As soon as I figured out he was crying over the game, I knew what happened--bad UI made my kid cry. When I first encountered the problem (detailed below), I thought it might be an issue, but I cautiously hoped for the best. Unfortunately, my optimism was defeated by poor user interface design (and a little bad luck).
The problem is evident on the screen below:
Why did anyone think it was a good idea to put the "ERASE DATA" button on the same screen as the button used to start the game ("Main Game")? Even worse, "ERASE DATA" is right under the start button, in the same color, making it really easy for someone to press it by accident if they aren't paying close attention.
It probably would have been smarter to bury the "ERASE DATA" button in the options somewhere, one or two levels down. Keep in mind, this is a game that's suitable for little kids, even if they can't read yet. That said, I warned my son about the button, but he pushed it anyway by mistake. I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.
After he pushed the button, he knew he did something wrong, and was faced with this screen:
In a panic, Rowan wasn't sure which button to press. A red button got him in trouble to begin with, so he thought it was the wrong choice, and it probably didn't help that it was flashing at him ominously. He pushed the less threatening (and non-flashing) green button, and all was lost. Hours of gameplay, wasted. Total crying meltdown...
It might have been better if the 'no/cancel' button was bigger and pre-highlighted, and certainly not flashing red.
On that note, the oft-pressed "Main Game" button should not have been red. Having the most frequently pressed button be red might make players less likely to see red as a warning.
In my experience, Nintendo usually does a great job with usability and user experience. This time however, they dropped the ball. In any case, I helped my son complete all the levels we finished previously, so everything turned out okay, and he got a real life lesson on the consequences of bad design.
With all of that said, Minis March Again! is a great game. I think it's actually quite educational, with lots of problem solving (remember "Lemmings"?) and custom level building to stretch one's creativity. Just watch out for that "ERASE DATA" button, and you'll have lots of fun.
*Special thanks to my Opera-colleague Thomas Ford for suggesting today's blog title.