Posts Tagged ‘Nintendo DS’

So you went out to your local video game store and picked up a new game. You play through the first hour, maybe two, and then realize that you have just made a horrible mistake and this isn’t what you thought you were getting. It happens more than you would think. Maybe you were expecting an action RPG and got a platformer, maybe you were expecting a casual game or maybe you just don’t like the play style or mechanics involved. All of this brings up the big question of what do you do with it. The natural thought is that you would return it. Sadly, a lot of stores won’t take returns on video games if the box has been opened. I know for a fact that Toys R Us doesn’t. So you can’t return it to say, Walmart, Target or anything like that if you’ve actually played it. The next place you could go is somewhere more like Gamestop where they do Trade-Ins of games, hardware and accessories and resell them. That sounds like a really great idea right? Here’s the problem, and it all falls on you the consumer. So you buy a $30 DS game, for example. If that game is for the DS and not the 3DS, don’t expect to get more than $5 of Trade-In value, and that’s for a really good popular game. You might remember my misadventures with The Sims 2 Pets for DS. Well, I took that in yesterday to exchange, along with a few other games like Populous DS and Logic Machines, which had all seemed like good ideas at the time of purchase. Four games sold back, for $4 of store credit, and that’s with the Powerup Rewards membership getting me an extra 10% on all trade-ins. And that’s with all 4 games having their case and instructions.

You’re probably wondering how that can possibly make any sense. I mean, that’s approximately $120 in games and I got $4 for it. But the thing is, those games aren’t even really available any more because they’re so out of date. And on top of that, the ones that are just aren’t popular. They’re running about $10 new. The video game market tends to be very much on demand pricing. If a game is the next big thing, super popular and everyone wants it, the price is going to be higher. Just look at the Metroid franchise. At the time of release, The Other M was running around $40 like the usual Wii game. At Gamestop yesterday, it was selling for $10. So if I had bought The Other M back when it was new and gone to trade it in now, Gamestop would be giving me a very small amount of money, enough that when they sell it again at $10 they would still be making some kind of profit.

Its pretty obvious that this system only benefits the game store. After the original purchase, no money is going to the developer and the return is hardly giving the customer any of their money back. So how do we solve this system. My favorite solution, though not one that everyone can employ, is the mantra of Try Before You Buy. The way I usually handle this is through rental of games that I’m interested in trying but aren’t in a franchise I have a lot of faith in. If a new Zelda game, for example, is coming out, I trust the Zelda developers to maintain a certain level of quality, but if I see something completely new and weird, or even a long standing series that I have no experience with and I’m considering buying it, I will rent it first. But not everyone can afford a Gamefly or Blockbuster rental plan. In that case, talk to your friends. See if anyone you know has the game and can let you try it out, or even just give you an opinion. If everyone you know says a game is terrible, chances are its terrible. Another way to avert gaming disaster is to check out a review website like this one here, or Metacritic.

So you tried before you bought, and got opinions, and even checked the Internet and still gamer fail occurred. What’s next? At that point come the options of give it to someone, yardsale it or shove it in a box somewhere. I mean, there’s also Ebay and Craig’s List, but that once again depends on the popularity of the game in question. Honestly, the best way to not have to deal with trading in games is to try really hard to do your homework before purchasing it.


Nintendo 3DS

Posted: December 26, 2011 in 4.5 Hearts
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I’ve had my little 3DS for a couple months now so I feel like its about time I do a review of the little fellow. First up: the basics. The 3DS comes in 3 different colors, has a touch screen on the bottom half and sports a directional pad and joystick, alongside the start, home, select and x, y, a, b buttons on the front. There are also L and R shoulder buttons, leaving this unit capable of having some pretty complex behaviors, even before you add in the endless behaviors you can add once you start using the 3 cameras and the accelerometers.

My favorite upgrade from the earlier generations of DS is a little silly, I have to admit. The stylus is collapsable. Meaning that now I get a stylus that fits my hand and can collapse down to fit inside the DS unit snugly so it won’t get lost. It also comes preloaded with a bunch of really neat software like an internet browser, AR games, a camera that can take pictures in 2D or 3D, an e-store and it periodically updates itself for newly available free software if you have an internet connection.

