The beauty of download services, such as DSiWare, is that developers can create content that would never work in a fully-fledged “box and shelf” style game, but as a download is a decent investment. Mixed Messages is a perfect example of this.
The premise of the game is exceedingly simple – get a group of friends together, and pass the DS to one of them. The first player will be presented with a random sentence. He or she has to draw a picture to describe that sentence, then pass the DS on to the second player, who will no longer be able to see the original sentence, and must come up with a new sentence to describe what he or she sees on the screen. The next person draws a picture to describe the new sentence, and so on – up to 21 players can join in.
Once everyone has had a go, the game allows you to see, from start to finish, the direction the Chinese whispers-type story has taken – usually to utterly hilarious results. Games can be saved to play back at a later date, too.
With a cheerful presentation, and a helpful in-game instruction which offers up ideas for alternative ways to play, the game is a very neat and classy package.
The problem is that that is it – there's nothing more to this game. There's no single player mode – in fact, unless at least five people join in, the overall fun and scope of the game is limited. There's also no online mode, which is understandable, considering part of the fun of the game is playing in the company of friends.
It's not even really a game, since there are no winners or losers.
One idea that would have been neat would have been the ability to save games to a SD card, and then upload them as images to a Facebook or Myspace, since sharing the results is 90 per cent of the fun of Mixed Messages, and nothing shares with friends quite like Facebook.
Mixed Messages is a quick party game. It's great fun in a large group, and while it would be hard to recommend as a full off-the-shelf purchase, as a $5 download, it's a great application to have stored on the DSi for those occasions where you do find yourself with a lot of company.