For all the flak it has received about pretty much every aspect of its online presence, Nintendo’s efforts in setting up digital marketplaces have yielded some amazing fruit. The Nintendo eShop on 3DS is attempt number three, and it to has played host to a selection of amazing games, from the slew of ambassador games awarded to 3DS early adopters to 3D enhanced remakes of Nintendo classics. However, the cream of this very bountiful crop has proven to be a surprisingly eclectic mix that includes an amazing puzzler that came out of left field, a free social application, and a port of a super challenging, retro-inspired game that is nothing short of a modern indie classic.
One of the unsung heroes of the online gaming market has been Nintendo’s Art Style series of games, all of which feature charming art direction and simple yet creative gameplay ideas aimed at the puzzle loving gamer. Though it doesn’t bear the Art Style name, Pushmo feels like a spiritual successor, covering all of the bases employed by its predecessors while also filling itself out to feel more like a full game experience.
You are tasked with pushing pulling blocks in and out of the background, in order to reach the child trapped at the top of the block arrangement. The idea is simple but develops over time to create challenging and original puzzles that also prove highly addictive. Topping off the solid gameplay is a charming and whimsy artistic style is never too cutesy for its own good and amazing 3D effects that truly benefit the depth centric gameplay of pushing and pulling blocks. And did we mention the ability to create and share your own puzzles to extend what is already a lengthy, and budget friendly, game?
For providing us with an amazing experience filled with new ideas that also takes full advantage of 3DS’s unique abilities, Pushmo has set an example for all eShop games to follow.
While plenty of titles offered great gameplay experiences at easily affordable prices, Swapnote completely did away with all concepts of gameplay and pricing, and for that it lands a spot as one of this year’s runners up. As a free communication tool, Swapnote is the obvious heir apparent to the legacy of PictoChat, the built in tool that allowed original DS owners to scribble notes to others in close proximity. Thankfully, the last seven years have brought a bevy of advancements that have helped turn this quirky little toy into an incredibly useful and fun tool.
Swapnote is the answer to problem of communication between friends that has haunted all of Nintendo’s previous online efforts. Friends now have the ability to quickly share ideas around the world from the comfort of their 3DS, and those ideas can come in the form of notes, doodles, video recordings, and even photos. Sharing this type of information online is by no means a new idea, but never before has it been packaged in such a simple, effective, and charming way on a gaming platform. Not only does Swapnote prove to be Nintendo’s best online social and communication tool, it gives the competitors a run for their money as well.
Retro-inspired games developed by small but devoted teams of independent designers have become a genre in and of themselves over the last few years. VVVVVV was one of the major titles that helped cement that fact. Though it originally released for PC in 2010, VVVVVV made it onto 3DS with just days to spare before the end of 2011, and had it hit virtual shelves a week later, it most likely would have been an instant contender for 2012’s awards. VVVVVV looks like it came out of a Commodore 64 and really only has one core element to its gameplay, but that is all it really needs. The game is effectively a platformer but has one little twist: you can’t jump, but you can flip gravity.
Spikes, monsters, and blind plunges into unexplored screens give the game an extreme level of challenge while the relatively open nature of exploration across is surprisingly Metroid-esque world provides plenty of compelling reasons to keep playing for those who desire more than sheer masochism. But VVVVVV‘s true genius is its generous supply of checkpoints. Deaths come frequently, and are tracked in a counter that quickly grows to ludicrously large numbers, but beyond each nerve-shattering challenge is a progress-saving checkpoint. This well-balanced set up keeps the challenge high while maintaining a sense of fairness and progress that keeps the experience from ever becoming truly infuriating. Altogether, VVVVVV for 3DS is an outstanding port of what is undoubtedly a modern classic and one of the best games available for download on the system.
BEST eShop GAME HONORABLE MENTIONS
Freakyforms, Mighty Switch Force, 3D Classics: Kirby’s Adventure
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
Tell us which of the above titles you’d pick as the winner, or if you think another game is more deserving, select “Other” and tell us in the comments!