The column is going to be short/sweet this week, mostly out of necessity. Due to my recent Internet struggles, my downloadable consumption has been minimal lately, but I still found time to try out a couple decent DSiWare games. Expect a much bigger followup in a couple weeks.
A Kappa’s Trail
If you really loved Kirby: Canvas Curse but was bummed by how easy it was, you might want to embark down A Kappa’s Trail, a DSiWare game from Brownie Brown. Like Kirby, this game asks players to draw a path to the goal for the starring amphibian. Only this time, absolute precision is required, and a giant hand threatens to pull him back to the beginning. If you can get past the lousy camera controls and somewhat daunting difficulty – good luck on a bumpy subway! – A Kappa’s Trail is cute, rewarding and fun. Also, any game that references the pork army from Mother 3 can’t be all bad, right?
Say what you will about the wasted potential of the Nintendo DSi platform and spotty third party releases, but May was pretty kind to DSi owners. While not all of Nintendo’s downloadable experiments were entirely successful – see Looksley’s Line Up, for instance – the uniform high quality was enough to make me forget the Game & Watch massive dump from April. However, I’m now left to wonder what exactly comes next. All of the DSiWare games announced at the 2010 Nintendo Summit are available, leaving us in the dark once again. It was nice of Nintendo to drum up a little excitement for once – at least for weirdos like you and I who pay attention to this stuff – but I guess we’ll have to see if E3 brings more goodies in a few weeks.
Anyway, on to my favorites from the past two weeks. Yeah, they’re mostly Nintendo games, but it’s often hard to avoid that. If you’re curious about a game or just want to raise awareness of a hidden gem, please leave a note in the comments.
While I typically associate developer Arika with the Street Fighter EX and Endless Ocean series, the folks there apparently know how to craft a fun (but brief) shooter, too. Metal Torrent might be one of the most accessible bullet-hells ever; on the easy path, the ship can take several hits before breaking down, and even the harder path offers powerful weaponry and a forgiving hit box. However, even with the reasonable difficulty working in its favor, many will see Metal Torrent as light on content. Instead of stage variety and screen-filling bosses, Arika placed the emphasis entirely on maximizing chains and high scoring. Only pick it up if you live for online leaderboards. (If it were only 200 Points, it’d be a no-brainer for everyone else.) Read more
My “Nintendon’t” column is back and here to stay. While I haven’t decided if it’s going to be weekly or biweekly at this point, you can at least expect it towards the end of the week so that I can get enough time to really delve into each game. Also, as before, I won’t have the cash to buy everything, but I will playtest anything that interests our readers. In this installment, I look at a potentially nifty 3D tech demo, the long awaited fourth BIT.TRIP from Gaijin Games, the indisputable king of Kirby games and a throwaway Tetris clone from a developer that should know better. Other releases include a new Frogger, a Flips book and Blood Beach, a WiiWare turret shooter.
Looksley’s Line Up
When this game was first announced in Japan, I recall a lot of my friends erroneously assuming that this was early software for the 3DS. Thank goodness that this ended up being DSiWare instead. Looksley’s Line Up is a fun little download, but the head-tracking technology is in no way ready from prime time. Read more
Wii owners, live it up while you can! This week, you get first dibs on Mega Man 10, another NES throwback that should bring in big bucks for Capcom. You also get a legitimately old (good) game in the form of Fatal Fury Special. DSi owners are less fortunate. However, I am curious about EA’s tween-focused Flips series, which appears to be the DSi’s first batch of visual novels. The “genre” has an audience in Japan, but not so much in the states.
Special thanks to Nick for the Fatal Fury Special assessment.
