DS Review: Picross 3D

Picross 3D boxart

After the charade of digging my brains trying to remember games I was playing about a year back, I return to normality. At the moment I’m playing a super addictive puzzle game on the DS going by the name, Picross 3D. A sequel of some sort to the original Picross DS which I couldn’t get to grips with and gave up on, it’s successor had a different effect on me.

The game has a very in-depth tutorial to familiarise myself with the new concept of a 3D cube in which you chip away at smaller cubes to reveal an object. It’s spilt into different levels which makes it more useful from a referential point of view and not to mention the excellent examples that follow each demonstration. I’m sure you can just ignore the text and work things out from the simple and easy-to-follow diagrams and build on what you know of Picross 3D already.

After the tutorials are done, I jumped into the first level of Easy Mode which was surprisingly easy and moved onto Level 2 within the hour. This was definitely much easier than the original but it was called Easy Mode for a reason. The latter puzzles proved to be more challenging and the 5-strike rule evoked by the game and not to mention the time limit soon become more threatening. Things are made more difficult by the fact that you might accidentally break blocks thanks to the precision required when you’re twisting and turning the large cube around but this is negated if you learn to align the cube straight on before you hold that ‘X’ button and smash away. Of course, with a strict time limit imposed it’s harder to do but it’s just something you’ll have to bear with until you can move the cube around with more accuracy.

The game developer, HAL Laboratory Inc. have created over 350 puzzles to solve and I’m about two-thirds of the way there. I’m just about to get to the Hard Mode in a couple of levels but in the many hours I have spent on this game I haven’t seen any Nintendo-referenced objects except for maybe one at the beginning which kind of disappoints me because apparently the original Picross had them towards the end of the game. Somehow I doubt there will be any and I have to say that the puzzles feel repetitive.

To counteract that feeling, there’s the My Puzzles mode where you can create your own puzzles (my first and only creation was the triforce from Zelda) and share them with others online (friendcodes only!) and also compete online with the weekly contest. These are quite good as you can download a pack every week and see the awesome work of others around the world. Only downer is that there is no competitive versus mode like it’s predecessor (I think there was anyway).

Picross 3D has provided me with a lot of addictive fun and I am expecting to finish the game sometime before April. The game exhausts your mental state pretty quickly especially you’re like me and you play your DS before you drift off to sleep. Come to think of it, it’s not exactly the ideal game to play late at night but it’s a great game and one worth having in any DS owner’s collection. I think I may go back to Picross DS and give it another chance in the future but for the moment being, it’s back to Normal Mode – Level 9 – D on Picross 3D.

Overall verdict: excellent

A quick update: I finally finished all 369 puzzles completed with 3-stars! Phew.

DS Review: Nostalgia

This time I review Nostalgia on the Nintendo DS, a game that throws in all the elements of RPGs in the past and delivers a game that many RPG fans will play through with a smile on their face. It came out sometime in October in the States but I only played it recently so here’s my late arrival to the party.

The game starts off with a slideshow of artwork (this is the intro, nothing like Final Fantasy IV‘s impressive one). This sets expectations for Nostalgia at a really low level and the initial storyline makes little sense with the typical “hero saving an unknown girl and risking his own life” and this is commonplace throughout this game. Of course, it’s all about nostalgia so I can’t really complain, can I? Well what else is reminiscent of RPG characters of the last decade? Yup, the unknown girl suffers amnesia. This makes for one cheesy and over-the-top game and I loved every minute of it.

The game revolves around Eddie, searching for his father who happens to be an explorer and you go off around the 19th-century real world to find him. I saw most of the twists coming in from a mile off (thanks to the all those RPGs I’ve played already) but to be fair, the game does try to break up the play with the Explorer’s Agency dishing out side quests which prove vital to levelling up your characters without getting too bored of grinding (that’s another item checked off the cliché list!).

The places to visit are very diverse as you would imagine and I enjoyed exploring every inch of London, Cairo, Siberia, Rio de Janeiro and the other locales in the game. There were the mandatory dungeons as well which were okay but the nature of the game dictated that it should have the ever popular random battles while you solve puzzles. This spoilt the fun a little as the battles in this game can see you go down very easily if you’re not managing your MP well enough or you get lazy and decide to spam the action button. It’s a good thing then that the puzzles in this game are very basic; they are nothing as complex as the ones found in Zelda games.

So that brings me nicely onto the combat system and it’s not nothing new. If you played Final Fantasy IV then take that and minus the waiting system and there you have it. A traditional turn-based system with a few additions including the battle order on the bottom screen along with the usual magic, skills, items and run options. Overpowering your enemies grants you experience points, money and skill points (SP). The latter are used to upgrade your character’s skillsets which give more reason for you to grind to make life a little easier in this game. If you aim to max out the skills, it will take a lot of hours that will run into double-digits. As long as you are well-stocked with healing items to use in-between battles (levelling up also heals you which helps a great deal in the larger dungeons), you shouldn’t need to do any SP grinding. Some skills cannot be obtained by levelling alone and are learnt as the story progresses.

