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Maybe that’s a little melodramatic. What I mean to say is, yeah, the DS is pretty awesome. And I bought a stack of games over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d share my seasoned opinions (salty).

1. Professor Layton & the Curious Village

This game has been doing the rounds critically, but I’ve heard a lot of “ordinary people” whinging about how hard it is. It’s not that hard. Sure, you might need to work through some of the problems on paper, and those literal problems suck, but otherwise .. come on!

I know those Dr. Kawashima games are popular, but for an intellectual game, this is so much more fun. If you haven’t heard about this game yet, ie. if you live under a rock, it’s a murder mystery adventure game. But instead of the typical pick up item, use item, oops wrong item, get frustrated, download walkthrough you need to solve puzzles to progress. It’s ridiculous, but fun. And the game does note how inappropriate and tedious this puzzle solving is, it’s just that the people who live in this village are INSANE and love puzzles.

Beyond the novelty, the artwork is great, and the French-style animated cutscenes are truly rewarding. I mean that literally, you really want something after solving some of those stupid puzzles. The best thing I’ve seen about this game so far is at Penny Arcade.

2. Advance Wars Dual Strike

It’s just like Advance Wars, with some superficial updates. Sure, there’s a different back story and the characters are “new” (but almost identical to the old ones), and there are a few new units .. okay, maybe it’s a bit different.

I know there’s an even newer Advance Wars DS game out, but I heard it was dark and serious. I really liked the whole yeah we’re at war, but do you wanna go catch a movie? high school-esque feel from the first game. The second one is pretty similar in that respect (so far).

I find it fascinating that a game about warfare and strategy has so little overt violence or cruelty. All the in-your-face immediacy and war genre tropes are completely absent – this is, in essence, a set of problems that require certain strategies to solve. It’s pretty amazing in that respect. Peel back the infantile dialogue and Righteous Cause (we’re saving the world, didn’t you hear?) and it’s like playing some kind of über chess.

3. Cooking Mama

I’m old enough that I don’t throw controllers (or, consoles in this case) in frustration any more, I just swear a lot instead.

This game made me swear a lot.

Nevertheless, this is something of a guilty pleasure. If you’re going to play stupid mini-games then you might as well learn something about Japanese cuisine in the process, yeah? It’s kind of fun, even though it feels like luck has as much to do with success as talent.

4. Etrian Odyssey

I picked this game up on a recommendation from the webs, and also because it was made by Atlus, the brains behind Riviera. What’s.. what’s a Riviera? Only the most kickass awesome RPG on the GBA (..OIC). Sure, it’s no Shining Force II, but I loved Riviera, probably more for the art than anything else.

And in Etrian, the great character designs endure. Only, unlike the extremely linear storyline to Riviera, Etrian Odyssey is somewhat open-ended. I suppose it’s like Nethack or Moria or Diablo, in that you’ve got a multi-level dungeon (only it’s a forest in this game.. so far) where you wander about killing things and getting killed. It’s also hard to see past the similarity to Eye of the Beholder or the various Bard’s Tale games, with that groan-inducing nearly-3D grid format. It’s all turn-based combat though, so, phew.

At its core, this game still has a lot in common with the Final Fantasy series, but there’s a scary amount of those old SSI D&D games thrown in as well. And, man is it tough. There have been moments of real tension, running like crazy from battles with half of the party dead and monsters at your heel. Similarly, it often feels like this game is a big fat grind with nothing else to do – but I’ve only completed a handful of missions so far, so it might feel a bit less pointless later on. It’s still utterly addictive regardless of this.

The Atlus site has more info and screen grabs of the awesome artwork.


One Comment

  1. The DS is definitely a time consuming portable console. The puzzle type games can take up hours of your life. 🙂

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