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Gaming to Go: Super Collapse! 3

With so many titles currently available for Nintendo's popular portable, a number of gems are all but guaranteed to be overlooked by the millions of players struggling through the DS's large library of games. Sometimes those unknown titles are examples of portable gaming at its finest, utilizing the stylus and touchscreen in ways both clever and fun. Sometimes they're not. Super Collapse! 3 toes the thick line between those two extremities, representing a puzzle game that's neither amazing or awful. It's simply good, through and through, a title largely unknown that can still be plenty of fun if you're willing to give it a go.

The Collapse! series of puzzle games has been around since 1999, though Super Collapse! 3 is the first title in the lineup to make the jump to the DS. Reviews generally suggest this incarnation does little to improve or mix up the basic gameplay of the series, though that's perfectly fine if you've never given the games a spin. I hadn't even heard of Collapse! until about a week ago, but what I've played since has been a pretty solid amount of fun, so why not come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go and see if you might enjoy it too?

Gaming to Go: Super Collapse! 3 (page 2)

The premise, much like every other puzzle game available, is simple: a fresh line of blocks emerges from the bottom of the screen every few seconds, prompting a game over if said squares ever reach the top of the screen. Players are tasked with tapping groups of three or more same-colored blocks to make them disappear, drawing the remaining blocks towards the center of the playing field. Clear enough lines of blocks and you'll advance to the next level or, in some cases, win the challenge.

That's pretty much it. The process goes pretty quickly, especially when a new line emerges quicker than you had anticipated, making for some pretty frantic minutes as you try and collapse enough blocks to keep them from stacking too high. The premise does get a little more complicated with the inclusion of items -- bombs, unsurprisingly -- but doesn't expand much beyond that. The real variation in gameplay comes with the seven different game styles included in the game, all but one of which must be unlocked by journeying through the colorful and quirky lands of the aptly-named Quest mode. Yeah, it isn't the most exciting thing you'll ever do with your DS, but it does offer an excellent chance to get your feet wet with the different gameplay modes. Later parts of the quest can be surprisingly difficult, so you'll curse appreciate the opportunity to work through them and develop your skill.

And just a quick word of warning: Quest mode does not auto-save, meaning shutting the DS off without backing out of all of the Quest mode menus to save your progress will make you a very sad person indeed.

But I'm not kidding about the difficulty, my friends. When you only have three colors of blocks to concern yourself with, things are fairly peachy, making the beginning of the quest a pleasant excursion for the new player. Once additional colors are added, however, the challenge ramps up considerably, as you'll have to get much better at spotting sets of matching blocks in order to keep up with the constant addition of new rows. If speed isn't really your thing, you could always forgo the classic mode described above in favor of one of the six other styles, all of which are satisfyingly different from each other to be worth playing.

Puzzle mode gives you a screen full of many colors of blocks and challenges you with tapping them in the right order to clear the entire screen. Strategy mode drops the few seconds delay between each new line and simply adds a new row every time you collapse something, meaning you'll have to choose your moves much more wisely than before. Relapse mode is identical to class mode, albeit with a new set of blocks emerging from the top of the screen, forcing you to switch back and forth to prevent the top and bottom sets from growing and hitting each other.

Slider mode is also similar to classic mode, though it throws a fun twist in by moving each row of blocks to the left or right as you play, making the game more exciting overall. Continuous mode is pretty self-explanatory: it's classic mode with no set amount of lines you need to clear, starting off fairly simple but introducing new colors the longer you play. Finally, Countdown mode is a race against the clock to rack up the highest score you can get in two minutes.

Once you've unlocked all of the gameplay variants, you'll be able to enjoy them in Quick Play mode, a convenient alternative to questing that focuses purely on letting you jump into a game and jump just as easily out. I dumped Quest mode pretty quickly once I unlocked all of the games, as the occasional unique mini-game you'll encounter throughout the adventure isn't nearly as interesting as the core gameplay variants. Honestly, the two I keep coming back to are Relapse and Slider modes. Both bring in an interesting enough twist on the basic gameplay to keep things entertaining, and both can be plenty challenging in their own way. Classic mode is mostly fun too, though the sheer number of lines you'll have to clear in some of the later levels can be disheartening.

