As the two original downloadable games services for their consoles and handhelds, WiiWare and DSiWare will provide useful starting foundations for Nintendo to build from with the 3DS eShop and the Wii U's eventual services, but like many other new ventures they both had their fair share of issues. WiiWare made a successful debut, but fell short due to lack of awareness on Nintendo's behalf and the overall grainy online abilities of the Wii in general. DSiWare fared slightly better, the simpler interface being more suited for handhelds, and the service continuing to see promotion through the 3DS eShop with games like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition. A good number of developers have seen modest success on these two, however, one in particular being EnjoyUp! Games. After such titles on DSiWare like Chronos Twins and Gaia's Moon, EnjoyUp has crafted a sequel to its popular pixel-based shooter 99Bullets. Does 99Seconds outlast its name limit or provide only that much bang for your buck?
As the direct sequel to 99Bullets, 99Seconds also continues the story, albeit in a completely different fashion. After saving the universe from the threat of the evil Black Eye and his cohorts, the humanoid-ship V-99 discovers a strange zone called Bit 8, where he finds he has the ability to slow down and temporarily stop time. Good job, too, because the local Black Vectors don't take much of a liking to their new guest, and set out to push his dodging ability to the limit. Unlike the last game, which consisted of conserving ammunition through accurate shooting, here players will be guiding V-99 though narrow pathways and gaps of shapes that come from all directions and all speeds.
99Seconds retains the retro pixel look of its predecessor; colourful and solid design with classic bit-tune music and voiceover thrown in for good measure. Dual screen usage is minimal but effective, with everything happening on the top screen, and a high score counter and the game's timer on the bottom screen. Adding to the retro feel of the game is the control scheme; only D-Pad and any one button needed here, and despite not being particularly optimised for it, the 3DS Circle Pad helps a fair bit here as well.
The game's title refers to the amount of time given to dodge incoming shapes and gain as much of a high score as possible, which gradually fills provided you keep moving. Touching the shapes whilst there is still time on the counter won't destroy V-99, but it will freeze both you and the high score counter, and when time runs out and you get hit, that's it. The ability to quickly halt time and take advantage of the slow way it builds again with just the press of a button of your own choosing is the unique aspect of the game and is the best bet for gaining a high score. At certain points of the shapes players are given a chance to go for a glowing orb that increases the clock counter and a V-99 duplicate shape that boosts the score, but each is always on a more dangerous path than just staying rooted in one place and dodging as best as possible.
On paper or computer screen, this all sounds extremely limited and not particularly interesting, but the beauty of 99Seconds is that it has that vital 'one more try' aspect that games like Tetris, where players are doomed to lose, have in spades. It being a download game and thus instantly available on the Nintendo DSi or 3DS main menu only helps this. The three difficulty levels on offer add extra incentive to improve and try harder, and although the scoreboards aren't online enabled, which would have been a vastly useful feature, the scores already on there will require a pro to overcome them. At a mere 200 Points/£1.80, 99Seconds has impulse purchase written all over it.
Basic but solid gameplay mechanics with a simple premise and layout. 99Seconds becomes relentless but eases you in initially and keeps you coming back to get to the top of the scoreboards.
Retro in every sense of the word, functional with clean effective background art and colour. By no means a DSiWare visual showcase, but it was never meant to be.
Strong bit-tunes that ramp up in intensity the further players get, together with the warning sounds that make themselves very much known, add to the intensive feel in the later stages of the levels.
The outside perspective of a single-player, offline, retro-based, limited-time, grid-dodging 2D game will seem off-putting to most, but the addictive experience within more than justifies the barebones asking price.
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99Seconds takes the qualities of successful Smartphone titles and applies them to DSiWare; cheap, unique, easy-but-challenging and addictive experiences outside of a game cartridge or disc. It won't dazzle gamers with any spectacular graphical ability or leave jaws a-hanging with incredible music, but 99Seconds provides more than enough entertainment for its price.
I really enjoyed 99Bullets - clever game, with a cool soundtrack. Seriously old school in design, showing that the 'bedroom coder' style approach can still work well in this day and age.
I know EnjoyUp! Games isn't a bedroom coder, but this and its predecessor definitely give off an air of back-to-basics that is quite appealing.
Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
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