• Chris and Mark

Top 10 - Mini Games

Size Matters.

Sometimes it's the little things. The delicate touch, the cherry one the cake, that make's a good package great. This month we are going to recount our Top 10 Mini-Games which we've spent far to much time playing when there's a world to be saved or a race to be won.

This minigame game is not great. Although arguably in my own opinion it’s a great representation of fishing in that it’s dull and slow and often annoying. Fishing mini games are plentiful in games, often giving you the ability to sell your wares or somehow use fish to make weapons and the like (Cod scimitar anyone?). The only reason this has made my list is that final fantasy has a strange mechanic in that if you rest too often you will be missing out on major XP bonuses. Resting at the hotel gives a way bigger bonus but is expensive so you will want to stay awake as long as you can between resting there, and only when you start to feel underpowered. The trouble is that in the early stages of the game you were too weak to run around in the dark as the “big baddies” came out and quite happily stomped your face into the dirt. So… Spend your nights fishing and your safe and also doing something productive! NOWO tip!

Dark Chronicle is the sequel to Dark Cloud and both originally appeared on PS2 (and subsequently showed up on the PS Store). Both titles are similar in nature, action RPG’s with a city (village) building element which is spliced between the map stages. The “action fields” are randomly generated dungeons put together in a building block fashion, pretty basic stuff. Once you’ve gotten the hang of these mechanics the a game introduces Spheda. Via a convoluted excuse you now have the ability to play Golf on the randomly generated dungeon’s which you’ve just played through. It has to be one of the most random additions from one genre of game to another but it’s there and it sort of works…

Technically a selection of mini-games however they do serve the same ultimate purpose. Crazy Taxi was pure arcade fun and as a result was lacking some depth (like many games) when it turned up on the Dreamcast in 2000. Sega expanded this by adding a second level and the Crazy Box mode. An expanding selection of challenges which used the game’s various mechanics in surreal situations like Ski Jumps and oversized bowling alleys. What made it slightly more than just padding is the fact that the various challenges actively helped you get used to these mechanics and helped you play the main game better by using them. This isn’t the only time Sega would look to extend a game’s playability upon conversion from the arcade – also see Virtua Tennis and Outrun 2.

Grinding for cash in games has always been a bit of a drag but when you make that grind into a repetitive sometimes tedious skill game involving pouring pints, making swords or cutting then it’s awful. Or is it? Some self-hating side of me, like many others, reveled in the monotony of these mini games, watching the coins grow and knowing that very soon I would be able to buy my next house or weapon. There was a real feeling of riding the wave when you got that rhythm just right and a real feeling of falling once you lost the ten times multiplier you had built up due to a mistimed button press. Starting back from nothing was always a drag but somehow it made for a great alternative to wondering the wilds looking for enemy respawns.

Originally introduced in Resident Evil 4 upon completion of the main campaign, The Mercenaries was an unlockable extra where you have to survive hoards (a herd if you will) of the undead and mutants which are found in the main game. Whereas some of the games here assist your skills in playing the main campaign, this does the opposite in as much as the campaign allows you to play this better. Essentially a Hoard, Survival or Firefight type mode, you are allowed to select your character and unlock more upon completing certain score markers etc. The mode has evolved since Resi 4 which was a single player affair and even spawned a 3DS title as a spinoff to this style of gameplay all together. Succeeds by adding plenty of replay time to each title (and arguably the best bit of 6).

In a game where most the lands are made up of tiny planet’s how would you get around? Gummi Ships are built of blocks which you can collect throughout the game and assemble into any workable formation you please (I recall some 10 years ago having a monstrosity which had 8 guns, homing missiles and booster jets in a terribly uneven fashion).

It’s essentially a StarFox crossed with Lego and serves as quite a fun distraction and gives some insight as to how you can get from the desert to under the sea in a short few minutes. Plus it beats getting Hunny with Winnie the Pooh any day…

Super Monkey Ball was a strange concept upon release (less so in the modern day somehow). The main game is an action skill based puzzler of sorts – get the monkey in a hamster ball to the gate! The multiplayer on the other hand was an assortment of minigames which used the main game’s physics engine to great effect and included the likes of Boxing, Racing, Golf and what we’re looking at here – Target.

Essentially the game had you fly down a huge ramp before popping your hamster ball open and soaring like an eagle through various hoops and obstacles before landing as close as you can on the target at the end (hence the name).

It’s as fun as it sounds and the closest thing we had to Pilot Wings in quite some time and maybe that’s where the fondness comes from.

There will be some gamers out there who can’t remember how long some loading screens were. And I’m not talking about just opening up the huge open worlds of Morrowind. Just simple title screens used to have long load screens often hidden behind the slowly fading symbol of the developer. Ridge racer for PS1 though was the first, I can remember, of putting a mini game on a load screen (Editor Note - Namco actually patented this process in 1995). Right from the boot up of the disc it kicked you into a retro Space invaders type game, Galaga, so you could pew pew pew through the loading time. It wasn’t the best version nor do I think space invaders is actually that fun these days but the novelty and use was perfect! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiidge Raceeeeeeeeer!!!!

Gwent fills a great space in The Witcher 3. Too often card games are ignored in RPGs or are often some form of poker. Let me start by saying I’m talking about the in game version here, not the released competitive PVP version. I’ll tell you why this makes a difference. Largely Gwent is not a game of skill, its pay to win, but the payment is in game, using the gold you make from slaying monsters and the like so I don’t tar it with the same brush. Whether you win or lose is all dependent on your hand. Have the best cards and you will almost always win. It’s more a vehicle to make you want to collect a better in game deck than anything else. For me that more than enough reason to talk to every merchant I found looking for new cards or to play every new NPC at the game hoping to win their prized hero cards making for a fuller experience in a very deep world.

Sonic 2 made some subtle but ultimately very drastic changes to the original game’s formula and this was achieved by the introduction of Miles “Tails” Prowler to the mix. Whilst he’s a divisive character himself (certainly when voiced by Jake Lloyd in Sonic Adventure) his presence allowed for something which was distinctly lacking in the genre at the time – simultaneous 2 players on a platformer.

The original game was wholly a single player affair; main game, Bonus Stage & no vs. With a second character Sega managed to surprise us by allowing a second player to play as Tails in the main game by simply using the second controller.

Whilst the 2 player split screen vs mode was an impressive addition (which used hi-res compression to keep all the detail in) it was the presence of 2 players on the bonus stages which really made a difference. The bonus stages in Sonic 2 were impressive at the time anyway, essentially you were collecting rings whilst running into the screen in a pseudo 3D fashion and avoiding bombs. You have a target of rings to achieve by a checkpoint, succeed and continue, fail and you’re thrown out.

This was a fun enough diversion on its own but add the 2 player and magical things start to happen. The game is set up so that there are 2 planes which Sonic and Tails inhabit. Jumping makes them shift which character stands at the front and should you be behind one another when collecting rings, they will be collected by the character at the front. You’ll see players jumping frantically to gain the front grown but as the stage is a tube gravity applies and jumping off a wall will involve you landing back around the centre. There are few chances to grab rings whilst in mid air but this does also serve as the best way to avoid the bombs which knock your ring total down.

In the main game you work co-operatively with each other to reach the total and each hold an individual number of rings. If you’re hit when you have none it does not affect the other’s total so you can still (just about) succeed with one good player. In the 2 player mode however things are full head to head and the gloves come off. Some will argue that the other games had better bonus rounds but they lack the multiplater edge which made these so great…That trademark sonic jumping noise still haunts my dreams…

What are your favourite parts of a game that aren't the game itself? We'd love to know in the comments.