Gaming to Go: Super Collapse! 3 (page 3)

Super Collapse! 3's heritage on PCs (and Macs!) means you can pretty easily find a demo for the series somewhere on the 'net, just in case the though of yet another block puzzler doesn't immediately grab your attention. I can't say I'd blame you for falling in that camp. The number of puzzlers on the DS that involve moving squares is pretty mind-boggling, but Super Collapse! 3 does separate itself from the crowd courtesy of its numerous worthy modes of play. The game's also available on Amazon for the pretty charming price of 10.99, which should be just cheap enough to make it a title easily worth a purchase.

No, it isn't the great puzzler the DS will ever see. But nor is Super Collapse! 3 a bad title by any stretch of the means, so why not give it a shot? If you want a very solid, fast-paced puzzler that requires sharp reflexes and a keen eye, Super Collapse! 3 should help you spend those precious few minutes of freedom with a smile.

Ready for the stats?

Sleep time: Super Collapse! 3 doesn't pause when you close the lid, so make sure you hit that tiny little start button before you do.

Load time:Around thirty-four seconds to jump into Quick Play mode, provided you're new to the game and have to create a profile.

Play time: Unless you're playing continuous mode or just trying to rack up a high score in classic mode, most games shouldn't last more than a few minutes. You'll be tapping pretty quickly to overcome the new lines of blocks that pop up every few seconds.

Gaming to Go: Clubhouse Games

Remember checkers? How about chess? And blackjack? What about dominoes? And Shogi and Ludo and Hasami Shogi and Koi-Koi and -- ahem. Don't recognize those last few names? No worries! I didn't know them either. There's still time to learn, however, and this is where Nintendo's Clubhouse Games comes to party.

It contains 42 -- yes, 42 -- classic games for your enjoyment, running the gamut from bowling and billiards to Mahjong solitaire and Pig. An incredible amount of variety exists in this tiny DS cart, making Clubhouse Games one of the most involving titles the DS has seen in recent years. The mind-boggling amount of games also makes it ideal for this week's edition of Gaming to Go. Sure, I might not recommend starting up a game of chess on your next lunch break, but why not go for a quick game of Connect Five? Whatever your mood fancies, Clubhouse Games has you covered. Want to hear more? Click that big grey button there to see what you've been missing.

Gallery: Clubhouse Games

Tick tock of the clock ringing in your ears? Tell your timepiece to shove it! We live busy lives, but remember this: there's always time to game. Check back with Gaming to Go every week for the latest and greatest titles you should spend your precious few minutes with.

Gaming to Go: Clubhouse Games (page 2)

For the sake of my sanity, I won't list all 42 games contained in the Clubhouse package. If your curiosity simply won't be abated, check the Wikipedia article on the title, where it breaks down the eight categories of games and lists every title contained therein. The rest of you can just trust me when I say that there is a lot to do here. Each game is a fairly faithful recreation of its real-world counterpart, a pleasant surprise considering just how many digital classics you'll get to unlock over the course of the game.

Oh. I didn't mention that you have to unlock them all? Yes, ladies and gents, you won't be able to immediately start playing your favorite card games the minute you pop the cartridge in. You'll first have to go through the aptly-named Stamp mode to unlock all 42 games, a process which ultimately ends up being just as exciting as it sounds. It isn't a difficult experience, thankfully, utilizing a stamp system to advance your progress through the lineup. Grabbing first place in a game will net you three stamps, which is the minimum you'll need to advance to the next game. Second place will net you two, third place or lower will net you one, forcing you to play each game at least once and at most three times in order to move on.

In practice, it's a good system. If you happen to be a world-class champion of checkers, you won't need more than one try to earn coveted first place, so there won't be much time nor effort needed to move on to the next game. And even if you're not quite at that level yet, you'll still move on after one or two plays, a number which should provide sufficient familiarity with the game in case you decide to return to it later.

So what's the issue here? That fact that you have to go through stamp mode at all. Clubhouse Games, in case you haven't guessed it, is an excellent title for gaming on the go, with such a wide variety of classic titles for you to play around with. Having to spend a couple of hours just to gain full access to the library doesn't really mix well with the pick-up-and-play mentality, provided you're new to the title. Turning on the game for the first time only to discover you can't play Blackjack immediately can be a little disheartening, especially if you're not all that interested in some of the other categories of games. But once you've cleared stamp mode, everything turns rosy, as you'll be able to hop into the aptly-named Free mode and play any game you like.

