Archive for the ‘DS’ Category

Picross DS

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

A while back I talked a bit about Mario’s Picross, a logic puzzler that just gripped me and didn’t let go until my arms had finger-shaped depressions in them. But that game came out back in 1995. I needed a new Picross fix, but I just didn’t realize that I did until I found a copy of this new DS version, simply titled ‘Picross‘.

Picross itself is a logic puzzler where you have a grid. Each row and column has a series of numbers representing how many spaces in that particular row or column are filled in, and where the spaces are. Something like ‘5 2′ would mean that somewhere in that row there are 5 consecutive spaces filled, at least one empty space, and then two more consecutive spaces filled. You have to use the clues and your wits to deduce which squares are filled in, which ones aren’t, and eventually draw some kind of picture.

So, yeah, it’s the same game, but with prettier graphics, no mascot placement to sell more copies, and has stylus controls, which is pretty nice. And you can make your own puzzles, play wirelessly with local folks and get slaughtered by playing against someone online, which is the real draw here.

Hah, draw.

I spent a good portion of my Sunday playing the thing, and it looks like a pretty solid investment so far. Inexplicably, it also uses the Rumble Pak, which is kind of odd, but I like it.


Friday, December 14th, 2007

It’s no big secret that I liked Earthbound, so when I saw a preview for a game that featured a guy that looked suspiciously like a character from Earthbound, I immediately took notice.

Turns out that not only is this game not much like Earthbound, but it’s not very fun either.

What it is is an RPG, in which the Earthbound-like character (he’s rendered in 2-D) pilots a spaceship that crash-lands on a 3-D planet. He then enlists the help of the first random kid he sees to help get back his missing pieces so he can fly away or some such. I stopped caring about this game pretty quickly.

There are two things about this game that I didn’t like, one is the combat. When you get into a fight (the crux of any role playing game) your little guy goes on autopilot. You just kind of sit there while the fight plays out. You get to be in charge of pulling off the occasional special move and healing, but the rest of the fighting is totally automatic (read: ‘boring’). Your stats go up depending on how you do in battle. Get beat up enough, and your defense goes up, things like that. Sounds familiar somehow.

The other thing is the stupid little suits you get to wear. You find outfits occasionally that give you special powers, special powers that you need to advance. Problem is that you can only have one suit on at a time, and to change them you have to go back to crazy professor guy’s ship, which is typically located inconveniently-far from where you are.

I suffered about three hours into this game before I just didn’t care anymore. Odds are pretty slim that it’ll ever make it back into my DS.

New Super Mario Bros.

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

The original Super Mario Bros. is just about as ubiquitous as video games get. The series has diverged a bit from its roots, so it’s nice to see a game that goes back to what kicked it off: somewhat simple, straightforward fun.

Story? Nothing too unexpected, princess gets kidnapped, Mario has to save her.

There are some new additions, like the mushroom that makes Mario huge, and the blue turtle shell that he can duck into and slide around.

I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it except that I really enjoyed it. Much more than Super Mario Sunshine, but we can get into that another day.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

After playing through Circle of the Moon I kind of shied away from the Castlevania series on the old portable systems. Not for any reason other than the portable games in the series, while usually pretty solid in their own right, are all kind of similar lately.

I was a little slow in getting games for the DS, so I missed Dawn of Sorrow on its first release. About a year later, during a particularly pronounced portable game drought I found that the game had been rereleased for a pittance, and at that time, since I had in my possession exactly one pittance, I decided to give it a go.

Turns out that this game is a lot like Circle of the Moon, which is a lot like Symphony of the Night. This isn’t really a bad thing, just more of the same. With one major change: it’s on the DS, so the touch screen is used. The touch screen is used for exactly two things: Clearing away items that impede your progress, and making seals. Clearing the items on the screen to continue is just a nuisance. Once you proceed so far in the game, you gain the ability to scribble away special blocks on the screen. Lame.

The other use for the touch screen is a bit more engaging. As you progress through the game, you will get the ability to draw seals on the screen. This becomes pretty important pretty quickly, since you can’t defeat any boss monsters without them. It works something like this: You beat the monster to near death with the weapon of your choice. It doesn’t quite give up the ghost, but a circle will appear on the screen. Draw the correct seal on the circle and you seal the monster away. It’s a kind of neat concept, but I found myself fumbling around for the stylus and then repeatedly failing to draw the symbol correctly (the later symbols are extremely unforgiving, you have to do them quickly and extremely accurately). Fail to draw it correctly and you have to bludgeon the boss some more before you get another chance.

I should probably mention that I managed to finish the main part of this game in a marathon play session the day I got it (got it in the morning, and finished it up that evening). It was, like most Castlevania games these days: moderately challenging until the final fight, where the difficulty ramps up to a ridiculous level. Then you get some unlockables that entice you to play through it again. Standard stuff.

Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime

Thursday, October 11th, 2007
Rocket Slime

This is a slime. If you’ve logged any time with any of the Dragon Quest / Dragon Warrior games, you are intimately familiar with its grinning visage. This little glob of mucus is the weakest and most common thing you will fight in this game series, so it stands to reason that it would somehow become the mascot for the series, right?

I’m not sure how that happened either.

So, many years later we get a game that stars this little snot-ball, which I just played through. Turns out to be not half bad.

