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Maboshi Arcade at first seems to be a simple set of casual games, but turns out to be intricately linked puzzle experience that is as compelling as Tetris or Puzzle Bubble ever was. This is one of the best uses of the Nintendo Wii's Wii-Ware channel I've seen so far.
When I was young I would visit my grandma's house and she would entertain me for hours with old toys and buttons. Things that I would now tire of in minutes would keep me entertained for hours. Maboshi Arcade recreates this feeling for me. Simple shapes and controls that can picked up and played on a superficial level for a short time, but that can entertain for hours if you are willing to engage them.
Perhaps my feeling of nostalgia stems from the softwood grain effects that decorate the screen, making everything look a little like grandma's old bagatelle board. More likely though my feelings come as much from the basic yet deep mechanics than any of the games aesthetic choices. They are perfect for 'quick to learn, slow to master' school of gaming that are the hallmark of such classic titles as Tetris of Peggle.
In Maboshi Arcade there are three game types, each involving a different shape; circle, stick and square (actually the name Maboshi comes from the first syllable of each shape in Japanese; MAru, BO and SHIkaku respectivly). In each game the player takes control a one of these shapes using either a single press of the 'A' button (for the stick or circle games) or for the D-pad (for the square game).
While I quickly learnt how to play each game, getting beyond the fifth level in any of them proved quite a task. Although the rules and gameplay remained instantly understandable their application combined with constant small additions made the difficulty increase immeasurably.
It was only when the other windows started to play demos of the other games that another interesting facet was revealed.
Maboshi Arcade splits the screen into three, allowing up to three to play any game they choose in each window. Without anyone to play with it was only when the other windows started to play demos of the other games that another interesting facet was revealed. As games are completed various elements of their environment split off and affected my game, helping eradicate obstacles and help me progress. Relying on the computer for this help proved erratic aid a best, but the idea of three players coordinating their efforts to help each other progress is an intriguing one.
I suspect, like me, most people will gravitate towards a specific game. I loved the Circle games. Herer you control the rotation of a ball in a two dimensional circular arena. The ball spins constantly changing between clockwise or anticlockwise by pressing the 'A' button. Because the ball is affected by physics, it slows or drops from the wall as it reaches the arena's apex. The goal was to use the ball hit blobs that are trying escape the hole. Simple at first, but as the levels progress so too does the number of blobs and their movement. To confuse matters at the center of each level was the single shape that dangled in the arena. Each round bought with it a different shape that bounced around on its suspending strings, and either helped or hindered depending on how skillfully I manipulated the ball.
Of the three games I found this the most entertaining, actually pulling to the edge of my seat as the levels progressed, but the other two games had their own charms. Stick made interesting use of centrifugal force as a mechanic to fling itself forward, and Square introduced a more paced puzzle experience similar to Centipede crossed with a maze game.
Maboshi Arcade could almost have been released as three seperate Wii-Ware games, but this would be to loose the ingenuity of their interaction.
Each of the Circle, Stick and Square levels focus on game play. If I were to be reductive I suppose I could say that Maboshi Arcade is a collection of casual games, but this does not do the title justice. Like all good games that are accessible to a wide audience each part of this trio is easy to grasp, but difficult to master.
Maboshi Arcade could almost have been released as three seperate Wii-Ware games, but this would be to loose the ingenuity of their interaction. As a package, the 800 Wii points represent fantastic value for those looking for an eclectic mix of games with a focus on play.
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