Mega Man 10
Mega Man 10 doesn’t need a cheerleader, but I’ll still give it the full Justin endorsement. Whether it’s a worthy successor to the ninth installment remains to be seen, but it’s definitely fun…if your idea of fun is falling into bottomless pits and spike traps, that is. You can expect a full review in the next week or two once I’ve bested the game’s robot masters – which are not as goofy as they could have been – but this is a pretty safe investment. I also don’t think it’s quite as slapdash as the 1up review would lead you to believe. Read more
You really can’t go wrong on the DSi this week. Flipper offers a destructive puzzler unlike any other, Flight Control finally takes off from the iPhone, and Aura-Aura Climber has a grappling hook, which automatically makes it worth a look in my book.
I won’t be able to try out any of the WiiWare releases until later in the week. THis means that I can’t vouch for Ghost Slayer, with MotionPlus support, or Mouse House, a rodent-infested puzzler. Download at your own risk now, or wait until next week’s podcast to see if they turn out to be sleepers. Oh, and nothing for the Virtual Console this week. Maybe Nintendo’s saving up its best and brightest to compete against Microsoft’s Game Room next month. Or not.
Games like Flipper are why I started this column in the first place, even if this particular effort has some problems. Hugo Smits, founder of indie studio Goodbye Galaxy Games, dropped out of school and gave up steady paychecks to realize his dream of creating a video game. Then, the publisher went bankrupt, and he moved the entire project to the DSi instead.
Flipper is a puzzle game in which you have to rescue a pet goldfish by traversing increasingly hilly arenas. This requires the use of terrain-altering coins that can add steps, fix bridges and blow up walls with pinpoint accuracy (like a baby Red Faction Guerrilla). While the touch screen movement’s a little too sensitive and camera control can be a little sluggish, his 3D Voxel engine mostly works. 500 points seems a little steep, but don’t lump this in with the service’s lazier cash-grabs and cell phone ports. Read more
There are some high profile names on the Wii and DSi this week, but I foresee some people objecting to the shoddy port of the second chapter in the Phoenix Wright saga. Or maybe they’ll be too distracted by yet another Sonic the Hedgehog Virtual Console release. Hey, it’s better than a Master System moldy oldie. And while I remain baffled as to why anyone would bring Titus’ Prehistorik Man to the DSi, at least Spotto! is another first-party success.
Once again, not enough hours in the week and bucks in the wallet to play everything, but Scrabble on the DSi sounds potentially awesome, depending on the multiplayer options. Let us know in the comments if you decide to pick this one up. Ditto for the DSi’s Spaceball, the Wii’s Art of Balance and whatever the hell this is supposed to be. While I’m willing to take the brunt of the damage, I think this column might work well as a collaboration.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice for All
This is the height of laziness, but I bought it anyway. Clearly, Capcom’s timing these to raise interest in Edgeworth’s spin-off, but I’m not sure that a DS port with the barest of bones is the way to do that. The game doesn’t look so hot when you blow it up onto an HDTV, and the lack of motion support is embarrassing at this point. That said, I originally lost track of the series after the first game, so it’s nice to play catch-up. Given that DS game’s price tag is obscene pretty, this is the most accessible version to newcomers. The script is still funny and the dreaded psyche-locks haven’t annoyed me yet – only a case-and-a-half in, admittedly – so I’m pretty pleased with this purchase, regardless of the circumstances. Oh, and Nick really loved it, too. Read more
I guess Konami isn’t the only company in the “ReBirth” business. Yesterday, Sunsoft launched its latest attempt to recapture former glory, Blaster Master Overdrive, and it’s actually pretty decent. However, while that game’s grabbing all of the headlines, Konami’s quirky Tomena Sanner, Nintendo’s latest DSi puzzler and an NES game with more vegetables than Super Mario Bros. 2 also get the DWN treatment this week.
We can’t afford to play all of this week’s downloadable releases, so let us know in the comments or the message board if we’ve missed a hidden gem. Special thanks to Tony for the Tomena Sanner write-up.
