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In a near-perfect world where every driver respects right-of-way and the rules of the road, there is still conflict arising when no one seems to be able to choose the right lane to enter in a four-way intersection. How will the world be perfect with this disorganized chaos? Our answer is Digidrive.
Digidrive is the only game in the bit Generations series created by Q-Games, a successor development team to Argonaut Games, best known for their Nintendo projects: Star Fox, X, and Stunt Race FX, as well as the Super Nintendo’s FX chip technology itself. Q-Games had developed the sequel to X, X-Scape, Star Fox Command, and their own Pixeljunk series (essentially their own take on the entire bit Generations line-up). Both teams were led by Dylan Cuthbert and often their games are focused on aesthetically pleasing ideals, making Digidrive a perfect non-Skip fit for the affordably priced games of the series.
Digidrive greatly emphasizes sleek and stylish in the form of traffic and fuel management, yet it may look quite confusing at first glance. The basic structure has you managing this previously mentioned intersection and tasks you with sorting three types of cars into the lanes with the D-Pad. By sorting five of a single type into one lane, it will become designated for just that type. From there it’s really up to the player on keeping everything under control, so how can one go about it?
Every built lane has a timeout with greater amounts of fuel causing it to run out faster, by sending more of the right car into the lane the timeout will delay itself. How does the fuel work you may ask? In a single lane every five shapes will add more fuel to it, causing the stock to go from a triangle to a square, then a pentagon, followed a hexagon, and ending on a circle. The circles can be filled to a maximum, but can have other circles piled on top of them for a multiplier of “x?” (technically x10). How does piling work? With two built lanes you can send a shape of the incorrect color down it to merge the fuel in it with the other built lane; this is called a combo. Take care not to do this with only one lane as giving it the wrong shape will completely delete the fuel; just as a timeout will. Three lanes proves to be very efficient in that breaking one will actually double the fuel and add it to the other two lanes (double combo); an easy way to rack up circles, and also explaining why they time out rapidly. Four lanes starts an event called “Overdrive” in which any car that comes down the right lane will be added directly to the fuel stock, breaking any lane will end Overdrive and rewards the player with an attack shape in addition to shipping out the fuel free of charge.
Attack shapes are flashing cars fitted with sirens that ship out the fuel in the lane it goes down. They appear every now and then and can also be held by the player, for a maximum three of their own for use with the A button. In the single-player mode, the fuel is used to propel a “dual core” on the right side of the screen into the air and is constantly at the risk of destruction from a rising plunger. The dual core’s height in the air is measured in meters and acts as your score, furthermore, every 5000 meters risen will also add attack shape to the player’s reserve. In the two-player mode the core is placed in between the two opponents, with the goal being to shoot the core with your fuel and push it towards your enemy’s side.
“VS 2P” / ”VS COM” features the same gameplay as “SINGLE”, intersection-wise, and is played on a best-out-of-three basis. It also features various power-ups to use on yourself or the opponent, and are given to be accessed by the B button whenever fuel is shot out at the core. Simple items like that of the “Instant Attack” are easy to understand, although items like the “Shield”, which blocks any fuel shot by anyone, need quick reflexes in order to be used well.
Drastically slows the speed of your opponent’s cars while maintaining the timeout rates, meaning someone will most definitely lose some fuel along the way.
Cuts all of your opponent’s stock in half, for example, a full circle will become a half circle.
Doubles the user’s stock.
A very common item that quickly pushes the core less than a millimeter away from the user; essentially useless.
Its strength depends on the value of the user’s fuel stock. Provides a similar, yet more efficient effect than the Instant Attack.
Takes your opponent’s power-up item.
A rarer item that can either earn you a victory or loss. Swaps all of your built lanes / fuel with your opponent’s.
Stops the core from moving entirely, requires decent timing to be used effectively.
Not a real power-up, but instead a defense mechanism that uses any and all fuel one has to protect them from a loss when the puck hits their side of the screen.
Digidrive has a few other convenient things to take note of, instead of a sleep mode, the developers included a “CONTINUE” option that is activated whenever the GBA is shut off during play, and it, thankfully, saves your exact stock readings. As with Boundish, Digidrive also supports a single-cartridge, “DOWNLOAD” mode. For the receiver, there is no music, voice effects, or skins; low-resolution backgrounds and puck designs, and pleasing 8-bit renditions of the sound effects heard during normal play, done once again to scale the game into the GBA’s small RAM. Unlike Boundish the receiver is limited to the “VS 2P” mode with no “VS COM” added.
The gameplay always keeps a nice pace with the aforementioned “perfect world right-of-way” allowing for mistakes to only come from the player and never the game. Cars running into the wrong lane while another one is being been broken stops it dead in its tracks and deletes it. The dual core also drops a few meters (or moves closer to your side in “VS 2P”) whenever a lane is broken, so there is a risk to be taken when making double combos or accidentally breaking lanes.
