What’s better than playing a fun video game? The answer is playing a fun game within a video game. If an arcade or casino exists in a game, you can bet that the programmers took the time to implement several minigames for the player to check out. Sometimes, the staff may be taken aback when players begin dedicating more time to these minigames than the larger one they paid actual money for.
Now, despite blatantly referencing The Simpsons in the name of this post, I tend to hate it whenever slot machines show up in video games. I know that whenever they do, the developers are going make players gamble special tokens in an attempt to win prizes that can only be purchased with said tokens. The prizes in question tend to be absurdly powerful equipment or other useful items that can’t be found anywhere else. So in lieu of completing a sidequest or some other test of skill, the developers decide to leave your ability to procure these helpful resources to luck (or amassing a lot of money to buy the tokens outright).
This is why when I tried out the SoulSilver Version of Pokémon, I was delighted to learn that the slot machines had been replaced with an actual minigame: Voltorb Flip. It was described in a pre-release review as a cross between Picross and Minesweeper, and I’d say that’s an accurate description. Sure, there is some luck involved – especially when you manage to win several games in a row, but the game is surprisingly addicting. While I normally would ignore the slot machines in the original games, I found myself playing several rounds of Voltorb Flip; like Minesweeper, it can get surprisingly harrowing when you’re forced to guess.
Interestingly, we have PEGI rating system to thank for this game’s existence. They had stricter guidelines on gambling, and games that encouraged the practice were typically given an 18 or adult rating. Normally censorship isn’t a good thing, but considering that this particular instance forced Game Freak to come up with this fun alternative, I can safely consider it a rare exception. The only downside is that the payout isn’t that great, but at the end of the day, playing the slot machines was purely a means to an end. Voltorb Flip, on the other hand, at least succeeded in making the means themselves enjoyable.
Dragon Quest fans know that series creator Yuji Horii is quite the gambler, hence why so many of his games feature casinos. While my stance on their presence is the same as the above franchise, the remake of Dragon Quest III saw fit to introduce a minigame I quite liked. It’s essentially what would happen if you made Pachisi into a JRPG. Every turn, you roll a die, allowing your character to move the number of spaces rolled. The tiles you land on have different effects, and may even force your character to fight a random encounter. Again, though there is some luck involved, it is a fun diversion from the main game, and the prizes are almost always worth the trip. Better yet, this game would show up in later installments as well – in fact, I played it for the first time in the excellent DS remake of Dragon Quest V.
I have always enjoyed it whenever developers hide their older efforts in a game as an Easter egg. If it’s an especially good game, you can find yourself rediscovering a beloved classic and appreciate how much the developers have evolved since then.
In other cases, you can use the opportunity to discover a game you may not have experienced back when it was released.
Though there are technically two different developers at work in this case, I had such an experience with Rare’s Donkey Kong 64. In the game’s third stage, you can find a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. It’s not just there as a prop either; by spawning a lever in front of it, you can play the game for yourself. This was the first time I ever got to play Shigeru Miyamoto’s debut title, and I was taken aback by how difficult it was compared to the main game. Then again, it also only gives you one life with which to complete the first four stages. If you’re successful, you obtain a Golden Banana – the Donkey Kong 64 equivalent of a Puzzle Piece, Power Star, or Shine Sprite.
Strangely, unlike most examples of this trend, playing the precursor is actually required to complete the main game. Completing a second round with only one life nets the player a coin that is required to reach the final boss. Either way, I found myself attempting to clear the game several times before I was successful to the point where I forgot I was playing Donkey Kong 64.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you ever immersed yourself in a minigame to the point where you forgot about the game surrounding it entirely?