GAME NAME: Tiny Games – Knights and Dragons
PLATFORM(S): Nintendo 3DS, eShop
RELEASE DATE(S): May 1st, 2014
Reactor Inc. touts this as the first of their “Tiny Games” series aimed to give children an age appropriate activity. Unfortunately, there is little to nothing worth noting about this title, even for five year olds. Knights and Dragons takes some well-known board and computer games, drapes them with a cutesy knight and dragon mascot, and sets out on an adventure to rob you of three dollars.
Minigame: Ludo | Equivalents: Parcheesi, Sorry!, Trouble
Ludo is the first mini game on the list, and if you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry. You’re just used to it being under a different name. In North America, Ludo is sold under the brand name Parcheesi. Popular board games Sorry! and Trouble are also adaptations that you are more likely to have played. The rules are fairly simple, you have four pieces and you move them with dice rolls. Once your piece has moved all around the board you re-enter your own territory, and the first player whose pieces all complete their journey, wins. If your piece lands on another piece, that piece must start over.
Minigame: Find Mines | Equivalent: Minesweeper
If you have a PC, you already own this game. Not only can you already play this game without the cartoony overlay, but you can play a variety of different challenges. In the Knights and Dragons version, you are unable to select different sized boards. You are given a 10×15 grid and fifteen mines to neutralize in fifteen minutes. Select a square on the grid, and you will get a number (or several numbers!). There is a mine on the field somewhere that many numbers away. You plant a flag on the mine to neutralize it. If you select a mine, the game is over.
Minigame: Pipe Shift | Equivalent: Pipe Mania, Pipe Dream
I fondly remember this game from the same pack of Windows games in the 90s that gave us SkiFree, JezzBall, and Chip’s Challenge. You lay pipes which are given to you randomly (a la Tetris pieces) and do your best to make a complete connection with no leaks from one end of the board to the other. The frustration sets in as you routinely get pieces you do not need and have nowhere to place. You can replace already laid pipe with new pieces at the cost of some points.
Minigame: Chest Mover Mania | Equivalent: Sokoban
Chest Mover Mania’s origin was the hardest to track down, making it in some ways the most original game on the menu. Sokoban is a 1981 Japanese computer game where a player pushes boxes around a maze into specific locations to complete the puzzle. Sokoban style puzzles have been included in quite a few games, as well as being featured in numerous home-made Flash games. Chest Mover Mania is in the same vein as these: pushing two blocks through a cramped space to their intended targets.
Minigame: Ship Encounter | Equivalent: Battleship, Sea Battle
If you clicked that link just above, you know how I feel about Battleship. This version is fairly bland, however. The only difference here is when you hit a ship, you get to fire again. Other than that this is a very boring iteration of Battleship. Place your ships, and take turns firing back and forth until all the enemy ships have been discovered and sunk.
Minigame: 4 in a Row | Equivalent: Connect 4
I’m not going to insult your intelligence and pretend you’ve never played this game, before. You take turns putting chips into a grid until someone gets four in a row either horizontal, vertical, or diagonally. The end.
The only rewards for playing are bronze, silver, and gold trophies awarded per game. Unfortunately, the points system is so horrendous that I don’t think it is even possible to obtain these trophies to begin with! For instance, I won a match of 4 in a Row in four moves. For those keeping score at home, that is literally the best you can do. I was awarded with only a silver trophy and a snarky message letting me know that I needed 20,000 points for gold.
Alone, these games can be great. Chest Mover Mania in particular is a decent challenge if you like logic puzzles. However, sold as a package and skinned with such an ugly, cartoony interface really reeks of a developer trying to make a quick buck without actually having to develop anything by marketing it for children.
My day job is working in an after school program with elementary students, and I can promise you that any child who has a 3ds will have absolutely no interest in this game. Most children aged 4-5 will find some of these games too difficult or boring to play. Older children will find them too easy to beat and will lose interest fairly quickly, anyway.
There might be some logic that tells you for $2.99 you can buy six board games that probably still cost at least $15 a pop at a retail store, but you’d be wrong on a couple levels. For starters, the eShop has quite a few other options for game packs with more many games, and are way more fun. Secondly, the point of these games (aside from Pipe Shift and Chest Mover) is to play against people. Knights and Dragons has absolutely zero multiplayer.
If you have children you want to entertain for a few minutes, please take that $2.99 and just buy them a candy bar. They will spend about the same amount of time with it, and at least they’ll enjoy the candy.