Outside of dungeons, you have what some may notice from Skies of Arcadia, airship battles. These occur when you transverse over the world map and running into certain enemies can mean you die quite easily. On the topic of travelling, it would’ve been nice to see some names to the map as finding some of the places when you’re off to start a sidequest can get very frustrating (I didn’t use an Atlas). Just worth mentioning, the game directs you to the next location by highlighting an area in the world map when you’re following the core storyline so that isn’t a problem in this case. The airship can be customized at the docks with the option of buying new parts for the ship.

Graphics are like a roller-coaster in this game. The battle animations are great while at other times, the quality seems to suffer a bit. You’ll need to see this yourself to understand my point. Likewise, the music in this game has it’s moments. Some are very memorable and most are appropriate for their settings. The victory fanfare is probably the only one that will stick in your head once you finish this game.

Other things worth mentioning are that equipments can be brought in shops and the rarer ones are in the dungeons themselves. The game encourages exploration and completion, this can be tracked by the journal found in the menu. The fog on the map screen (like Final Fantasy IV) can be cleared as you walk around every inch of the map. NPCs will also help you out through various parts of the game, some will just whack the enemies while others provide useful healing at the start of each round.

In conclusion, Nostalgia is like a product of many bygone RPG classics. It doesn’t really have anything new to show for itself but it does everything else well. It doesn’t have a frustrating random encounter rate like Black Sigil and it encourages exploration and really that’s all I asked for when I saw this game. A must-have for anyone that loves a light-hearted RPG.

Overall verdict: good

DS Review: Ninjatown

ninjatown

It took a while but finally I finished Ninjatown DS, it’s like any other tower defence game but I enjoyed it much more than Lock’s Quest which is also on the DS.

The story divides itself into several stages which are spread across the world map. Usually, you’ll be defending a position but sometimes you need to take out a tough enemy before the timer runs down.

The game is a little on the short side but it lasted me for some time. Mainly because I got frustrated at the controls the game had. Sure the stylus is all nice and easy to use but I’m left-handed and for some reason, the developers decided not to make ABXY do what the D-pad does (scrolling).

The story isn’t that deep but it was quite interesting and the cut-scenes at the end of each area were very well-done.

The early levels are easy, the same routine follows of gradually upgrading your ninjas (which you build yourself) to overpower the approaching enemies which are shown on the top screen.

My favourite early ninja was the Anti-Ninja. They provided some excellent attacking options which the normal Wee Ninjas couldn’t do. The downfall was their speed which made later stages somewhat more difficult. That was compensated by more offensive ninjas found in the mountains.

The long-range ninjas were very useful especially in large numbers and are the only way to take down airborne enemies. The ninjas available range from snowball throwers to lava-chucking ninjas so there are plenty of options available.

sniperhut

Cannons can also be used but I found them to fail at times. The way it works is you hold down your stylus to light the fuse but sometimes when you’re in a frantic situation the touch screen wouldn’t pick up so you’re pretty much done for. Well at least one cookie down.

There are powers that can turn the tide of a battle like using a magnifying glass to burn enemies down or slowing them down via the Baby Wee Ninja”s cuteness (this helped me numerous times in The Shipping Lanes).

baby-ninja

In the end I got all As  after getting quite a lot of Bs initially but I got around to redoing those levels and using the powers I had left to get the As I needed. There’s also a multiplayer mode but I didn’t get around to it.

I can’t say Ninjatown DS will appealing to gamers who despise the tower defence genre but it’s worth playing on and off when you feel the need to dish out some strategic ninja damage.

Overall rating: good

DS Review: Soul Bubbles

Hiding among the many DS games in my local games shop there was this little gem of a game. Okay, not really, Soul Bubbles was nowhere to be seen in any of the stores in my area except a Toys ‘R’ Us store about 25 miles away from home but it must’ve been an in-store exclusive only thing as internet shops listed this game.

I decided to play this for the sole reason of innovation and originality, something that’s been lost somewhere in the abundance of pony simulators and other non-games out there.

Moving on, the game loads up in a strange fashion. Not with a CGI-heavy intro like those current Final Fantasy DS games but with a laughable disclaimer.

Disclaimer

There aren’t that many games based around that on the DS but this game does include a wise old man i.e. sage so I wonder…

The first few levels help you ease into the game explaining the simple yet smooth controls the game uses. I used the four ABXY buttons for cutting, blowing etc and the main touch screen to draw those neat little bubbles to trap those poor little souls.

The game has it’s own style which I find very pleasing to the eye. The bubble physics is great and the general look of the levels make playing this game a dream. Yeah it’s 2D but that isn’t an issue as the bonus levels prove.

This game was beaten in less than a week’s playing time and I consider my skills being pretty average. I decided to in order to get more out of the game, that it’s worth playing a couple of levels a week as I didn’t find the story, if there was one, to be that inspiring.

To be fair though this game is primarily a puzzle game and it doesn’t really need a story as the levels themselves dictate a truly immense backdrop. Every kind of environment from a jungle to a desert are featured here, the last one being my favourite. It’s also the most challenging as I struggled to collect all the calabash (hidden item) there.

D

Cut the tongue to set the souls free

Soul Bubbles plays like the game the DS was built for. Unfortunately it’s had very little coverage so if you find it at a cheap price I fully recommend the purchase as it’s something that rarely appears on the DS and it’s fun at the same time too!

Overall verdict: good