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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.

The game starts simple. Boy meets girl. Boy falls madly in love with girl and joins a group of super performers to try and impress her. Boy starts unicycling on thin planks between rooftops and murdering scorpions to win girl's digital devotion. Tall, portly, bad man takes a shine to girl. Tall, portly bad man kidnaps her. Boy must step in to save the day.

Typical love story, right? Right! Except for that part where you get swallowed by a massive snake and have to dodge giant balls of acid as you fight back up its digestive tract with your lady love cheering outside. I've been thoroughly abusing italics here to prove one simple thing: this game is weird. So weird, in fact, that I must admit that no amount of words can quite capture what Feel the Magic is really like.

What the words can do, however, is tell you that this is a title worth picking up if you're wanting speedy gameplay that won't break the bank. Feel the Magic's age has dropped it into bargain bin status, meaning you won't be shelling out too many greens for the quirkiest romance story available on the DS. For ten bucks or less you'll get nearly 30 minigames to conquer, so why not give it a shot?

A few warnings are in order. The first: some of you may not like the humor. If the zaniness described above didn't crack even a single smile on your stoic mug, you might want to pass on the game itself. The second: you're going to have to use the microphone. Feel the Magic debuted in a time when the DS's many capabilities were fresh and exciting, so at least a few of the minigames force you to blow or yell into that microphone with all of your embarrassed might. The third: really, guys, it's pretty weird. The strangeness even seeps into the visuals, which combine roughly-animated silhouettes with bright, colorful clothing to create a visual style that remains peculiar to this day.

But let's look beyond all of that and focus on the actual gameplay, which consists of many different minigames usually running just a few minutes each. Most minigame activities last less than sixty seconds, though you'll have to do them multiple times -- the difficulty level increasing as you go along -- in order to successfully complete the minigame and move on. The game automatically saves after you complete each minigame, thankfully, making it very easy to blaze through one game and then turn the DS off to conserve battery life while you're out and about.

Each little game will charge you with your usual assortment of touch-screen tasks: tapping, circling, scratching, rubbing, etc. There's quite a bit of emphasis placed on that last one, which tends to alternate between creepy and amusing at an alarming speed. Still, the story backdrop for each minigame is usually bizarre enough to keep things interesting, so it's easy to ignore the otherwise simple nature of the activities.

Minigame sets are separated by silly plot sequences, all of which are relatively short and decently amusing -- a winning combination for the gamer on the go. Should you get impatient, a simple tap of the stylus can entirely skip a sequence, though I'd recommend watching the plot events if you can. The story isn't the richest narrative you'll ever watch unfold on your touch screen, sure, but you might have a little difficulty figuring out what the hell is happening if you get tap-happy outside the minigames.

Completing minigames during the Story Mode unlocks them in the Memories mode, which serves as a simple compilation of every activity in the game. For the masochists among us who might desire an even greater challenge, finishing the Story Mode a few times will unlock the Hard and Hell difficulties, both of which make the minigames considerably harder.

The main problem with the minigames in Feel the Magic -- and with all minigame collections, one could argue -- is that their appeal tends to wear off after the first time through. They're still enjoyable, sure, but you might not feel compelled to play through them again for a greater challenge or to complete the Memories section. Combine this with the relative shortness of the Story mode and the package itself might seem a little less desirable -- but let's not forget the price tag, shall we? Seriously, the game runs pretty cheap on sites like ebay, so it's hard to feel cheated if you blaze through the storyline pretty quickly. Take the price tag and consider the fast, fun nature of the games, and you'll come away with a title well-suited for gaming on the go. Pick it up, man. Do it.

Ready for the stats?

Sleep time: The game doesn't pause if you shut the lid, so be careful. I'd advise against interrupting a minigame at all, honestly. The longer you're out of the action, the more likely you are to start thinking about what you're playing, which probably won't end well. Every minute you sit there analyzing the plot is another minute for your portly competitor to try and win your girl. Can you live with that? Can you?

Load time: A minimum of thirty seconds to jump into the Story mode, though you could trim a few seconds by skipping the plot sequences. Not that any of you would do that, right?

Play time: Normally a minute or two per minigame, though that number can grow a bit depending on the length of the plot sequence.

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.

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