Mass Mini

April 26, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Posted in rpg | 2 Comments
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Is it me or are Mass Effect mini-games brilliant? They take an incredibly old concept, innovate and change it for Mass Effect, and games I would never be interested in playing normally are suddenly fun and new again.

They are supposed to in some form represent hacking a computer terminal or safe lock, and are an interesting touch to the otherwise action/story based game.

Take the mini-game in the original ME. It was a series of concentric circles, all enclosing one another with many arced obstacles in each circle rotating in opposite directions around the center. You’re purpose was to move your piece, as it were, to the center in order to hack the Gibson. It’s not hard, but the addition of a timer can occasionally screw you up.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to point out that this is Frogger. For the purposes of this blog, I found an online version of Frogger, via igoogle, and guess what? Frogger kind of sucks. I don’t like playing Frogger. I do like the ME mini-game.

I read a random blog recently about someone who had played ME and hated the vehicle portions. “Everything about the Mako sucks. The vehicle physics are terrible, the controls feel wrong, the levels are slow, climbing up hills is infuriating, etc.” I thought the Mako was great. I wasn’t expecting a driving mini-game, to me it was a bonus. I couldn’t disagree more with most of his points. Sure driving over steep mountains was a pain, but that was optional. The controls felt fine to me, and the physics were great for what it was.

One of the mini-games I don’t like is mining for resources. I don’t even remember if there was some form of game to it in ME, that’s how forgettable it was, but in ME2 it just takes too long and isn’t innovative enough. There’s no obstacle to it, you just mouse over a planet until your scanner buzzes. If there were some challenge, or if it didn’t take nearly so long to thoroughly mine a planet, I doubt it would be a problem for me. Unfortunately it’s the gaming equivalent of the old geezer on a beach with a metal detector.

The other two games in ME2 are more than enough to make up for mining though. The hacking game where you match small distinctive symbols to it’s twin on a circuit board is great. It’s by no means technically accurate but who cares. Again it’s not hard, but the timer adds pressure.

Again I don’t have to tell you this game is based simply on Memory. Which of course is based on various ancient (as far back as the 16th century in Japan) games of different origin. And it never leaves you thinking, “Why am I playing Concentration?” because you’re in the game hacking the planet.

The other game is similar but, actually kind of a cross between Frogger, and Memory. I’m not sure if there is a more direct comparison. You’re given a segment of code (actually just illegible lines of text with different colors) and told to find it’s match amongst three columns of similar text scrolling upwards with some segments being off limits. Move your cursor over the forbidden segment or run out of time and you lose.

Very simple, but fun as hell. I never hesitate to grab money out of a safe, or burst through a door just because there’s one of these games in the way.

It just leaves me thinking what other ancient games can be used in the next Mass Effect game or mmorpg for that matter. Can they turn Musical Chairs or Red Rover into a mini-game? They require multiple people, perfect for an MMO. How about Mine Sweeper or Chips Challenge for a single player RPG? Freeze Tag! What Time is it Mr. Wolf! Jacks! Marbles! There are loads of possibilities for the future.

Can you guys think of anything that would be perfect for a modern video game?



  1. I liked the mini-games in ME2 at first, then they just got reaaaally repetitive. It’s one thing if they got more challenging as the game progresses, like the pipe games in Bioshock. Yet the difficulty does not increase, if anything it gets easier once you get the upgrades to give you more time on the timer. It just got boring for me.

    And I have to agree with the random blogger about the Mako. I hated it too, the controls were clumsy, it maneuvered like a pregnant sow, and fighting with it was not a pleasant experience for me at all.

    • I remember finding the one in ME repetitive too, but I think it did get harder, it was just that my ability to overcome the increasing difficulty outpaces the increasing difficulty. But I’m not sure.

      I totally disagree about the mako, shooting stuff up in the mako may have been difficult to get used to, but once I was, it was fun as hell. I did all the non base stuff on planets using the heavy cannon, getting out was a waste of time.

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