The game goes something like this: Your hero, Rocket, lives in Boingburg, a town populated by slimes, in the kingdom of Slimenia. One day, the town is destroyed, all the inhabitants are kidnapped (except for Rocket, who happened to be away at the time, lucky dog!). He eventually embarks on a quest to rescue the kidnappees, and save the kingdom. You do this in two ways: adventuring around a few stages, collecting items and rescuing your buddies. Occasionally, though, you’ll also have to do battle with a giant tank. Why? Who knows. But it makes the game a bit more complicated. See, during the adventure stages, you can send what amounts to trash back to town, you can use this trash to craft ammunition for your tank.

This game has that ‘pick up and play for a little bit at a time’ thing going for it, which is pretty important for a handheld game. The only thing that I didn’t like about it was that it was a little short on content. I blew through it my first time through in about 10 hours. I managed to do just about everything in that time, too, so I don’t think I’ll be playing it again.

Elite Beat Agents

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

It’s a tough world out there. What do you do when you’re at the end of your rope? When you’ve gotten in over your head and don’t know what to do? Why, you call the Elite Beat Agents for help of course!

The Agents don’t help out directly, however. They stand on the side, dancing with highly choreographed moves to popular(?) music to encourage the people they’re assisting, letting them solve their own problems. You have to help the Agents out by tapping colored circles in time with the song that’s playing. Successful taps will help them dance better and be a better encouragement to the person in need. It’s much easier to show how this game is played rather than explain it, so…

I suppose I should mention that the situations start out normal enough, but eventually turn highly bizarre (i.e. Former baseball star working at an amusement park has to save some kids from a rampaging fire golem. You bet, kid!), all told through sometimes very silly but well done comic book-style animations.

The songs are all cover versions of semi-popular songs. They range from Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi, to Deep Purple’s Highway Star, to Earth, Wind & Fire’s September, to Hoobastank’s Without a Fight. Yeah, it’s varied. Some of the ‘professional’ reviewers didn’t really care for the song selection, but I like it. Keeps things fresh… As fresh as you can keep a 20 year old song, anyway.

Even though I don’t really get into rhythm games that much, I really liked this one. It was silly enough to draw me in, and was well worth the time I spent with it.

Planet Puzzle League

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

This entry is crossposted from my main site.

I’ve been playing a lot of Planet Puzzle League lately. Tetris Attack is one of my all time favorite games, which means that nobody wants to play it with me anymore. So being able to play the game online was a huge selling point for me.

There are 3 ways you can play online: Novice, Free Play, and Birthday Mode. In Novice mode you play against low-skilled players. Do too well, and you’re barred from playing it any more. I got barred after one round.

Free Play pits you against anyone and everyone, and you compete for bragging rights. I was able to find the most opponents here, likely because the battles are not ranked, though that means that you also won’t show up on any leaderboards.


There are leaderboards, but they only show up in online play in the last mode, Birthday mode. This is where you compete with other people that have the same birthday entered into their DS that you do. If my birthday is any indication, it’s currently very easy to be ranked on the leaderboards for your day. I was ranked third in the world after only winning 5 games.

Single player is standard Tetris Attack/Puzzle League fare. If you’ve played this game for other systems, you’ve played this one. The differences are pretty minor. There are no longer any dark blue tiles, for example. All of the standard modes are there: play for 2 minutes, play until you hit the top of the screen, and puzzle mode where you try to clear the screen with a limited set of moves.

The game, by default, makes use of the ‘book’ orientation of the DS, i.e. rotate the thing 90 degrees so it looks like a book with the touch screen over on the right. You can use the stylus or the control pad to control the game. The problem I had with it is that when using the stylus is that it got in the way and I missed some clears. Using the control pad wasn’t really an option, since you had to put your hands at 12:00 and 6:00, which is a little uncomfortable. Turning the display to ‘normal mode’ and eschewing the stylus controls seemed to be the best solution.

Online mode disappointments aside, this is a solid Puzzle League game that takes the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach.


Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Puzzle games are easy to conceptualize: you make the player do some (usually fairly simple) repetitive task over and over until some force makes him stop. The goal being to either not stop for as long as possible, or to solve a series of puzzles, and sometimes both. Polarium satisfies all of these criteria, and brings to light one of the bigger failings with puzzle games: although they are easy to conceptualize, they are hard to make engaging.

Polarium seems to be a puzzle game based around the Nintendo DS stylus, you’re given a grid with squares that are either black or white. It’s your job to make all of the tiles in one line are one color (either black or white). You do this by dragging your stylus from one side of the playfield to the other. You can meander all you want within the playfield, but your start and end points must be on the sides (one on each). Complete a path and all the tiles that your stylus passed over will flip and change color.

The game sounds sufficiently generic enough to be a decent puzzler. It’s got the requisite simple task, the endless mode, and the puzzle mode. But for some reason, or possibly a combination of reasons, this game wasn’t that fun. I might have had something to do with the fact that my hand kept obscuring my view of the play area, or maybe I suddenly don’t like games that require manipulation of colored tiles (not likely). I think the single biggest reason that I didn’t like this game is that it just seems barren and lifeless.

A game like Meteos wouldn’t nearly as fun without the modicum of presentation present. Too bad it’s so completely missing from this one.