Master Blaster Overdrive
Let me start off by saying that I was never a huge fan of the original Master Blaster. I see the appeal – a jumping tank, a missing frog and Metroid-style exploration – but it’s obnoxiously hard, and those overhead sections are universally reviled for a reason. I think this is one of those “you had to be there” cases. That said, I came into Overdrive with an open mind. It’s a killer concept that just needed a bit more polish, and luckily, there have been enough tweaks to make this approachable for newcomers. Read more
As usual, it’s another quantity-over-quality week from Nintendo’s download services. This time, I’ll be looking at the very first RPG for the DSi Store and a game that turns the camera into a makeshift tilt sensor. Additionally, there are a couple new card games and an “express” version of Nintendo’s True Swing Golf. Ordinarily, I shy away from those mini-editions, but like many early DS games, this one might be tougher to find at retail.
On the Wii, there’s a new episode of Monkey Island, something entitled Tumblebugs 2 and an Alex Kidd game. I’d love to try the first two, but I don’t have enough in my coffers to buy everything. Oh, and nobody likes or has ever liked Alex Kidd. Sorry, pal.
Legends of Exidia
I’m of two minds regarding this first hack-and-slash RPG for the system. Aesthetically, it’s as generic as they come – orc-ish lookin’ dudes, slimes, warring fantasy nations and just about everything else you’ve come to expect from a lower-tier 16-bit quest. The swordplay is competent, but on a handheld inundated with this genre, that doesn’t quite cut it. Even so, I can’t write it off completely. While the gameplay is forgettable, there are little details throughout that made me sit back and realize that at least a few people cared about this project. For instance, an early assault on a castle features dozens of fallen soldiers, zip lines, dozens of explosions – none of these flourishes would’ve made the cut if this was some quick cash-in. Again, I wouldn’t recommend this one by any means, but it’s sadly not the worst I’ve seen either. (UPDATE: Apparently this is a cell-phone port, though. So much for that “not a cash-in” comment.) Read more
This week on Nintendo’s download services, we have a new first-party board game, the sequel to Zombies Ate My Neighbors that was better left forgotten, two of the more ambitious 200 point titles released so far (even if they’re still a bit cruddy) and yet another UNO port from Gameloft. While I’ve played the XBLA version too darn much to justify picking up another version of the card game, this one is significant because it actually supports my dusty Wii Speak peripheral. It also allows multiplayer offline on one console. Does anyone know how that works?
Again, I don’t know who is in charge of naming Nintendo’s DSiWare, but does anyone think that the kids will be clamoring for something called Number Battles? Weak title aside, if you’re the kind of gamer who spent hours with Brain Age Sudoku or Sunday’s crossword puzzle, this should be your next cerebral fix. Number Battle is essentially a contest for up to four players (human or computer) to see who can link up numerical sequences and loops the fastest. Like Chess, there are countless strategies for success, especially when you add items and random bonus zones to the board. For 500 points, the package is pretty robust, too – many single-player stages with A.I. that isn’t too unfair and Wi-Fi support just in case someone besides myself decides to buy it. Read more
I would never hold it against a Wii or Nintendo DSi owner for ignoring either platform’s weekly downloadable offerings. Whereas Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network are hotbeds for inspired game designs and retro chic throwbacks, Nintendo fans often have to sift through cruddy Flash games and endless Shanghai ports to get to the good stuff. But if you’ve listened to our podcast or frequent my blog, then you know that every so often, the stubborn online dinosaur likes to hide a few hidden prizes in its weekly piles. And starting this week, I’m going to be the guy to sift them out.
Expect future roundups to be posted on Monday nights after we record, unless we’re dealing with a surprisingly beefy week. Most game journalists – besides Kotaku, god bless ’em – have also chosen to ignore DSiWare and WiiWare, so I’ll do my best to highlight the best games available. However, I do want to offer a one-time disclaimer. All of these games are purchased out-of-pocket, and I can’t afford to play everything. I tend to buy all of the first-party stuff that isn’t the Animal Crossing pocket protector, but I’ll try to go out on a limb a bit more often for the sake of this column. Also, these may not always be definitive reviews. I just want to let you know if these games are junk or not.
Alright, now that we’ve laid some ground rules, let’s get to the games… Read more