DSiWare | EnjoyUp Games | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
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6th February 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
With a small dose of perceived ingenuity, 99Moves is the next iteration to follow both 99Bullets and 99Seconds, all belonging to an arcade-focused series initiated by EnjoyUp Games. The game outlines a situation similar to what's stated above, except how these shortcuts are realized in the game are actually a side-effect of a system that has a measure of problems associated with it. Oddly enough, perspective plays into the equation here because while the game is somewhat troubled, some may see its principal mistake to be a strength, not a weakness. Either way, 99Moves has gotten itself into trouble, and with the sorts of issues that are present, I have to wonder if 99Seconds had a bad influence on it.
While not as common in this specific genre, the crux of 99Moves is hardly foreign to that of conventional game design. The idea is to guide a spaceship known as V-99 to a goal portal tucked inside each level, with a finite amount of directional inputs (99) to affect its automatic movement. Running out of moves won't call your game right away; it'll simply mean you can no longer take control and will thus be put in a helpless situation. Stages are governed by two methods of organization, presented in an alternating fashion. The first is a physical layout designed with a linear path, while the other traps you inside a box with shapes that move, enlarge and retract in mostly predictable patterns. Specifically with the latter levels, the moving goal portal will only appear after a series of pick-ups have flown in from beyond the encasing border. But in both situations, you'll encounter purposeful traps, semi-maniacal arrangements that will text your reflexes, simulated dungeon pits with shrinking widths, speed-fluctuating gates, and a general level design that causes players to fidget as they make their approach.
V-99 is basically allowed two hits in short succession before the level is brought to an abrupt end. The first time you sustain a collision, you'll be knocked back and forced to move in the opposite direction from which you came, with the negative space around you turning from blue to white. This causes shapes to blend in with the walls and borders, putting you at a disadvantage. But if you can keep yourself unharmed for some time or manage to pick up a life pick-up, the state of the environment will revert back to normal.
Points are accumulated by positioning yourself close beside walls and four-sided shapes without getting hurt. All elements are introduced in an order that can be memorized for a future go, creating strategy in how close you're willing to get to danger and continue the momentum of your escalating point totals. This is especially the case with the second style of levels, where you can in essence move back and forth or stick in a small corner to avoid the traffic of everything around you, but doing so will quickly cause your move count to dwindle. There isn't a strong risk factor being harnessed here, in line with the fact that the game is of a somewhat forgiving nature. But even with that being the case, what's here still gives rise to some decent, if short-lived, replay value.
Now, here's where things get a bit...hazy. Allow me to first express that I adore when games encourage players to set out on their own path of discovery without doing so in a blatant manner. In some respects, the design of 99Moves is such that it can encourage players to explore strategies for faster completion time. But in my eyes, the sort of manipulation that can be executed here is more accidental than purposeful, more incorrect than deserving of approval. To repeat what I mentioned earlier, colliding with a wall or moving obstacle will put you in a temporary state of warning and heightened danger, and with that comes a brief state of invincibility for the purpose of safe readjustment. However, just like in 99Seconds, you can exploit this to an irresponsible degree. It is possible to bypass entire sections in the game's design and even go outside of established boundaries. It's quite embarrassing, actually, and to have a sense of what I'm getting at, allow me to draw the following example to your attention.
Once again with reference to the second type of level structure, if the camera moves beyond the outline of the area, you'll see both pick-ups and goal portals are actually fixed in place along the thick walls, and move into the open area at set intervals. So with that suggestion now planted, I became curious to see whether or not it would be possible for me to get around the system and reach the goal a lot sooner than intended. As it turns out, this is indeed possible.
In Level 4, you can make your upwards from the start position to the top edge, then hang a right just as you're about to collide with it. Without pressing any other buttons, you're able to penetrate through an open pocket in the design and venture outside the bounding box of the entire level without even sustaining a hit. If you follow the level outline to the bottom, you'll see the area (which would otherwise be invisible to the unsuspecting player) has incomplete areas where it's just a black void, with only partial background layers that don't extend all the way across. Purposely brushing against the bottom edge for your first hit, you can actually use the temporary recovery time to reach the goal a whole lot faster than you're supposed to.
While the ability to exit the detained environment unscathed is more of a glitch in this particular case, this isn't the only level where the design from a technical standpoint foils the good. Additionally, somewhere in Level 9 is an unused section the developers didn't even intend for you to access but is well within your means to do so. All in all, though, this to me is not the sort of manipulation and strategizing the developers want players to be involved in. I should emphasize that this unfortunate undermining doesn't result in the game losing its core challenge. If that's what you're longing for, the game certainly answers such requests through its presentation of obstacles great and small. And I also wouldn't say the game completely falls apart as a consequence of these aforementioned issues. But once the reasons for laughter wear off, it's clear the game displays some considerable concerns in this area.
itles by EnjoyUp Games don't typically do much to impress in the presentation department, and 99Moves certainly continues this trend. The game carries an ordinary look and feel that is maintained even as players attempt to scour for some added depth and positive qualities with the setup of the entire affair. A vibe that fights to not be plain but still remains so, periodic framerate issues, and unnecessary announcements are all elements to do with presentation that hold the game back. I will say the music is fitting, however, and while it's not ideal when it comes to providing a varied soundtrack, its communicated sounds are suitable and offer puny blips of concentrated retro inspiration.
Within 99Moves' design are chipped openings that, while not destroying the experience, prompt players to have second thoughts about the game's effectiveness. It's a game that on the one hand does a good job of delivering a detectable arcade challenge and generating fair apprehension as a result, but on the other hand also helps players accumulate added reasons to ponder whether or not this is something they can fully appreciate and subsequently endorse. And unfortunately, while it is still possible to benefit from its delivery in the way of challenge, I can't overlook that the game has essentially backed itself into a corner with these concerns, and now that I've come to realize this, my only response is to keep clear of its model and suggest others turn their attention elsewhere.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Design features a nice supply of obstacles, progresses decently, able to exploit a feature and escape paths and bounding boxes
Presentation 5/10 - A bit on the plain side, drops in framerate occur but aren't frequent, technical issues, irresponsible construction, suitable music
Enjoyment 3/5 - Process surrounding point system adds risk and strategy, challenging but not brutally so, undermined but not ruined by its problems
Extra Content 3/5 - 12 levels with an unlockable arcade option, replay value not high, prospect of improving scores isn't greatly enticing
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System