Monday, August 5, 2013

Gaming on a Budget: The Best eShop Games For Only Two Dollars

The 3DS eShop may not be the number one stop for those looking to game cheaply on the go, especially compared to the mobile marketplaces which boast thousands of games completely free of charge, but it shouldn't be completely discounted, as there a handful of quality titles to be found for next to nothing. Many of these titles first appeared in the DSiWare store, but seeing as many gamers went straight from the DS Lite to the 3DS, and because most eShop exclusive games cost more than two dollars,  they may as well be included. Following are the best dirt-cheap games available for download on the 3DS. 

Escapee GO! by Gevo Entertainment GO! manages to create and maintain a sense of tension throughout it's entirety with a few simple mechanics. Players navigate maze-like levels as Claire, an escapee from a mysterious facility while collecting powerups, completing objectives, and avoiding baddies. It's a surprisingly unique concept for such an inexpensive game and there's never a dull moment. Full Review

Gunman Clive by Bertil Hörberg on platforms, shoot enemies, defeat epic bosses, and save the girl. Gunman Clive is a gamer's game, and one that any fan of the industry's classics is sure to enjoy. It's tight level design and consistent pacing make it a satisfyingly challenging experience through and through. It debuted on smartphones, but the addition of two unlockable characters make the eShop version the definitive choice. Full Review 

10 Second Run by Gamebridge

Make it to the end of the level in ten seconds. 10 Second Run is based on this simple premise, but manages to make it surprisingly enjoyable and challenging. The art and game mechanics are minimal, but the level design is where it shines. This one will get the adrenaline going. Dozens upon dozens of deaths will occur all to the player's fault, and that is what makes 10 Second Run satisfying to finish. There is a perpetual challenge in trying to beat one's previous record for each level. Full Review

Alt Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology by Sabarasa

alt play dsiware gravitation"Art game" is a term thrown around often in the gaming world and doesn't seem to have a clear definition. For some, it carries a negative connotation, describing a game where ninety percent of the effort went into the aesthetics, leaving behind a rickety structure daring to call itself a game. To others, an art game is one that makes the player feel something. These tend to fall into two categories: Those which are overly preachy and pretentious, and those that are vague enough to be open to interpretation and don't lecture the player. Semantics aside, if any a game were to rightfully call this genre home, it's Alt Play, consisting of Jason Rohrer's Passage, Gravitation, and Between. Passage and Gravitation are fairly short experiences (five and eight minutes, respectively), single-player experiences while Between is strictly a two-player experience. There are no instructions or clear objectives in any of these works. They're more interactive experience than game, and are not the kind of game one would play for any extended period of time as they're just not made to be that kind of game. They're rich commentaries that will be played once or twice, then perhaps not again for months, if ever. Those adverse to artsy fartsy games should give this one a pass. Otherwise, it's two bucks well spent.

Undead Storm by Gamebridge

Undead Storm is classic arcade zombie-killing action wherein the player takes control of one of four characters to survive five increasingly difficult waves of zombies among three different locations. The game uses 3D models for characters and the environment, which is uncharacteristic of budget games. It plays like a slow-paced twin-stick shooter, which only adds to the tension as the hordes of undead swarm the player. There is a multiplayer function, turning it into a fun co-op zombie-slaying experience. With a variety of enemies, weapons, achievements, and an unlockable "scream" mode with significantly higher difficulty, there's a lot of playtime packed into this arguably underpriced title.

Ninja Karakuri Den by Genterprise

Ninja Karakuri Den is a single-screen arcade-like game that bears an uncanny resemblance to Retro Game Challenge's Haggleman and with only three actions--an air dash, sword slash, and shuriken--manages to make the player feel like a bad-ass ninja. Jumping is automatic, and happens whenever the ninja lands on a platform, each of which can only be used once. When one disappears, another appears in a random spot on the screen. To summon the portal to the next stage, each of the floating gears must be destroyed. There are, of course, enemies attempting to sabotage the player at every turn, and will continually spawn as time passes. There are a total of sixty levels in the game, with each fourth level pitting the player against increasingly difficult boss ninjas. There are unlimited continues, but the game keeps track of how many consecutive stages were cleared before the first game over, as well as the score. This creates an interesting dynamic where the player can choose to fast-clear each stage, or hang around killing enemies as they spawn for as long as can be managed (there is no time limit). There are plenty of reasons to play Ninja Karakuri Den more than once, making it an obvious choice for gamers on a budget.

Glory Days: Tactical Defense by Odenis Studio Days: Tactical Defense is, uncontested, the most technically impressive game on this list. It's a military themed tower defense game wherein various weapons are placed along various paths leading to the player's base in order to prevent the enemies' advances. These units can be upgraded, and need to be maintained as they take damage from enemy fire. In terms of units, Glory Days does nothing to distinguish itself. However, Most games in this genre are sprite-based, while this one uses three-dimensional landscapes which look quite impressive. The more unique aspect is how map navigation is handled. Instead of touching a specific area or navigating along a two-dimensional grid to place a unit, the player rolls a wire frame cube along the ground to the desired location. It works better than it sounds, and is a blast to launch off of hills or bounce into the stage's boundaries while waiting for the next wave of enemies. It's the little things.

Pop Island: Paperfield by Odenis Studio by the same studio that made Glory Days, Pop Island: Paperfield may share the game's engine, but it is a very different game indeed. In short, it's capture the flag on crack, and is purely a blast to play. Players take control of one twelve characters, each with its own land/air/sea advantages, to navigate the terrain of the game's three levels capturing flags, popping firecrackers at enemies to knock them awry, stealing their flags, and finding special weapons to really shake things up. Games like these are best enjoyed with friends, and this one thankfully supports up to seven others using download play! Pop Island: Paperfield is pure fun, and easily worth two dollars.

For gamers looking to get the most game for their buck, the eShop is surprisingly fertile with cheap, quality games. This list represents a tiny fraction of the cheap games on the eShop. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comment section below! 

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