This one complaint aside, Clubhouse Games still shines for a number of reasons. The interface is intuitive, offering the official rules for the game you're currently playing with a single tap. And if the rules themselves aren't to your liking, why not change them? Clubhouse lets you tweak the rules for most games freely, providing great potential for replayability even in games you've mastered or never grew overly fond of. If fiddling with the rules still isn't enough to satisfy you, you can always give Mission mode a try, where you'll tackle specific objectives for each game. The tasks you'll have to fulfill vary greatly, providing even more content for players to chew on outside of the games themselves.

Clubhouse's biggest achievement, however, is also its simplest: it gives you a bunch of fun games and lets you take them wherever you want to go. Sure, not all of the classics are well-suited for gaming on the go -- chess comes to mind -- but quite a few of them are excellent ways to spend a few minutes of your free time. Hangman-inspired Word Balloon and card game Spit stood out to me as great fun that didn't require much of a time investment, though those are only two in a large library of titles.

What do you all like? Any games in the Clubhouse collection that you gravitate towards whenever you're out and about? Let me know!

Gaming to Go: Clubhouse Games (page 3)

For budget-minded readers, Clubhouse Games even comes with the benefit of a cheap price tag. The pretty reasonable price of twenty bucks will net you a delightfully large collection of games, so what are you waiting for? Go buy it!

Yes, you'll have to suffer through stamp mode, and no, there' s no way around it, but a few hours to unlock everything isn't too terrible when you consider everything the game has to offer. There's likely no better way to play so many classics games on the go, either, so why not take advantage of the DS's inherent portability? Sure, you could likely play many of these games on the computer for cheap, but it isn't a perfect solution. What happens if you want to play Ludo on the toilet? Trust me on this one: don't put yourself in that position. Just don't.

Ready for the 42 3 stats?

Sleep time: Closing the lid doesn't appear to pause the game, so make sure you hit the start button before you put the DS in sleep mode.

Load time: Only twenty seconds or so to jump into the Free mode, which is one of the best times we've seen yet.

Play time: This one depends entirely on which game you play, but rest assured that most of these shouldn't take you too long to play.

Gaming to Go: Mario Kart DS

Go ahead. Roll your eyes.

Mario Kart? An incredibly obvious choice, perhaps, but for one important reason: it's good. Very good. It's easily the best racer on the DS and one of the greatest titles in the handheld's library, if the review scores are any indication. But beyond the numbers and critical analysis rests the simple fact that Mario Kart DS is fun, fast, and very much worthy of your attention, especially if you're looking for motor madness just as enjoyable now as it was when the game raced onto shelves back in late 2005.

Sure, there's this newfangled Wii version making the rounds, but for all of its technological advances, Mario Kart Wii is lacking in one vital area -- you can't take it on the toilet. If that realization is all it takes to convince you to dust that tiny cartridge off and put it back in action, you're in the right place. Grab a few bananas and peel out* to the second page as this week's edition of Gaming to Go revisits a portable classic.

*I'm so sorry.

Gallery: Mario Kart DS

Tick tock of the clock ringing in your ears? Tell your timepiece to shove it! We live busy lives, but remember this: there's always time to game. Check back with Gaming to Go every week for the latest and greatest titles you should spend your precious few minutes with.

Gaming to Go: Mario Kart DS (page 2)

I can scarce imagine any DS Fanboys not knowing how Mario Kart works, so I won't focus too much on the finer details of the gameplay. The basic formula for Nintendo's kart racers has gone largely unchanged in its many iterations, and the DS version is no exception. Online multiplayer was a significant step, and the use of the second screen introduced an interesting element of strategy to the races, but anyone who has spent time with the title can agree that Mario Kart DS's greatest achievement is how it takes a classic formula and tweaks it to near perfection.