Digidrive, as previously mentioned in the “DOWNLOAD” paragraph, has neat customizability in the several skin packs on offer, and it's not DLC either, it’s unlockable. The three-toned skins have plenty of pleasurable themes such as food, the seasons, or even retro Game Boy and NES themes, just to name a few. The five best scores in “SINGLE” are saved in a rankings table for anyone that enjoys beating their own scores, and there are also three unlockable voices and five musical selections to choose from when playing. Digidrive’s compositions were handled by Nintendo SPD 3’s Toshiyuki Sudo who, at the time, had just finished working on the scores for Mitchell Corporation's Polarium, Polarium Advance, and Magnetica. The five themes range in zeal from the electronica of “Chiasma”, jazzy “Bloog”, glitchpop “Vedo”, avant-garde “17:42”, and the sitar-littered “Monomosquo”. The music develops and the sound effects change as fuel stock levels rise, ensuring that nothing heard will grow repetitive, and it’s simply really fun to hear guitar strums, choir chimes, and more from the lane deposits.
This game looks really hieroglyphic at first, yet it is a blast to play with all of the modes you would expect and ask for from a wacky concept such as this. Again, a traffic simulator? No, a fun arcade-like experience that does not look like much, but is more about substance in innovative gameplay and style in visuals and sound than story and characters. For a bit Generations title, Digidrive manages to be a bit easier to find and purchase, and for such an affordable game, everyone is getting a ton of bang for their buck.
Games have generally always been about either two things, gameplay and visuals. Now recently, there have been stories and important characters thrown into the mix. What if all of these things were gone and instead the games were just focused on what a man by the name of Wassily Kandinsky believed was best, music, better yet its major component, sound. Soundvoyager has the ability to take any individual on a journey into themselves as they seek true synesthesia with these sounds, and is the only bit Generations title with a properly capitalized name.
Beginning with a minigame called “sound catcher”, the voyage begins and offers its goods in the form of a tree diagram. Between each event, you are tasked to aurally choose where to go next, and things will progress as so until you reach the soothing end of one of the seven branches. This means the game is nonlinear and allows for continuous progression or quick choosing of what to play after a level has been unlocked. There are a total of fifteen different sound catching adventures to go on, in addition to six other types of mellisonant minigames, with each of those having only three levels a piece.
The main mode of the game; truly brings out the deep and relaxed “sound voyaging” aspect of it. Sounds approach the player from above and it is their job to make sure that its sound is balanced between their two ears in order to catch it and add it to a song that slowly opens up and evolves. The sounds begin to fall in line (or quantize) with each other to create a well synchronized harmony and rhythm, with songs always ending on its main melody. It may be here when one takes notice that headphones are the only real way to play Soundvoyager, as it is very difficult to try and pick out the new and unbalanced sounds from the ones already playing in the background.
Being the thrill seeker that you are, you decide to drive down a five-lane freeway against its direction and at the speed of sound. With your only sight as for where to go being the sounds hear, you must veer in and out of the lanes taking caution not to crash into cars, cattle, and passive-aggressive pedestrians who will not hesitate to give you a beat down. For the hardcore daredevils, or players who want a faster time (yay, it’s recorded!), the A button can be used to accelerate and further risk your life.
Again you're blinded and have gone slalom skiing in the matrix of Soundvoyager. You realize that the slaloms have been made audible by two alternating beeps and proceed to pass through them as fast as can you with the A button while listening to a melody comprised of square waves.
The first minigame in Soundvoyager to use 3-D sound technology. Each stage has ten sounds to take down before they reach the player. It starts off easy enough with sounds heading straight towards you, but eventually has them darting back and forth around the space before moving forward, with the best way to deal with these being to wait for them to center when shooting. There isn’t any background noise, and so “sound cannon” can cause terror from being circled by roaring lions. No need to worry though, shoot them and they will become innocent kittens.
After your young habits of speeding down freeways in the opposite direction have ended, you decide to join the police force and chase after criminal sounds (you know the ones, pianos and string sections). The dilemma is that you are still pretty thick headed when it comes to freeways and end up chasing the criminals against the flow of traffic once again, but it’s okay, you’re on the side of justice right?
In a room there are sounds, sounds that you must hunt down and touch in order to add them to your little groove. They do not emanate consistently, and so you must listen for them; carefully and quietly.
GAH! Now the sounds are moving, and they’re roosters. Don’t worry about making them angry though; just track the noisy things down and catch them. Do not take too long either, or else you’ll begin to pant from fatigue and later faint.
sound catcher levels
This writer will now convert each of the fifteen “sound catcher” levels into words, just note that it still won’t do the experience justice, nor does listening to the songs on Youtube.
A digital journey into the unknown, you might be in a virtual reality or blasting off into space; the interpretation is up to you, making “voyage” a great introduction to the game.
“Ooooooh, Ooooooooooh, Ooooooh, Ooooooooooh”, gives a welcome vocal opening followed by a wave of ambient sound. The short song doesn’t hesitate to get into 90’s new wave action and is closed off with a melody provided by a muted trumpet.
rain race dub
Starts out with a jazzy bass line and blaring trumpet. The six minute jam is slowly overtaken by thundering clouds, speedy cars, and a slow-moving beat, hence “rain race dub”.
