Currently on the PlayStation Store, there is a five Mini bundle named The AWESOME Summer Minis Bundle that offers a pretty eye-opening deal at first, at least from a price perspective. The Summer Minis Bundle is a buckshot of video game from Canadian developer Frima Studio. Based in Quebec, Frima is great at approaching the bite-sized downloadable game market, and I say this as someone who hadn't played a single title from the company prior to this review.
The reason I praise the approach Frima took with this is because they seem to understand the downloadable market, and what sells. Take this Summer Minis Bundle, for instance. Let's be honest, not many people give many shout outs to PlayStation Minis, simply because many of those titles are either too low in quality, or too high in price to close a sale. In my opinion, Minis should not be over the $3 price point. Why? Because these days, Sony and Nintendo's handheld systems attempt to emulate the success of the mobile phone market, which thrives off of low prices, and short but (sometimes) sweet experiences.
Now there are five [pun]mini-reviews[/pun] of each game to come, but since this is a bundle that I'm reviewing, I have to take into account that I'm looking at the total package experience, if it's worth your time, and the price you'd be paying for it. What are we looking at in terms of pricing here? Probably the strongest point I can make toward making this a recommendation, is the $4.99 USD/CAD price tag. That means you get five different games for five dollars, all by the same company. I'd say it's the Orange Box of Minis. Now I should probably get on to let you know what games are in this thing.
The five games you would be getting in this bundle if you so choose to purchase it, followed by their respective reviews, are:
A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks!
Widgets Odyssey 2
Young Thor at first glance caught my attention over the other titles in this bundle for some reason. Maybe it has something to do with me remembering that it was once nominated for 'Best PS3/PSP MINI' of the year. Still, I was pretty skeptical going in, as many would be when approaching a bite-sized game. I'm happy to say, however, that Young Thor was a pleasant throwback, because it feels like a 16-bit era MegaMan or side-scrolling platformer. You play as a young Thor, the Norse God of Thunder as we all know him. You attack with your hammer as gameplay relies on melee combat. There are short ranged magic attacks too though, as well as different combos and move sets, so you'll have enough variety in a fight. Admittedly though, as usual with most brawler or action games, you tend to stick with 'what works' even if that may only be two different attacks.
There are a total of four levels, varied three or four times each, and three boss fights (which count as their own level) in the game. As Thor you progress pretty freely from level to level, choosing to move to another map, or playing a harder version of the stage you've just beaten. The bonus for exploring each variation of certain levels, is that you pick up upgrades for Thor, whether they be a powerful upgrade to Mjolnir (the name given to Thor's Hammer), or a belt. That feature, and the constant level grind throughout the game are the two most addictive aspects of Young Thor. Every enemy you kill gives you XP, which in turn levels up your character, making attacks performed with visible numerals above enemy heads stronger.
The sound and level design are mediocre at best, but that doesn't hinder the experience of a small game like this when you're on a bus, or on the go. With a steady difficulty progression, Young Thor offers anywhere from 3-6 hours of gameplay depending on how much time you want to put into it. Replaying levels for more experience or to explore is always an option. There is a story in Young Thor, but not one worth paying attention to. It's the standard 'things go wrong, you're a bad-ass, go get strong and set things straight' archetype, but that works. Young Thor almost single handedly justifies the purchase of this bundle, so it gets my thumbs up, and the longest review.
A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks! Is second up to bat, but not necessarily in a different league, since it was also nominated for 'Best PS3/PSP MINI' of the year. This one isn't a surprise as a lot of us have already heard of this Mini. Having a strong selling point of only being $2.00 is the key to this one, and it fits perfectly in this budget-priced bundle. It's a totally functional shmup (shoot 'em up), with upgrades, different weapons and attacks, more often than not humorous dialogue and animated cutscenes, and enough game to warrant the purchase. I'm late to the party for A Space Shooter For 2 Bucks!, but I'm happy to have it on my PSP now, in case I ever need a game to fall back to for three minutes.
Widgets Odyssey is the weakest of the batch by far. A platformer with absolutely no charm, be it in the boring cut-scenes, or in the monotonous gameplay. Each level you use a different robot character that I cannot for the life of me remember names of (but there was this one helmet dude... a robot helmet...), and who has a different set of gameplay mechanics and abilities from the last. It just never opens up to anything fun or worth playing. You end up just slopping your way through a level collecting random pickups and opening doors/moving platforms. You can check Widgets Odyssey out for yourself, but I sincerely believe you won't find much here worth hanging on to. So far, in this already-almost-justified-buy of a bundle, Widgets Odyssey does almost nothing to add any comparable value to this package.
Widgets Odyssey 2 is the sequel to our last hit, but at least it changes things up a little. What seem to be higher production values and more varied gameplay objectives make for an easier to swallow experience with what otherwise is still an un-fun, repetitive grind (and not in the role-playing sense) through its slow paced gameplay. In contrast to Young Thor, Widgets Odyssey 2, which also plays like a throwback, feels very out-of-date and uninspired. It is better than it's predecessor, even if it is only marginally. By now, I felt that the bundle at least had enough an acceptable price to length of combined content. But is it worth throwing some petty cash at for overall quality?
Zombie Tycoon is the last contender on the list, and I'm happy to reaffirm that it seals this bundle as a buy for me. It's not the best game, it has it's quirks and shortcomings, but it holds it's own as the one of the $1 games of this bundle. In this third-person, strategy game, players use zombies to attempt to take over cities, in what are very over-the-top There are some long loading times at points, controls that just get frustrating and feel shoddy, and graphics you'd expect from a Mini. It's not all bad though, as the game pulls its weight in zombie carcasses with entertaining Saturday morning cartoon type cut-scenes and light humor. Either way, you get more than your dollar's worth here.
So that brings us to the end of this review, in which I tell you for a third time, that yes, if you're looking for small games to pass the time on your PSP or if you have a couple of minutes to spare on the couch, Frima's AWESOME Summer Mini Bundle is worth the $4.99 asking price. Not that this should be taken as a validation of the price, simply because as I expressed earlier Minis are generally priced too high, but there is over $16 of content here with current pricing. If you can catch Young Thor ($4.99), A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks ($1.99), or even Zombie Tycoon ($4.99) on sale for a dollar or two each, then you can pick 'em up that way. Otherwise, shelling out the five dollars for this bundle is a good choice.
-The Final Word-
It's a mixed bag with this bundle, but more often than not, you'll find that there is more than enough to justify a purchase, thanks to the low asking price, and some surprisingly entertaining content.