The 3D is really quite nice, I wish I could show you pictures. One of the really nice features is a slider on the right of the top screen that allows you to turn up and down the amount of 3D that is being displayed, all the way down to off. That is startlingly useful since playing for too long can result in headaches. Also, DS games from before the advent of 3D can still be played, it just automatically turns the 3D off.

So far I’ve been playing Ocarina of Time 3D and Super Mario 3D Land. Both are extremely good, though I’ve had some trouble with the archery range in the Ocarina of Time. It requires you to aim at the targets by moving the unit around, which invariably ends up with me contorted in some very odd positions because of how I play (lying down with the unit in my lap). Over all, I love the system and the fact that they just keep putting out more free content for it.

Nintendo 3DS

Image by Dekuwa via Flickr

In light of that, I award the Nintendo 3DS with 4.5 out of 5 hearts. It has very few flaws, mostly the fact that the 3D technology results in headaches after more than an hour or so of use for most users.

4.5 out of 5 zelda hearts

This strange game has been sweeping the internet by storm for quite a while. The basic idea is that you are a homeowner in a zombie apocalypse and the only way to survive is by cultivating your garden of zombie destroying plants. If that doesn’t sound fun, I don’t know what does. What’s even better is you can now get a free trial of Plants Versus Zombies from the Chrome app store.

So, first I just have to say that I love the quirky sound effects and upbeat music that plays the entire time. The graphics are also adorable. One of the things I really liked about this game is just how much content there is. I have the trial version and I got 20 stages to play through and mini-games. And there’s way, way more in the full version. The mini-games that I have seen so far include a puzzle game where you have to break jars and you might get a plant to place or you might get a zombie and a bowling game. There was also one where you get a randomly generated list of plants coming, sort of like in Tetris, and you have to place them to combat the zombies. Another thing to be mentioned is that the environment changed, including fighting off zombies in the day or night or even on the roof.

I found the game play to be quite simple and the difficulty ramps up in a very natural curve. The levels always felt like they were right at the level of difficulty I should be at. The gameplay is completely made up of point and click mechanics but its very enjoyable and engaging.

Plants Versus Zombies is available for the following platforms: Xbox live arcade, iPhone, DS and DSi, Playstation, Android, PC, Mac, iPad and Chrome web app. According to their website, they won Game of the Year. This is a really stellar game and I suggest trying it out for yourself. I’ve enjoyed it thus far and it just keeps getting better. Every new plant or zombie type is just hilarious. I especially like the one zombie who is reading a newspaper. He gets very angry if anything happens to his paper. So, having really enjoyed this game, I feel that they have earned the 5 out of 5 hearts. I have no complaints. Any time the game started to feel even the slightest bit tedious, they would give me a mini-game or change the environmental variables. It was very well done.

If you are interested in finding Plants Versus Zombies, you can find it in any of the places I listed before or you can go here. The game is available free to try the demo or $19.95 for the full version.

Big Brain Academy DS

Posted: May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Self improvement through video games. Its an admirable effort, no matter the medium used. One of the major things that video games can provide is an immediate response to mistakes and a comfortable environment in which to fix those mistakes. A great genre that is making use of this is the educational video game. Big Brain Academy for the DS is in this vein. The basic idea is that you are taking classes to increase the size of your brain and then you can also take tests to see how much bigger your brain has gotten. You can relax, we aren’t going to literally weigh your brain. Big Brain Academy is just using a nice simple measurement system (grams) that everyone can relate to and immediately see which one is bigger and thus better.

There are three different play modes to Big Brain Academy: Practice, Test and Versus. In Practice mode, you can play 3 different games for each of the 5 focal areas in brain development. These 5 areas are called compute, identify, think, memorize and analyze. These are the 5 things the entire game focuses on, so they’re going to come up again. There are three levels of difficulty for each game: easy, normal and hard. These games are the same games used in Test mode to find out your level of brain development. During Test mode, you go through one game from each focal area. The game randomly chooses how to test you and the difficulty scales with how well you’re performing to get an accurate assessment.

