About the Game
Released in 2008 by Ubisoft, Midnight Play Pack is a compilation of five separate games on one cartridge. The games are Block Breaker Deluxe, Midnight Pool, Midnight Bowling, Midnight Poker and Platinum Solitaire.
On starting the cartridge you are presented with am menu that allows selection of each of the five available games. In addition to this there is an info button that displays the publisher and developer credits. The five games are -
Block Breaker Deluxe -
This is a bat and ball game in the vein of Breakout and Arkanoid where you control a horizontally moving bat and bounce a ball off brick balls with the overall aim of clearing all the bricks to progress to the next stage. There are nine levels to complete, represented as a path through a city.
The game is set in a sleek Miami Vice style theme, and the overall goal of the Block breaker game is to complete all of the levels and win a VIP class Yacht (not much use if you live in a flat though!) . Three of the levels are initially locked and can only be played after successfully completing their predecessors. On starting the first level named Neon Rose you are set a challenge of completing the game in a set number of seconds and also invited to collect up to 10 mystery gifts. It is at this point you realise that there is a definite teenage girly theme to this as the gifts consist of items such as lip gloss and roses.
The top screen displays your score in Dollars, the time remaining to complete the level and your number of lives, which initially starts at three. The lower screen is the play area where the wall of bricks and your bat and ball are displayed. The game takes the same format as all of the other breakout clones. There are several variants of bricks to destroy, some which are destroyed with a single hit and others that take several hits or cannot be destroyed without a power up. On the subject of power ups, there are several in each level. Power ups are accessed by destroying a blue brick. Once destroyed the power up drops from the playfield and needs to be caught by your bat to activate. The power ups range from increased bat sizes, multi balls, laser cannons, extra lives and many other items. In addition to the power ups the mystery gifts (the lip gloss etc) also fall from the playfield.
Playing the game is rather fun and the conversion has been handled well. There is a slick and professional feel to the game and the levels become increasingly difficult as you progress through the levels. Each level has a boss stage where you must bounce your ball several times across a brick laying monster at the top of the screen. It can prove difficult to catch the gifts and not lose your ball, but that is all part of the challenge. Overall this is great fun to play.
Midnight Pool -
This game offers 3 variants of pool. This game can be played against the artificial intelligence of the CPU or against a Wireless human opponent. There game offers two modes Arcade mode which are instant play or Story mode where you create a character and progress through a series of games in a story based theme.
Whichever mode you chose you are first asked to select you character and then select an outfit for them to wear! You are then given the choice of a location to play the game and a choice of 3 pool games being 8 ball US, 8 ball UK and 9 Ball.
Choosing 8 Ball UK (as I'm familiar with the rules!) you are asked to call a coin toss to decide who plays first. Then the game begins.
I won't go into the rules of Pool, but basically you need to pot your designated set of balls followed by the black to win the game. The play area is represented by an aerial view of the table in the top screen and a player's view perspective in the lower screen. Taking a shot is quite easy as the trajectory of your shot is indicated by an arrow that displays the direction that the target ball will travel once hit. The angles and spin on the ball are easily adjusted using the onscreen menus. The view can also be changed by selecting an onscreen icon and moving the view perspective with the stylus. The shot strength can also be varied.
The game is quick to learn and fun to play, though due to the size of the screens it can sometimes be difficult to accurately take a shot or predict the outcome of taking a shot.
It is not in the same league as the dedicated pool games such as Virtual Pool though it is still quick and fun to play.
Midnight Bowling -
This is a ten pin bowling game. This game can be played against the artificial intelligence of the CPU or against a Wireless human opponent. There are options to play a quick single match, a story based career tournament mode or free play in which you can practice,
Regardless of the chosen mode, the Gameplay is same. You take it in turns bowling your balls down the alley in ten frames of bowling. The top screen displays the score cards for each player and a graphic of the balls hit in each roll. The bottom screen displays the play area. Bowling a ball is very simple, you pick the ball from the return gutter using the stylus and then through it down the alley in a sweep of the stylus. The trajectory and speed of the ball is controlled by your stylus sweep.
After 10 frames the game is over and the highest score player is the winner.
The game may be a little overly simplified, though I found it very fun to play and quick to master. There are also a series of bowling challenges that can be unlocked to provide a little more Gameplay.