What's not to enjoy? A colorful cast of Nintendo favorites, a fantastic mix of old and new tracks, and the delightfully chaotic racing that comes when you combine go karts and spiky blue shells. Races are short and exciting whether you're playing with friends or by yourself, as grand prix mode's three different cc classes cater to all skill levels. There's also time trial mode, which pits you against no competitor save yourself as you race to beat your best time and complete three laps in as few minutes as possible.

For gaming on the go, you can't really ask for much more. It's hard to complain when a title gives you solid gameplay and variable challenge in quick bursts as often as Mario Kart does, yet there are a few negative things prevalent in the DS title worth mentioning.

For all of its portable goodness, the DS version does have one design quirk that prevents it from being the ultimate on-the-go racer: the inability to save your progress in the game's Grand Prix mode and return to it at a later point. When wi-fi isn't available, you'll be spending quite a bit of time running through the many different race cups, so it's a shame that you'll have to stick with a grand prix until the last race lest you exit out and have to completely start over.

For console versions, it's an understandable choice, as a pause screen and the luxury of time make working through a cup an excellent leisure activity. Portable racing, however, is a slightly different animal. Sure, you can close the DS's lid and resume your racing at a later point, but being unable to play any of Mario Kart DS's many other modes without quitting the grand prix can be more than a little frustrating. Knowing that you'll have to complete the entire grand prix for it to count could make it a less appealing choice for a gamer on the go, especially if you're trying to complete the cups to unlock the game's extra characters and karts.

Other dubious elements include the snaking technique, which quickly grew to dominate the multiplayer arena, effectively killing some players' interest in competing. The infamous rubber band AI common to the Mario Kart series is also present, though still manageable by skilled players.

These still seem like niggling complaints, however, when one looks at the big picture of Mario Kart DS. Excluding the few things mentioned above, it captures the spirit of kart racing like no other, and shines even brighter by giving us the package in portable form.

Gaming to Go: Mario Kart DS (page 3)

Mario Kart DS still commands a decent price on sites like Amazon and eBay, so any of the sad few who haven't played it yet might not find enough incentive here to finally break out their wallets. Still, any one who plays the game as often as I do can vouch for the price tag, as few other DS games are so enjoyable whether I'm alone or geeking out with friends.

Perhaps that's the most remarkable thing about it -- even though I've fought my way through every cup and blazed a trail on every track, I still grab Mario Kart DS whenever I head out for the day. It's fun, fast, and truly indicative of the strengths of a portable system. What else can you ask for?

Ready for the stats?

Sleep time: Thankfully, the game pauses when you close the lid. The world would be a far darker place if it didn't. Can you imagine having to jump immediately back into a 150cc race?

Load time: A little over thirty seconds to start a grand prix, though you can probably trim it a bit by skipping the track introduction cinematic.

Play time: Usually around two or three minutes, though it does depend on the track size and how often you get hammered by items. I still shudder when I think of how many blue shells came my way last time I raced.

Gaming to Go: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

The premiere Puzzle Quest title debuted to generally positive reviews, many of which praised the unexpectedly compelling mix of Bejeweled gem-swapping puzzles and standard RPG elements. Any gamer who has given the title a whirl knows the critical claim doesn't come unwarranted, even with a few niggling things like cheating AI and a complete lack of closure. Those minor complaints are more than made up for with the mind-boggling amount of depth the developers crammed into the cartridge, transforming what could have been just another puzzler into an addicting little package still worth playing over a year since its release.

With the space-age sequel rumored to land sometime in October, now is as good a time as any to take a look back at the sword and stone puzzler that started it all. If you never bothered to pick it up, consider yourself thoroughly shamed -- but don't let the weight of your emotional guilt bring you down. Come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go for one last reminder that sliding colorful stones around a board is a perfectly viable way to wage digital war.

Gallery: Puzzle Quest

Continue reading Gaming to Go: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Gaming to Go: Geometry Wars: Galaxies

Who knew Bizarre Creations had a hit on its hands when it created the original Geometry Wars so many moons ago? I certainly didn't, though that might be due in part to my complete lack of one of those other consoles. Since its original inception on Microsoft soil, the Geometry Wars series has seen a number of different incarnations, a particularly enjoyable one of which is available for everyone's favorite handheld.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies also saw a release on Nintendo's white waggle box, though the infinitely more portable version is what I'll be covering in this week's edition of Gaming to Go. Haven't experienced the geometrical madness yet? Come along and see why playing with shapes on a two-dimensional grid is far more entertaining than it sounds.