I really like the graphics in this game. They’re all really cute and simple. I also like the audio, its very relaxing. The controls are very easy to use, especially since they’re entirely based on tapping the screen to choose your answer. All in all, this is a really nice game. There is room on the cartridge for four different user files and each file displays the test results of the user on the grade scale from F to A, including the pluses and minuses. The downside there is that it doesn’t display the most recent score, instead it displays the best score ever received. Meaning that if you do really well and then take a break and start doing terrible, it still displays the best score from before. This is something of a problem, as I’m sure you can understand.

Overall, I enjoyed this game and found only a few small problems with it. As such, I award Big Brain Academy for the DS a 4 out of 5 hearts.

4/5 HeartsAs a note, this is one of the many games that has been made for multiple systems. You might remember an older review of Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. If you enjoyed that game, or if you think this one sounds like your kind of fun, you should be sure to check out both.

Nintendo 3DS

Posted: March 16, 2011 in 4 Hearts
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So, I tried this little guy out at PAX. A lot of the features sounded absolutely amazing. For starters, it has the usual 2 screens where the bottom one is touch, it also has the internet capabilities of the earlier DSi and there are the normal a,b,x,y,l,r and directional pad. On top of that, there are 3 separate cameras and an analog stick. The two cameras are the back are for, get this, taking 3D pictures. Now if that isn’t cool enough, it can also do this neat trick where you put a sticker on a table, lets say you use a question mark block.

That’s a really nice simple image…and you know what they can do with it? Triangulate distance and lock on to give an anchor for a 3D object in the game world that you can maneuver around by moving your 3DS. Yes, you heard me right, you can move your 3DS to avoid 3D game obstacles. There are so many ways that could be awesome. I played their demo game which consisted of doing just that to shoot targets and in the end fight a dragon. It had a learning curve to it, but it was really really fun. The cameras are aided by gyros and motion sensors and stuff so I expect games to come out that fully utilize this potential.

There are also two new features known as StreetPass and SpotPass. StreetPass lets you know if you pass another 3DS that’s on and allows you to send messages. SpotPass lets you know if you pass a wifi hotspot it can connect to. How cool is that?

And here’s the thing that makes me really excited. There are so many big name games coming out for this thing right off the bat. You’ve got Nintendogs and Cats, Kid Icarus, Super Street Fighter, Lego Star Wars, Star Fox, Resident Evil and the big one: they’re re-releasing The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time.

On to the bad stuff. So, first up, somewhere on the order of 15% of the population get headaches from viewing a 3D screen. I highly recommend trying the system before you buy, just in case. I mean, I tried it out and found out I’m part of that 15%. Sad as it is, you might be too. The other thing to watch out for is that use of a 3D screen like this can cause permanent damage to anyone who hasn’t fully developed yet. Nintendo did include a parental controls menu to disable this feature for younger audiences, but its up to the parents to police it. There’s also a switch on the side to turn the 3D off. This is helpful because even for adults, prolonged exposure to 3D images on a 2D surface can cause some eye strain and eventually enough damage to warrant glasses.

In light of both of the awesome and the terrible, the amazing and the necessary warnings, I have to award the Nintendo 3DS with a 4 out of 5 hearts. They understand the risks of their system and they’re taking steps to ensure that the public knows them as well, which is more than I can say for a lot of the companies producing 3D computer screens. Just make sure you try the system out to be sure you’re not in that 15%.

4/5 Hearts


Posted: August 30, 2010 in 3 Hearts

So I was going to be writing about Band Hero DS today, but it doesn’t play on my bulky first generation DS, only on the nice, shiny new DS lites. Instead, I shall talk about the other game I bought, CrossworDS. At first glance, you’d think this was simply a way to do cross word puzzles on your DS, but this game also includes wordsearch puzzles and anagrams, which made me quite happy. Also, CrossworDS has 4 levels of difficulty which can teach a person how to think in order to solve crossword puzzles. The interface is very intuitive and you can choose to get immediate feed back about mistakes. This is a feature I greatly enjoy since I have a lot of trouble solving cross word puzzles normally. Another thing I’m enjoying is the little culture references. For example: It’s a ____! (4 letters)

The anagram puzzle is pretty similar to some that I have played online and enjoyed greatly. There are a set of letters and you have to form a set of words out of those letters in different arrangements. Unlike most games of this type, there is no time limit. Instead, the game tracks how long it takes you to complete the puzzle. The wordsearch puzzle is pretty much a standard wordsearch puzzle, and they time how long the puzzle takes you.

