One of the first things that puzzled me about 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix when I started playing was that all but 10 of the 101 minigames were locked. It became clear soon enough, though, that locking the vast majority of the game’s content was the only way the game could trick you into playing for more than five minutes. Scoring enough points to unlock new games is the only possible incentive to keep playing this sorrowful collection of frustrating minigames.
Trouble started right away with the first minigame I attempted, which tasked me with seeing how many times I could use the touchscreen to flick a basketball into a hoop in 60 seconds. On my first attempt, I made exactly zero. The ball would usually fly wildly off the top of the screen or shoot way too fast past the basket. Even now, I can still only sink a few baskets in the allotted time, and I’m nowhere near the required high score.
Thankfully, this pattern didn’t repeat with most of the games in this collection, but similar design flaws constantly popped up — almost all of them directly relating to the fact that they are all controlled via the touchscreen. The vast majority of the time, the biggest obstacle to whatever goal is being demanded by the game is the touchscreen. In Basketball, I had no idea how “hard” I was throwing the ball. I just touched the stylus to the ball on the screen and flicked toward the basket. If there’s a deeper strategy than “flick the ball at the basket,” I have no idea what it is.
Another game challenged me to keep a ball bouncing in the air by tapping it as it got near the ground. I can pass the speeder bike level in Battletoads, but apparently my reflexes still aren’t good enough for 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix, as the ball would never bounce more than half a dozen times before my stylus-click would fail to register, causing me to lose. Similar results occurred in just about every game that required me to juggle something in the air or bounce objects into a target or some other coordination-centric game.
The rest of the games that didn’t pose this problem suffered from the dilemma that comparable versions already exist in other media or other games, and they’re usually better. 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix includes Sudoku, for example, but it gives you just one random puzzle at a time and no way to adjust difficulty. You’re better off doing the Sudoku in your morning paper. There’s also a codebreaker game (the kind in which you guess a four-character password and it tells you which spaces are correct and which are out of order) and variations on popular critical thinking games like “spot the difference.” All in all, these games are only remarkable for how unremarkable they are.
I still haven’t unlocked all 101 minigames, and I kind of doubt I ever will. I just don’t see the incentive when so many other Nintendo DS games already offer minigames that are just as good or better than the majority of games presented here. 101-in-1 Explosive Megamix promises a lot in its title but instead becomes another lesson in quality versus quantity.