Exploring the Nintendo DS Lite

I was very fortunate to receive a Nintendo DS Lite for my birthday and a voucher for a couple of games – I’d wanted one for a while but put it off being that I already a couple of hand-held gaming systems.

The DS Lite is tricky to compare to the PSP being that they take such different approaches. Sony has tried to make the PSP a portable multimedia station supporting UMD movies, video and music on memory sticks and it’s reasonably large wide-screen display as well as playing games.

As the saying goes “jack of all trades, master of none” sums up the PSP quite well. The UMD movies have been a bit of a flop – who wants to pay another £15 for a movie they already own to watch it on a smaller screen? Anyone wanting movies on the go would be better off with a portable DVD player or laptop.

Likewise it’s too big to be used as a portable MP3 player and the interface is years behind the likes of the iPod not to mention the fact there is no on-line music store to grab the tracks from anyway.

The PSP has impressive specifications for the games but basically it’s a PS2 in portable format with WiFi ability. Sure this is all well and good but with costs of games spiraling out of control the development houses want to stick to the same-old-formula of franchise titles and dull tie-ins something needs to be done. Sony cutting off PSP home-brew exploits with every release isn’t helping.

Which is what Nintendo are doing with the DS Lite. I brought a handful of the games which come on tiny cards resembling SD memory cards and while some of them are rather formulaic of the past – Sonic Rush for one – others take some innovative approaches.

Another Code is one such title and although the well-written story is a little too short and linear it features lovely artwork and includes those innovative controls methods I mentioned. Dragging, tapping, twisting and stroking the pen across the screen are the normal course while blowing into the microphone and shutting the lid all form part of the interface. It seems unfortunate that it only has two save game slots – I thought three was the course.

Brain Age is a far less ambitious title when it comes to control but one that is fun nevertheless and the way it continues to update and unlock elements each day as you progress through the tests and assessments keeps you coming back for more. The Soduku puzzles are also fun and can further unlock training and testing elements as well as hints and tips. The graphics and sound could have done with a bit more work however the ability to have four profiles and compare results between yourself and your friends/family keeps the competitive edge going.

Nintendogs…. well everyone raved over it but personally I really can’t get into it. There are dogs. You can teach them tricks… they remember their name. Okay, it has pretty graphics and cutesy appeal but it’s really not for me.

WarioWare: Touched! was one of the titles I got to try out when Steve brought his DS round a couple of months ago and the brief tapping fury needed a revisit. It’s good fun for a pick up and go but the lack of multiple profiles means the whole challenge element is a big missed opportunity. I guess you need two of them for that…

Animal Crossing is currently at the top of the various game charts. I’ve spent an hour or so with it and again haven’t found myself particularly gripped – much like Nintendogs.

Sonic Rush I brought of curiosity and while the graphics and sound are up to their part it doesn’t really seem much different from the Sonic games I played on my sisters GameGear so many many years ago apart from the face it spans two screens and the batteries last longer than an hour.

The hardware itself seems well built, solid and glossy reminding me of the iPod and the screens are bright and solid to the touch (well, the lower one is). Apparently the DS Lite supports some kind of WiFi network although I’ve not been able to get that to do anything just yet. Perhaps it’s because the WiFi here is encrypted – I guess I should RTFM…


3 responses

  1. Avatar for Steve

    Apart from Wario Ware and Brain Age I haven't played any of the others. You're right it's a shame WW doesn't have any profiles, but we tend to have matches by passing the DS between us so it can get quite competetive. Nintendogs is more of a kids thing really - I know Lee's son really likes it.

    My top picks on the DS are Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros, Kirby Canvas Curse (aka Power Paintbrush) and Meteos. All extremely good.

    Steve July 21, 2006
  2. Avatar for Steve

    Oh, and you won't be able to get the Wifi to work without a Wifi-enabled cart. So far that includes Mario Kart and Tetris DS, perhaps others, not sure.

    Steve July 21, 2006
  3. Avatar for Rik Hemsley

    You need to use WEP because it doesn't support WPA, apparently.

    Glasses glasses!

    Rik Hemsley July 21, 2006