If your idea of enjoying the outdoors this summer primarily involves locating the shadiest spot to plop down and bust out your PSP, it's understandable that you might be feeling the itch for a few new distractions to fill the hours – especially since the system's retail release schedule is quite empty (at least in the States) until Madden drops at the end of August. Perhaps sensing the opportunity to fill in the grim void during these warm months, Frima Studio collected its five existing Minis titles for a massively discounted Awesome Summer Minis Bundle, which recently hit the PlayStation Store for just $4.99.
Frima has been one of the more prolific developers for the oft-ignored Minis service, which serves up bite-sized games playable on both PSP and PlayStation 3, and it earned a bit of warranted praise for last year's quirky and amusingly titled A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks. That budget release stands tall again in this collection, as the solid shoot-'em-up action and stellar voice acting and mid-mission quips combine to form a well-crafted experience, which could easily command more than a mere two dollars.
Above: A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks is easily the best of the bunch
Beyond that, though, the reportedly "awesome" bundle falters with games that are small not only in stature, but in well-executed ideas. As detailed in our original review, Young Thor is an OK side-scrolling beat-‘em-up with decent production values, but it falls a bit flat due to repetitive gameplay and unbalanced attacks that'll have you leaning on one move throughout most of the quick adventure. It's certainly better than the recent Thor: God of Thunder console games (based on the Marvel character), but that's not saying a whole lot.
Sadly, the other titles feel like filler – games we struggled to slog through and will probably never revisit, let alone give any further thought. Zombie Tycoon delivers a couple chuckles with its broadly drawn characters, and the idea of a simplified strategy affair in which you spawn zombies to take over a town seems fruitful on the surface. Unfortunately, the campaign devolves into a dull grind with bland objectives and cumbersome controls, which left us feeling about as lively and excited as one of the undead brigades we struggled to command.
Above: Young Thor: better than Marvel's Thor game, but not by much
But it's the last pair – Widgets Odyssey and Widgets Odyssey II – that really drew our ire, which is unexpected since neither is offensively bad or broken; in fact, the myriad robot characters and mid-mission animations are quite charming throughout. But both platform entries offer improbably dull experiences where you'll trudge through bland, challenge-free levels to collect parts and solve light navigational puzzles while fighting the rigid controls. Each Odyssey unexpectedly turns amusement into mind-numbing melancholy in no time flat.
All five entries demonstrate a keen understanding of how to develop sharp presentational packages on tiny budgets, with smooth cartoon cutscenes, solid voice acting, and decent quips throughout. But even with that notable perk, the Awesome Summer Minis Bundle delivers entertainment in sparing doses - and despite the tiny price, the skyrocketing quality of inexpensive games on all platforms in recent years means we can't cut much slack to dirt-cheap games that simply don't stand out. Our recommendation? Grab A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks separately and put the three extra dollars toward some other PSN game – or sunscreen, for that matter.
Jul 13, 2011