Unlike most games that use my handwriting as input, CrossworDS doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in interpretation. This is a massive improvement over earlier DS games. Also, I like that you can save one in-progress puzzle of each type at a time, instead of only 1 puzzle of any type.

3/5 zelda heartsAnd to the rating. CrossworDS delivered what it offered. A portable cross word puzzle player with anagrams and wordsearch puzzles. The hand writing parser is better than most, but still not perfect. Over all, this game is good but nothing special. I award it 3 out of 5 Hearts.

The Sims 2 Pets for DS

Posted: August 20, 2010 in 2 Hearts
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Envision a Sims game that has nothing to do with The Sims. That’s more or less what The Sims 2 Pets for the DS is. The game starts out with making your Sim avatar. Then your choose their pet and customize them. This seems pretty promising. Except that after that, your poor little pet gets pretty much ignored in the wild rush to care for other people’s pets. As it turns out, The Sims 2 Pets for the DS is a veterinary simulator, unlike The Sims 2 Pets for the computer which is an expansion that gives your Sims the ability to have pets. Awkward, isn’t it?

Alright, so now you’re a veterinarian with a pet you’re ignoring. And then, random people are coming in to your house to drop off their pets that they’re bad at taking care of. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people came in and they’re like “My dog smells”. I don’t know about you, but when my dog smells, I give it a bath. I don’t rush it to the vet in a panic. Pets can also be brought in because they swallowed something, because they’re actually sick, because they have fleas, because they have worms and fun stuff like that. But I can’t get over the idea of rushing to the vet because ohnoes, my cat smells. I understand that in the real world, your pet could smell because of any number of reasons other than it needs a bath, but they didn’t account for any of these while programming this game, if a pet smells that’s because it needs a bath.

The other things about this game that baffle me include the fact that I can keep up to 3 pets in the same enclosure without them fighting or catching each others diseases, the fact that when you send your Sim to bed the animals never need them in the night and the fact that the Sim can eat once a day and be fine. Did I mention you never have to feed the animals? For a game that is supposed to be a simulation, they sure left a lot of stuff out. I’m willing to cut them a little slack since its a DS game and they could only fit so much on the cartridge, but still. They did, however, include the ability to train the animals and play with them outside. You can also take them to the park. The training feature is rather limited including only about 6 or so commands. And the mechanic for training the pets reminds me of something out of Windwaker or DDR. You have to tap a button on the screen to match the whistles shown. If you can successfully match it 3 or so times, the pet learns the trick. Its pretty simple.

At first, you have your dog or cat (whose stats magically never go down) and maybe 1 or 2 other pets on site that you’re taking care of. Then suddenly, you get a high enough reputation to have 5-6 other pets on hand that you’re trying to cure all at once. Once you hit this point, you have to be organized about which pet needs what or you start losing customers. Its about this point where I stopped having fun. It becomes less of a game and more of a chore as you try to get each pet cured in the amount of time you said you could. It almost feels like they designed the game to ramp up how many animals you were caring for too quickly so you don’t really have a chance to get used to each increase.

And so, the rating. I really didn’t enjoy this game very much. I found it very stressful and, to be completely truthful, I was very annoyed that it wasn’t what I thought I was getting when I purchased it. I was expecting something where I take care of 1 or 2 animals and a few people not 1 person and 8 or so different animals per game day. The realism, something the Sims genre is usually pretty good about for some things, was completely lacking. I’m sorry, but you can’t sit on a couch for 2 minutes (game time) and have your comfort levels be completely full. Neither can you put a dog with fleas and a dog without fleas in the same enclosure and not end up with two dogs with fleas. And so, I feel that I have to give this game 2 out of 5 Hearts. The Sims really should just stay on the PC where they have the processing power and memory to make the kind of games that they’re known for and people expect.