibility and changing the main controller to that of a tablet device. In 2008, a special edition was released which was translucent and came with a special edition version of Alphabet Park Adventure, which, oddly enough, happens to be the first game we played.

Alphabet Park Adventure stars a pair of siblings who go to visit their grandfather who happens to run the great Alphabet Park. Unfortunately, they find that the magical gears that run the park have gone missing in the attractions, and so the brother and sister go off to collect the gears and have some fun, at the same time! Players get to venture to a variety of attractions, collecting gears where they can while avoiding bugs and mechanical beings. The attractions all pull for learning the alphabet, whether it is to match a letter with a picture or select the next letter of the alphabet from a set. The game also features a singing mini-game which requires a microphone accessory. A special limited edition of the game was bundled with a version of the VSmile in which the main characters have been changed visually, but otherwise the game seems mostly the same.

Disney’s Little Einsteins is an edutainment series starring a group of children who go through a number of adventures while learning more about music. In this game, June spots a glass slipper through a telescope, and in an attempt to collect it, Leo and the gang join up in Rocket to fly and swim through the land and collect the slipper. Throughout the adventure, a classical song is featured in particular parts of the game for children to hear and appreciate along with the mini-games. Whether you are selecting the right tune from memory or collecting the right color and type of note in the sky, the experience is certainly a musical one.

Finally, Nickelodeon’s The Backyardigans: Viking Voyage is a game based on the children’s show’s episode of the same name. In Viking Voyage, Pablo, Uniqua, and Tyrone are Vikings off to collect treasure from a desert island, but as they progress, they face multiple challenges, including a very powerful mermaid, portrayed by Tasha the Hippo, and a number of traps throughout the jungle, sea, and pyramid. While it lacks the educational clout of the above games, it does have some lessons, including small pipe-based puzzles and mini-games focused on rhymes.


To date, VTech still produces new products for children, including the VReader, a tablet dedicated to touch-screen-based games and e-books for teaching literacy to children using franchise characters as well as original stories. As for the games’ franchises themselves, Alphabet Park Adventure has not received and sequel and most likely will remain a one-off game for V.Smile. While both shows still air on television, production of the programs have since ended. Little Einsteins ended its second and currently final season in 2009, while The Backyardigans’s series finale aired on October 2010. Merchandise is still sold for the shows, despite the end of their series’ runs.

Will we do another V.Smile-focused episode? Hard to say, as the children whose VSmile we played have since graduated more toward Wii Virtual Console and random XBLA titles in recent months. We still have more games from their V.Smile setup, though, so that can be anticipated. Also, Vinny is open for more episodes, but to date, this is his only appearance on 3RGP.

3RM Says: I'm not sure the controller is all too great, but it makes a good chair!