By Katie . August 22, 2006 . 11:48am
Good things, small packages. We all know one comes in the other, though in this age of megahertz-squeezing and gigaflop-counting, physical size is mostly a cosmetic issue. By doing more than just disguising a big, familiar, overpriced thing in a teensy getup (I’m looking at you, iPods), the aptly-named bit Generations series, Nintendo’s last batters in the final inning of the GBA’s game, take us back to the time when we could actually fathom the power of our machines’ mechanical guts and find surprisingly big fun within. Packaged in stylishly simplified, half-size boxes and cased in jet black plastic with iridescent lettering, the tiny GBA carts equally prove it’s what’s on the inside that counts – and perhaps none has done this more than DigiDrive.
Of the intentionally-simplistic bit Generations titles, DigiDrive has been said to be the most complex, that it just has to ‘click’: suddenly, players confused by the minimalist (and all-Japanese) fold-out manual and a demo totally undemonstrative of the game’s true capabilities, who have then found terrible fortune with FAQs (this could be me)… suddenly, they just ‘get it’. So, in its dissimilarity from just about everything, DigiDrive is not for the easily-frustrated or faint-of-heart.
To look at it, the four intersecting lanes – with one of three different types of car-like chevron coursing them at random – might resemble some kind of traffic simulator where you play the pointing cop. On the right quarter of the screen, a wheel-type thing and a platform (apparently a puck and a piston) and an altitude meter give the impression of a plane wheel about to touch down.
If you’re still following, good; now take everything you know about these forms of transit and chuck it – this is a reflex-action puzzle game, puritanical and simple; the goal, to cause lane-end pileups of five or more like-shaped chevrons and send a wailing Zamboni to clear them out, thereby filling the plane’s fuel gauge and keeping that ‘wheel’ from landing. But you can approach your task from many more than four mental angles – would you fill up one gauge to its utmost, from triangle to square to pentagon, hexagon to circle, slow and steady as she goes? Or would you fill three, and send a sixth, different vehicle down one to double it into the other two gauges? Maybe four, where the piston enters a super-stasis while you quintuple your fuel profits, cars coming faster and faster till you make a mistake?
If a lick best describes how much sense that makes, don’t worry – as the wise Confucius say, “Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me, and I will understand.” Nothing short of playing can learn you the ropes of DigiDrive, but what I can tell you is that it is a skill-tastic experience – you have to make split-second decisions, take the audio-visual cues that the end is near and act, and know when to give up a lost cause. Add to this the Vs Com or Vs 2P modes playable via the Gameboy Advance Wireless adaptor and the challenge is basically unending, even for lane-changing masters.
Ancillary though they might be when your synapses are in gridlock, the aesthetics of the game are the laid-back accompaniment to its hectic pace. An over-scaled, two-tone wallpaper shows through each quadrant and rotates peacefully and calmingly, while a jazzy audio assortment with musical sound effects completes the absorption that these games do so well.
Version Covered: Japan
Release Date: 07.27.06
Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 1
What little text there is in the game is English, but what might have been nice would have been the inclusion of an English manual or of a ‘bit’-sized tutorial.
+ Pros: Score-fiends will delight in racking up monster altitudes to unlock new songs and skins. Classically arcadey and addictive, with a perfect sitting-length for a portable game.
- Cons: Difficult, unvaried gameplay and what-you-see-is-what-you-get graphics might bore more casual players. And my Game Boy Player doesn’t appear to get around the need for wireless communication, so sadly, my friends can’t partake in the joy of having their butts kicked.
Overall: We’re unfortunate as Westerners that these cheap, engaging little titles will likely not see domestic release yet, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from picking up the frantic and fun DigiDrive. But let’s keep hope alive for a discounted DS compilation!
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