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42 All-Time Classics

For: DS

The answer to life, the universe and everything

Product: 42 All-Time Classics | Developer: Agenda | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: Card/ board game, Casual, Party/ mini- games | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe
42 All-Time Classics DS, thumbnail 1
We've all had terrible experiences playing board and card games: abject Boxing Day Monopoly sessions with the extended family (because it's easier to make small talk about the rent at Park Lane than varicose veins); miserable wet weather room breaks at school receiving knuckle raps merely because you ended up with the 'scabby' queen.

Not much value in revisiting such memories in digital form? Think again. Nintendo's 42 All-Time Classics is a refreshing antidote to stodgy big-budget titles and as perfect a portable compilation as one could imagine.

These aren't just board games refined and passed down through the ages, such as chess, shogi, checkers and backgammon, but an engaging variety of card, gambling, strategy, action, brain teasers, and even word conundrum games.

And it's £20, and there are 42 games. Surely some catch? Nope; with the exception of a couple of lightweight novelties (Soda Shake and Billiards get dunce caps), there's surprisingly little fluff in this captivating goodie bag.

Indeed, after giving each game just one try, you will come to a heart-warming conclusion – this compilation has oceanic depth. If there aren't at least ten games that will appeal to your particular sensibilities and have you hooked for the next six months, then you are either dead or Jack Thompson (The US anti-gaming lawyer – fact-checking Ed).

You can get directly stuck into the games with Free Play, while three additional modes add structure to your gaming sessions.

Stamp mode asks you to play every single game in turn, with one win or three losses enough to gain the required number of stamps to move onto another game, unlocking some of the more advanced games and the harder difficulty settings as you go.

Mission mode provides a number of challenges – for example, get three strikes in a row at Bowling or complete Mahjong Solitaire in less than three minutes.

Finally there are the joys of the Wi-Fi battle mode, which uses Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection online service. It's here where the brilliance of 42 All-Time Classics shines through, because no matter how trivial some of the games are, they become utterly compulsive against human opponents.

Take darts for instance. Played against the CPU it feels like a war of attrition, your feeble flicked stylus movements translating, usually, into pretty inaccurate, drunken arrow throws. Against global competitors though you get your eye in and start hitting the bulls and doubles with surprising frequency. It never loses a slight random feel, but then darts has always been the enemy of the nervy-handed.

The ability to taunt and chat to other users is welcome too, and the online ranking system is streamlined, adding motivation to practice sessions and all-night Wi-Fi tournaments alike.

But it's also here where some flaws creep in. Drop-outs are an annoyance and, as all losses are recorded, some players are unwilling to stick around until the final card is dealt (as seems to be the case with most DS Wi-Fi Connection games, unfortunately).

Should Nintendo be blamed for human nature? Perhaps some deterrent could have been (or will be) implemented. Still, search hard and you will eventually find a group of individuals willing to duke it out for an hour or more. After that you can always rely on the people you've added to your Friends List.

The only other negative is the varying competence of the CPU: sometimes sadistically competent (Shogi), sometimes woefully inept (Chess). But because there are so many games to choose from (and three difficulty settings), you will find a game and level that suits you. That's the strength of this compilation – it's so well engineered that you will still be exploring its subtleties and options after weeks of dedicated play.

To conclude, a run down of the full list of games, with a one word review of each: Old Maid (scabby), I Doubt It (intense), Pig (frantic), Memory (agonising), Spit (hysterical), Sevens (elementary), Blackjack (primitive), Hearts (dirty), President (gruelling), Rummy (ace), Seven Bridge (clever), Last Card (lasting), Last Card Plus (hilarious), Five Card Draw (paradigmatic), Texas Hold 'Em (fashionable), Nap (tricky), Spades (simple), Contract Bridge (ultimate), Chinese Checkers (satisfying), Checkers (draughty), Dots And Boxes (square), Hasami Shogi (deep), Turncoat (addictive), Connect Five (distinctive), Grid Attack (sunken), Backgammon (magnificent), Chess (Marmite), Shogi (labyrinthine), Field Tactics (strange), Ludo (ludicrous), Soda Shake (flat), Dominoes (entertaining), Koi Koi (matchless), Word Balloon (popular), Bowling (striking), Darts (harrowing), Billiards (screwed), Balance (middling), Takeover (toe-curling), Solitaire (tranquil), Escape (puzzling), Mahjong Solitaire (magnificent).
42 All-Time Classics
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 1 November 2006
Judged on fun, depth and the amount of recharges you'll be forcing into your DS, 42 All-Time Classics is a winning formula. We heart it.
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