You know it’s electric from the beeps at the beginning; the chainsaw might be the fate of the loud goats and cows heard during the song. However, there is a morning sunrise with birds chirping followed by a frantic beat and electricity.
If you had to imagine what crystals sounded like when they make noise, this is what they would do. What follows is a host of strange artificial noises, creating a sweet picture of fractoluminescence in a nutshell.
Opens with a clarinet playing in a Lydian Pentatonic (Chinese) scale backed by an edgy pan flute. The addition of a bass line and twinkling percussion evolve its minimalism into something more.
Here’s something, believe the title. “odd” is just that, odd plus a few other odd things with its plethora of synthesized wonders resembling something of a modern modernist movement. Think Pablo Picasso and cubism.
The avant-garde vocoding at the beginning envelopes the slap bass line perfectly, not to mention the tranquil environment shown by the bossa nova beat added. It’s calm, but isn’t short on the enjoyability and complexity.
Alas, the nomad, with his (or her) poverty is famished and is never happy. The sad theme could have been a groundbreaking love song in the 80’s.
As well once more! The sad nomad is happy and is making their trek up a rock-laden mountain. Their happiness is given away by the groove of it all and the relaxed saxophone melody.
A computer malfunctioning? Great, now you get to hear repulsing liquidizing who-knows-what noises. Or maybe it’s just another day in the world of trippy glitchpop. There’s many ways to interpret this, and the "sound catcher" levels only get more difficult interpret from here on out.
Quite possibly the strangest “sound catcher” entry. It’s more a of a weird jam session or ritual amongst colleagues as they continue to throw in odd rhythms and melodies. Weird fumbling noise? Check. Castanets and organ? Check. Let’s not forget the guy zapping himself and shouting “OW!” followed by a lady giggling at his misfortune.
Basically an eccentric sequel to “vesper” with plenty of African drums. The piano runs and other points of liveliness can effortlessly make one joyous.
The best instructors give their lessons on the banks of rivers. Today, you’ll be taking a course in samba, and will feature a triangle, flute, trumpet, a drum set, and a good ol’ synth to patch things up. Now we have got ourselves a jazz lesson.
The only “sound catcher” level played directly after another catcher song, with no other sound game in between. It uses plenty of elements similar to ones heard in the previous songs, and it’s all put to good use in a lively game of baseball.
Visuals in Soundvoyager are little to none. Look at the screen while playing and what do you see? A wave at the top that shows how close the falling sound is to the bottom edge of the screen; horizontal and vertical blips in the centers of the screen that possibly mark where tempo and panning lie respectively, and this appears in the staff credits as well so this may not be the case, and lastly squares and pluses of various colors giving a hint for a sound’s volume. The visuals of Soundvoyager shouldn’t even exist, as this could have been an attempt at a game that is fully accessible by the blind, like Kenji Eno’s Real Sound: Kaze No Regret.
Sound, as anyone is concerned, is of extremely high quality for a Game Boy Advance title, and strays away from sounding like cheap MIDI engines. The boundaries featured in the sound games, e.g., “sound drive” and “sound picker”, have been made audible with static noise to prevent listeners from believing they have more space to roam than there is given.
As far as extras go there is a “remix” mode (unlocked after completing one branch) that allows listeners to mix and match sounds in an endless “sound catcher” game. The staff credits theme gives a good idea of what can be made and is mostly made up of sounds previously heard in the game. “shuffle” continuously plays the “sound catcher” songs at random; a neat choice for anyone being indecisive with what to listen to, and is unlocked along with the staff credits after all seven branches have been completed.
Soundvoyager offers each player a canvas to let them fill their minds with visual or synesthetic representations of what’s heard. It’s an experience that had never been seen, or heard, before, and still hasn’t been found since. It can not be praised enough for its endeavors and the enlightenment it brings.
Its marketing campaigns were on the shallow side in footage, and it’s hard to blame, what is there to show? As a result of its low sales, Soundvoyager is the most expensive of the series (on eBay at the time of writing) with prices ranging from $30 to $50. Still, be safe and save your money, but note that every cent spent on this game is a cent spent doing something right.
Just as Nintendo often does, the major purpose of the bit Generations series was to sell some Game Boy Micros, and yes, it did work. Not only had it fulfilled its purpose, but it had managed to successfully reword how modern games are made with an emphasis on simple yet rewarding gameplay. This is something that is often done quite excessively nowadays with the influx of minimalist indie games on Steam or Nintendo’s failing Wii U console, however it had been done as a first-party lineup years before the simplistic boom. Skip, and Q-Games, would soon go on to redo this mindset in the Art Style series, which had managed to take the Wii and DSi Shop by storm and was significantly cheaper (and international this time around), with the WiiWare titles all priced at 600 points ($6) and the DSiWare ones at 500 ($5) a pop. The titles feature even more gaming content and concepts, in addition to vastly different recreations of ORBITAL, DIALHEX, DIGIDRIVE, and a sequel to dotstream, being the most popular of the original lineup. As it is its own separate library, let’s save that for another day.
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