App of the Day: Mini Mix Mayhem

Four-by-fray.

Version tested iPhone

Mini Mix Mayhem's tutorial seems daunting. "This is part one," you could imagine it cheerfully telling you, maybe in Siri's voice. But it would be a ruse. In reality the game only explains the basic rules of each microgame, presented on a four-by-four grid.

Tap the Galaga-esque ship to shoot the aliens. Press down and drag your car to keep it on the road. Shake your mobile device to sink the castle. It's impossible to look at these easy, tiny tasks and not think of WarioWare's own microgames, which started life on the Game Boy Advance. The basic look and silly feel is very much intact.

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Parts two and three of the tutorial aren't any harder, at least in terms of gameplay mechanics. No game in Mini Mix Mayhem is any more difficult than the first you play, but that isn't the hook. What is should be obvious by looking at the screenshots: you have to play all four games on-screen at the same time. What madness hath this wrought, right?

This is also where Mini Mix deviates from WarioWare (sadly at the expense of each microgame continuously speeding up), which isn't to say it's any less strenuous. In fact the four-grid system is easily more taxing. The tutorial lulls you into a false sense of security by initially presenting the games one at a time. Yet soon after the less-than-ten-second clock runs down on your latest game, a second may show up, and just a hair earlier each time.

Then, at the appearance of the third game, new ones begin to appear with greater frequency. What starts as an easy exercise in precision soon becomes an octopus panic as your fingers frantically play Twister on the screen.

How can you possibly be expected to pop balloons with your finger when you've only got a few seconds to pour liquid into a beaker by tilting your device while solving simple math problems and frying zombies with a UFO? And what happens when you have to hold down a water main to save a drowning man while doing a word jumble, navigate a line maze and correctly guess which cup a ring has ended up under after swapping them about?

Your brain and hands stop working in sync. Mini Mix presents itself as a problem you can actually solve; laughably, you can't. You've got a finite amount of hearts and a ticking timer. You will eventually get new hearts for good performance, but, unsurprisingly, the more you have to manically manage multiple actions, the easier it is to fail.

I feel like you'd have to be superhuman to last more than seven or eight minutes at this (on easy mode!), and my only major disappointment is that there isn't any Twitter or Facebook connectivity to share time attack scores. (Though the charming 8-bit style and chippy soundtrack help make up for this.) At the very least Mini Mix seems the perfect rainy day app for a demented drinking game, and there's actually a party mode for the iPad version seemingly made just for such an occasion. Assuming you can get your hands untangled.

App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.

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