Continue reading Gaming to Go: Geometry Wars: Galaxies

Gaming to Go: Elite Beat Agents

Agents are ... go!

Elite Beat Agents built a reputation on many things: colorful characters, marvelous music, and, on later difficulties, the combination of soul-crushing challenge and those godforsaken spin markers. But look beyond that shiny veneer and you'll see above all an incredibly unique game, one that takes advantage of the DS's touch-screen capabilities arguably better than any other title on the system.

And it's a hell of a lot of fun. Give the game a spin for just a few minutes and you'll see what I mean, as part of Elite Beat Agents's charm is its bite-sized gameplay. Take one of the many songs for a ride and you'll get a glimpse of nearly everything the game has to offer, with the frantic tapping, circling, and groovy beats the title is known for. It's okay to dance with your DS. I don't judge.

Can you feel the music? Come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go and see why exuberant dancing can solve all of the world's problems.

Gallery: Elite Beat Agents

Continue reading Gaming to Go: Elite Beat Agents

Gaming to Go: WordJong

I like words. I even go so far to fancy myself as one of those indomitable writer types, wielding a pen for all things mighty and righteous and incredibly nerdy. It is with great reluctance that I write this particular column, however, for one simple fact: I suck at WordJong.

It's a simple game: clean interface, smooth gameplay, and a surprisingly entertaining mixture of classics Mahjong and Scrabble. The unholy union of these two titles brought about a gem of a game largely ignored by the DS-playing populace, though its relative obscurity might prove to be an advantage. It makes WordJong easier for all of you to track down, for one, but it also provides fewer people to compare my pathetic scores with. And that, my friends, is sweet.

Interested? Grab your handy dictionary and come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go, wherein this columnist's crippling shame manifests itself in an overabundance of big words.

Gallery: WordJong

Continue reading Gaming to Go: WordJong

Gaming to Go: Planet Puzzle League

Remember Meteos? The vertical block sliding? The fast, frantic action, and the maddening tick-tock of the clock at the top of your screen? The sweeping, dramatic story of taking your alien ship into the heart of madness and bombarding it with pretty squares and blocks? The others don't understand. They couldn't possibly comprehend the bloody tears you shed for every planet lost along the way -- every warrior that stood 'til the end and mumbled something heroic in whatever freaky alien language they knew.

It's pretty intense, man. But let's talk about this game called Planet Puzzle League, shall we? It's pretty similar to Meteos, minus the ecstatic hyperbole I threw it out above. But don't let the dearth of heart-pounding plot deter you! Planet Puzzle League may forgo the charm of its extraterrestrial brother, but the title more than makes it for its lack of emotional impact with a wealth of gameplay options. It also has the distinction of being pretty much perfect for a gamer on the go, a fact which should make my job a hell of a lot easier and your wallet just a little bit lighter. Grab your penny bank, ladies and gents, and come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go. The Puzzle League awaits.

Continue reading Gaming to Go: Planet Puzzle League

Gaming to Go: Feel the Magic: XY/XX

Everybody loves minigames, right? Right! Sega loves them too, so much they just had to take those warm, fuzzy feelings and shove 'em into a DS cart. The title that came out is something of an anomaly in the DS's library: a stylish and entertaining minigame collection that, now four years after its debut, still doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. Want in on the weirdness? You may not understand what in the world you're playing, sure, but if rampant wackiness sounds like a great way to pass the time, Feel the Magic: XY/XX might be just what you need.

Yeah, it's more minigames, but most of them are entertaining enough -- or just freaking weird enough -- to warrant your attention. And they're all pretty snappy, too, so you could spend your time worse ways whenever you want to game on the go. Sure, you might get a few odd looks on the bus if anyone sees you saving fat people from a massive man-eating anteater, but what do you care? You've got sweet digital love to save, man, so you'd better come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go and brace yourself for the madness.

Continue reading Gaming to Go: Feel the Magic: XY/XX

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Gaming to Go!We debate the hot topics!

This Month's New Games

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MySims Kingdom
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