The presently Japan-only bit Generations series (to be known as the Digiluxe Series in North America) is the Game Boy Advance equivalent of the Nintendo DS’s Touch Generations, both offering easy to pick up games with intuitive controls. The difference with bit Generations is that they all have a minimalist retro-chic tone, coming on black cartridges and in neat little stylised boxes with silver inserts. Did somebody say “Gotta collect ’em all”?
Development of these titles has been handed out to smaller Japanese companies such as Skip (Chibi-Robo) and Q Games (Star Fox Command), with each priced at around a tenner. The initial batch includes puzzlers Coloris, Digi Drive and Dial Hex; the Pong-like Boundish; gravity-based planet sucker Orbital; and Sound Voyager, a game that requires the use of your ears more than your fingers. Going under our proverbial microscope though is Dotstream, a simple – but not quite bare-boned – racing game that mixes mobile phone favourite Snake with Tron’s light-cycles.
After picking a line of any colour you fancy, it’s a case of racing against five other coloured lines in a host of GPs. Dotted around are speed boost pads, a small handful of power ups and something similar to Wipeout’s recharge zone, where your line comes to a standstill while the boost is charged. The twist is that when boosting it’s harder to weave in and out of the objects in front of you. Crash into something and you’re forced to retire with no points gained. The CPU lines, on the other hand, just pause for a few seconds when they crash.
It’s all accompanied by a Rez-style trance soundtrack that sounds decent blaring out of the DS’s twin-speakers. They’re not the most toe-tapping tunes ever to fill our ears, but they suit the vibe of the game pretty well.
Trying to manoeuvre through the tracks with skill and grace is all well and good, but to really get a move on you’ll need to not only drive in a straighter line than the others, but try to mimic their movements so that you travel adjacently. It’s the subtle tricks required to get ahead of the pack which make Dotstream the curio it is.
Naturally there are gripes to be had – the races start off quite slow, and for the most part all you’re doing is holding a button down until an object comes along – but they don’t distract from the fact that it’s a clever bit of coding. And there’s not a jot of Japanese text to stop you enjoying it to the full. Hooray!