Midnight Play! Pack
| Midnight Play! Pack

Thinking back to my childhood as the youngest of four very different siblings, there was one simple and inexpensive way to keep everyone relatively happy when it came to food: variety packs. Whether it was crisps, cereal or E number-filled drinks, a bumper collection of a brand's different flavours would invariably prevent any grumbles.

Of course, the problems would arise when it came to the flavours that no one liked. After several successive shopping trips you'd find a great pile of the less palatable variants clogging up the cupboards.

The moral of the story? Variety is the spice of life only when the quality is consistent.

Having played through each of the games contained within Midnight Play! Pack we'd have to say that it's a rule Gameloft would do well to apply in future.

What we have here is a collection of five established games – Block Breaker Deluxe, Midnight Pool, Midnight Bowling, Midnight Hold 'em Poker and Platinum Solitaire – each given a lick of 3D paint and adapted to suit the DS's unique attributes. Unfortunately only one of these games could really be labelled as an outright success.

Midnight Pool, though providing a certain amount of fun, proves particularly disappointing. Already established on mobile as a decent portrayal of the sport, there was real potential for Gameloft to exploit the extra processing power and precise controls and create something memorable. As it is the controls lack finesse and the graphics are extremely rough around the edges.

One example we should mention here is the shot preview indicator. A pretty standard feature of any pool game, its purpose is to give you an idea of where the object ball and the cue ball will be heading upon contact. Midnight Pool's, however, simply doesn't work as it should, very often suggesting that a shot is on when it really isn't, and occasionally getting its angles totally wrong.

Midnight Bowling – another established mobile series – fares better. It has a solid and instinctive control method, with a simple flick of the stylus sending your ball hurtling towards the pins. A little post-throw screen scrubbing accounts for the spin. Again, though, the graphics are a little iffy – particularly the character models – and the gameplay is solid rather than spectacular.

Moving briskly on (as we must with five games to consider) we come to the card games. Platinum Solitaire is solitaire plain and simple, regardless of how many versions have been thrown in (there are six, for the record). That's the same Solitaire that comes pre-installed on virtually every PC as standard. Implementing touch controls really is no great shakes either, as it's effectively the same as using a mouse.

Midnight Hold 'em Poker features possibly the worst presentation of the lot, with plenty of close-ups of the big ugly characters mulling over the hand they've been dealt. What's more, such graphical flourishes serve only to slow down and distract from the card playing itself. Poker has its own watertight rules, its own in-built gameplay, so all developers need do is provide a slick, uncluttered framework in which to play it. Midnight Hold 'em Poker on DS fails in this one fundamental area.

We realize that this is all sounding very gloomy and negative, but fret not. We've saved the best from Midnight Play! Pack 'til last. And Block Breaker Deluxe really is the best game here by some margin. Which came as something of a surprise, because on a basic level it is that most uninspiring of games: a Breakout clone.

The first and most obvious point that sets it apart from previous iterations on other platforms is the use of the DS's controls. Controlling your paddle by touch is a revelation, allowing a degree of speed and precision you just don't find with traditional button interfaces. You'll soon be pulling off audacious last-second ball retrievals as you allow yourself an extra split second to wait for one of the myriad power-ups to drop.

Speaking of which, these power-ups present a further layer of brilliance. Floating down from freshly broken blocks like confetti, they imbue your paddle with a range of useful abilities, such as the brilliantly imaginative Yo-yo, which attaches the ball(s) to your paddle with a length of retractable elastic. There's always something new and interesting to play with.

Add in brilliant touches like the pre-level bonus goals, such as collecting all power-ups or using only one life, and the brilliantly fitting gaudy graphics (present throughout each of the five games, but most at home here) and it's easy to see why this is the strongest of the bunch.

Unfortunately, one good game out of five is not enough to recommend a purchase. As it is, the tacky presentation and adapted-for-DS controls come together only for the brilliant-but-slight Block Breaker Deluxe, which would have been a must-have as a stand-alone title for a tenner.

Judged as a variety pack, though, Midnight Play! Pack simply doesn't pack in sufficient quality or value.

Midnight Play! Pack

With only one game out of the five on offer being anything more than average, we really couldn't recommend this as a worthwhile purchase at full price. It's worth grabbing from the bargain bin for Block Breaker Deluxe alone, though
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.