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The Best of Entertainment Pack

Score: 40%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Electrosource
Developer: Classified Games/Saffire
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

While the GBC isn't exactly a graphical powerhouse, The Best of Entertainment Pack doesn't exactly tax the machine either. The card games use almost indecipherable tiny pictures to represent the images; while I understand the need to shrink it down for the screen, surely something could have been done to make the hearts and diamonds a little more differentiable. LifeGenesis, Minesweeper, and TicTactics were never graphical powerhouses to begin with, and they don't lose much with the translation. SkiFree, while an action game, never shone very strong with the visuals either; unfortunately, while the graphics on the GBC are nice enough, you see so little of what's coming up that it's almost impossible to control the game. Argh.

With a few notable exceptions, GBC sound isn't particularly enthralling, and Entertainment Pack continues that trend. Beeps and bloops are pretty much all that's there in the music, and most of the games use the same track. I found myself turning down the volume almost as soon as I started playing. These aren't the sorts of games that need music anyways.


Unfortunately, these aren't the sorts of games that needed translation to the GBC either--at least in the form found in The Best of Entertainment Pack. Atrocious controls, a useless instruction book (and in-game help that's not much better), and both a selection and implementation of games that leaves much to be desired make The Best of Entertainment Pack a collection that only the diehards will enjoy, not the average user.

Do a quick search on the Internet for the original Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack and you'll find a much more solid collection of games. Chip's Challenge is perhaps the crown jewel out of all four Entertainment Packs; you can't beat Tetris either. What do we get on this cartridge? Three card games which, if better implemented, would have been fun; Minesweeper, another victim of poor implementation; LifeGenesis, perhaps one of the most confusing 'games' ever put out in an Entertainment Pack, even for those of us intimately familiar with Conway's Game of Life; TicTactics, a short-lived amusement once you realize that two of the three offered games are almost set in stone; SkiFree, a bad implementation of a game that never really flipped my skirt.

Let's start with the card games. Almost anyone who's touched a Windows box in the past few years has given FreeCell a good play or two. It's probably the best title on the cartridge; the small interface doesn't significantly impact the gameplay. What bothered me is that the people who did the Help file for the game didn't even seem to do any research on the Web; it's been proven that one of the games (#17 . . . some big number) is in fact unsolvable with the options given in the MS implementation of the game. This is a pretty minor gripe, though. The other two solitaire games, while mildly entertaining, don't have the same pure strategy feel that Freecell has. I'd rather play Klondike.

Things basically go downhill from here. Minesweeper, while enthralling on the computer, is annoying on the GBC. All of the grids are the same size, and the 'step' function of the control pad is downright obnoxious for such a large playing field. The same goes for TicTactics, where I found games taking three or four times longer than they usually did on the computer because of the lack of mouse control. [Not to mention the fact that the game is almost completely pointless; even the 4x4x4 game has been solved.] LifeGenesis is eminently confusing, and the lack of good documentation on how to get it into game mode is annoying. I found myself just constantly tapping the jump button in SkiFree, unable to see where I was going and passing up almost everything on the course until the Yeti finally ate me.


The only real difficulty in The Best of Entertainment Pack comes from the controls. Many of these games were almost designed around a mouse paradigm; transforming that into straight D-pad controls using 'steps' just doesn't work. Minesweeper becomes frustrating instead of Zen-like; TicTactics is much the same. Adding to the frustration is the nearly undiscernible cards, which caused me no small frustration in Freecell.

Game Mechanics:

As stated above, the core problem with this collection is that games meant for mouse control do not lend themselves to the scheme chosen for The Best of Entertainment Pack. I would have preferred a 'mouse control', done by the D-pad. Sure, it would have been a little more inaccurate, but at least I wouldn't feel locked in like I do with the steps. The instruction book is woefully inadequate; the in-game help is nice enough, but it seems almost directly ported from the PC versions, and leaves out important information like the manipulation of the pause menus. The collection of games is also not particularly impressive, but I suppose we'll have to wait for someone to put out Chip's Challenge on the GBA--never mind the fact that it was released on the Atari Lynx years ago.

If I seem bitter, it's because this cart could have been much more than it is. Instead of a look at some of the best games collected in the various Microsoft Entertainment Packs, The Best of Entertainment Pack feels like a quickly thrown-together collection of easy-to-implement titles, without regard to UI issues or, simply, fun. While it's nice to have a portable version of Freecell, that's just about the only thing I found myself coming back to on this cartridge; the rest feels like weak filler. Chances are good you'd feel you wasted your money on this one.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

GameBoy Color/Pocket Magi-Nation GameBoy Color/Pocket Microsoft Pinball Arcade

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated