Sunday 20 June 2021

Classic Compendium 2 (Gizmondo review)

Developer: AI Factory
Publisher: Gizmondo Games
Released: 2005

Classic Compendium 2 is a collection of five board games and the follow-up to the 2005 original title on the Gizmondo.

This time, the games are Eastern-based and include Taipei, Chinese Checkers, Chinese Chess, Shogi and Gomoku. 1-2 players are supported and there's 10 practice levels and 14 computer opponents. You can also choose from a selection of boards, pieces and backdrops, and a rating system measures your progress in each game. As per the first collection, the presentation is extremely lacking with dull menus and zero design flair throughout. The games can also be intimidating to beginners (despite the box art claiming otherwise), as you're always launched straight into play with no tutorial or early-level hand-holding. Sure, there are text-heavy instructions in the sub-menu, but a visual demonstration of what's required to succeed would have been greatly appreciated to immediately engage newcomers. This is a much bigger oversight than you might expect, as many of these Eastern-based games will be unfamiliar to Western audiences, something that wasn't such a huge issue with the original Classic Compendium title. Despite this, the selection of games on offer is decent with enough variety in each play style to keep puzzle fans interested and entertained. I do like how 'next move' hints are available in games such as Taipei, as well as the ability to rewind previous steps in Chinese Checkers. Another neat feature that's ideal for a handheld platform is the option to save your progress and pick up at a later date. The calming music is also perfectly suited to the relaxed atmosphere, although curiously there's zero sound effects during play which makes everything seem rather lifeless.

Classic Compendium 2 is a no-frills experience that's incredibly dry from a presentational standpoint and it does a poor job of teaching newcomers how to actually play the games. However, those who are familiar with them (or puzzle fans looking for something different) should get some enjoyment out of this compilation.

Random trivia: As of 2021, AI Factory still creates puzzle games for various platforms including Android smartphones.

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