Mini games and handheld gaming should, in all honesty, go hand in hand perfectly, short sharp burst of fun are often just what handheld gamers want to help distract them on bus rides and tea brakes. So in theory releasing a collection of addictive fun mini games onto the PSP at an attractively cheap price seems like a great idea, and while it probably is, it's a shame that Kazook isn't the game to prove it.
Kazook offers thirty simple arcade style mini games most of which are variations on classics templates like Duck Hunt, Whack-a-Rat, Go-Karts and Air Hockey. Even having taken such gaming staples as inspiration the quality of the games varies, while none of them are dreadful many of them do suffer from minor technical annoyances like sloppy feeling controls or bad collision detection which takes some of the fun away. On the plus side they are all incredibly simple and can be picked up and played by pretty much anyone regardless of their gaming prowess. The designers have happily pilfered every cliché around when it comes to character and level design and with everything seemingly passed through a perceived 'wacky' filter the feeling of forced jollity and attempted coolness does start to grate fairly quickly. However, if you're 13 years old or can stomach such things then, to give the developers credit, the graphics are nice and detailed and on the PSP's wide screen they look great, there are also fun little touches like the Michael Jackson style zombies that appear sometimes during the zombie shoot that raised a smile even on this reviewers face.
Playing games and getting high scores earns you cash that can be spent on unlocking new games, characters and skins. Unfortunately despite having thirty games available by making only a few of them playable at the start developers Monte Cristo seem to have done their best to restrict the enjoyment right from the off. Earning cash to unlock new games is a fair enough design choice but by limiting players to such a small number of games to begin with (games that by their very nature aren't exactly engrossing in the long term) there is a very real risk of having them grow bored before they earn enough cash to unlock many of the other twenty odd other games available. By simply making more of the games playable from the start playing Kazook would be much less of a grind and in a game designed for short bursts of play any kind of grind seems an obviously bad thing. That perennial bugbear of PSP games, loading times, rears its ugly head again as well, while the loading of the games themselves isn't too bad every menu screen seems to take almost as long to load making moving from game to game and screen to screen a frustrating experience.
The multiplayer side of things is one area where it's hard to fault Kazook, most of the games offer WiFi multiplayer and a few even support the rarely used game sharing option meaning a friend with a PSP can join in even if they don't have a copy of the game. The ability for more than one person to play hot-seat style on one PSP is nice too and all in all the multiplayer aspects of Kazook do go some way to improving the game as a whole as it's always more fun to compete against your friends for the high scores, it's just a shame that the games themselves aren't better implemented. However, most of the games will happily pass ten minutes here or there despite their flaws but none really have that 'one more go' hook that packages like this rely on. Even with all the games unlocked its questionable how much replay value there is once you've had a few goes on each of them, but that's more of a problem with mini game bundles as a whole than with Kazook in particular.
To put it simply, if the idea of thirty very simple arcade games with no real objective other than good old fashioned high score setting appeals and you can put up with the strained atmosphere of craziness then you may get some fun out of this well presented but ultimately flawed collection. With many better games out there competing for your money this Christmas there really is very little to recommend Kazook and if you still feel the need for a mini game collection on your PSP come the new year then the far more interesting looking Hot PXL and WorkTimeFun will be just around the corner.
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