Midnight Hold 'em Poker -
This game is a four player variant of Texas Hold em poker. Without explaining the rules of poker in depth the idea of the game is to eliminate your opponents by winning their money off them in a series of hands of poker.
The top screen displays an aerial view of the poker table, the pot, players and their funds and the bottom screen displays your hand of cards from a player perspective and displays the options to raise the bet, call the bet or fold (give up for non-poker playing readers).
As there are probably a lot of non poker players reading this then I will mention a few generic facts of the game. The play takes place in a clockwise motion and the dealer is CPU operated. Each player, depending on their cards can raise the bet, match the current bet in place or give up. Each bet is represented my plastic chips that represent monetary value being added to the Pot (the running jackpot of the current hand). When a player runs out of money they are out of the game. This continues until the last player remaining is crowned the winner and wins the pot and then the chips are added to their account.
The big question is how well do the Artificial intelligence opponents play? In all honesty quite erratically which makes playing the game quite fun as you do not have an idea if the opponent has a good or rubbish hand. On the flipside, unlike real life poker, you cannot observe or read your opponents body language and playing traits. These factors aside, as a mini game it plays well.
Platinum Solitaire -
In this mini game there are five variants of the popular game.
In all of the games control is simple where you drag and drop your cards using the stylus and touch screen.
The first of the six games is Golf where you place your cards one at a time from the deck onto the stacks in ascending or descending order regardless of suit colour. You only have 1 pass through the deck and the goal is to remove all of the cards from the deck. After playing this a couple of times I wasn't sure if there strategy to this game or sheer luck.
The second variant is pyramid where you must turn over cards from the deck and place them on the pyramid pile if the value of the cards add to 13. If the cards don't add to 13 then the card is placed on a waste pile. When all of the deck has been used the waste pile becomes the deck and a second attempt can be made. You win if all the deck cards are used and lose if there are remaining cards in the waste pile. This game can become addictive; I had several 'one more last go' before finally completing this. I think that like Golf that the successful completion is more down to luck than strategy.
The third game is freecell. In this game you must build up stacks of cards for each suit in ascending order form Ace to King. There are four free card stacks and four stacks to move the ascending suit piles. You can move cards off the play area to the free cells to release cards into the suit stacks. The game continues until all of the suit stacks are complete or you cannot move any more cards. This game has a lot of strategy, combined with an element of luck.
The fourth variant is Yukon. This is the solitaire that most people are familiar with and it comes included as a game in Microsoft Windows. The aim of the game is to remove all of the cards from the play area onto 4 stacks of ascending card suits. Of the five games I found myself playing this the most as it is the version I am most used to. It plays well and is highly addictive.
The final version of Solitaire is called Spider. In this game your aim is to create 8 piles of 13 cards of the same colour in descending order from king to ace. There are 10 card stacks on the playfield, and similar to traditional Yukon you must create descending piles of cards of alternating values. This is a really difficult game. There are so many cards on the playfield that it becomes swamped and confusing.
Each game can be played instantly or in casino mode that allows you place bets on your predicted success.
Overall there are enough versions of the game to keep you amused for hours.
The graphics have an overall Miami theme to them. They are bright and glitzy and maybe aimed more at the teenage player. The graphics are sharp and well drawn. My only gripe would be the Pool graphics being a little small, but otherwise the whole game sparkles graphically. Movement and performance of the sprites were smooth throughout.
Sound and controls
Like the graphics, there is a definite Miami feel to this. Sound loops of Funk rock and up-tempo 80's style synth pop adorn the background to the games. The sounds on the individual games are good too. Most notable are the sounds in the Breakout game where the explosions and power up sounds are really crisp and bright. Overall I found the sounds to be complementary to the game rather than annoying.
Control of the games is intuitive and natural. Most of the games make good use of the mouse and are responsive and accurate.
I really liked this cartridge. The overall feel and playability of the games is good and having a selection of games on one single cartridge is a great. The only slight letdown is maybe the Pool tables, but I think is due more to the size of the NDS screens than the game itself. Otherwise there are hours of fun to be had from this game.
Additional details, Price & Availability
Genre: Multi games pack
The game was available for £17.98 from www.amazon.co.uk at date of writing (5th Aug 08).
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008