So, I’ve had a DS for a while and I reckon it’s time to give my verdict.
I bought myself a black DS Lite, Brain Training, Tetris and Metroid Prime: Hunters.
The gizmo looks wonderful – however, after a few hours a dead pixel appeared on my top screen. Not good.
Moving on I found myself playing Tetris quite a lot as, after all, the game is a classic. I enjoyed all the modes and found PUSH to be the most enjoyable and workable of the new additions. I found the layer upon layer of in-your-face Nintendo iconography added into the game to be totally unnecessary and a little worrying. In a few years from now there will be, I’m sure, a new wave of fanboys insisting that, amongst other things, Tetris was invented by Nintendo. As someone who has played Tetris since it’s earliest Western incarnation (C64 – courtesy of Mirrorsoft) I’m not going to let anyone, least of all Nintendo, try to steal Tetris’ thunder. The game is great and cleanly presented on the marvelous DS Lite screens. In terms of gameplay everything is present and correct, my biggest gameplay gripe is that the ‘hold piece’ function isn’t really necessary and adds nothing particularly useful to the game (and can be too easily used unintentionally). Crucially the ‘infinite spin’ game mechanic is in this version of Tetris and also damages the original play balance in my eyes.
Brain Training is precisely what I knew it would be. Daily puzzles that are nicely presented with some contrived cuteness and a ‘sticky’ factor to encourage the player to come back for more. For me, there’s not much there that’s particularly clever or interesting. The game is a success in Japan mainly thanks to the receptive audience and the timing of the release. The pseudo-scientific spiel the game spouts is pretentious nonsense – as much as those adverts for cereals that “help to keep a healthy heart” or work “as part of a calorie controlled diet”. Yeah, regular excersize is good – for mind body and soul. Just because thousands of lazy gamers can barely read or write doesn’t mean this game is going to make anyone intelligent. Don’t believe the hype and don’t believe that, just because it’s big in Japan it’s amazing. After all, they gave us Karaoke didn’t they?
Sodoku’s nice. But it could be nicer if input and navigation weren’t solely based on stylus control. There’s a d-pad that might let me navigate the zoomed-in view of the grid but the game doesn’t use it. Instead I have to tap the edge of the screen each time I want to move one square in any direction. Or I can zoom out and zoom in again. Would have been easier with D-pad support.
Metroid Prime: Hunters. Ugh. Wonderful presentation – doing what Nintendo do very well – taking some musical themes, jazzing them up and dropping them into another game in a series. Really nice FMV. Absolutely impossible to play if you’re left handed. The control isn’t very comfortable (an issue compounded by the DS Lite’s form-over-function design) and just not very intuitive. Perhaps it’s ok for right-handers. I’m not one of those.
I decided that Metroid Prime Hunters and a dead pixel were enough reason for me to walk back into the GAME store I bought the goods from. The staff were exceptionally helpful and replaced the unit immediately and also allowed me to swap Metroid Prime: Hunters for Mario and Luigi – Partners in Time. I’m enjoying this new game far more than Metroid.
I’d enjoy playing the DS more if it wasn’t so uncomfortable to hold. The unit is heavy enough to demand two handed play (or a flat surface to rest it on) and, in adult hands I’m finding gripping the thin unit, having my index fingers over the shoulder buttons and also pushing my thumbs up to the surface buttons to be rather uncomfortable rather quickly. I’d play the Mario and Luigi game more but, unlike any other system I’ve ever used, it’s simply too uncomfortable. I’ve also played New Super Mario Bros – a game where the player might choose to hold down a surface button to make the character run for most of the game. Doing so induces painful cramp after a couple of levels. I don’t regard my hands as particularly large or malformed so I have to wonder if the unit has suffered in its redesign to look like a sexy Apple product. Perhaps it’s Nintendo’s way of forcing people to play with the stylus. Either way I’m thinking that some where along the line they forgot about what your typical western adult is going to feel comfortable holding. For those of you with small hands – good for you.
- Wonderful screen quality
- Exceptionally good audio quality
- Backwards compatibility
- Too uncomfortable for me to have extended gaming sessions on
- Sound quality suffers due to speakers
- Sleek design made hideously ugly the moment you take advantage of backwards compatibility
- Terrible 3rd party western support (can you say ‘Spongebob’ or ‘kart’?)
I will, however, love this as much as I love my GBA due to the Flash Linker that I am trying out – more on that in a later post.