In Touch: Hands-on with the Nintendo DS
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Asphalt Urban GT
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Simulation, Racing
Asphalt Urban GT is a decent simulation/arcade racer which admittedly strays more on the simulation tip. Players can choose from over 20 high-performance vehicles including VW, Hummer, Audi, Lamborghini and Jaguar. Not satisfied with the default selection? Change the color - but note that some vehicles offer more color selections than others.
Racing fanatics obsessed with car customization can choose from a bevy of options for tuning, bodywork and maintenance. The fact sheet stats that the game was inspired by real locations, but when I selected New York, the locale didn't seem all that familiar to me...they could have at least thrown in the Empire State Building.
At first, the action will feel rather slow and mundane; that is, until you start winning some cash. Ultimately, you'll be able to get rid of your old and busted wheels and invest in the new hotness that you've been dying to unlock since you turned on the game. Don't worry, it's not going anywhere.
Graphically, the car models are better than most 3D racing games I've played (GBA and N-Gage titles included), although the backgrounds are prone to get a bit pixilated. The engine sounds are said to be "realistic", but they sound more like they could use a tune-up.
In the end, Asphalt didn't jump start my enthusiasm as I expected. If you're a racing enthusiast, either sit this one out or wait until EA delivers a DS version of Need for Speed.
Feel the Magic: XX/YY
Number of Players: 1
Saving the best for last, Feel the Magic is a quirky, "Wario Ware-styled" adventure game that's packed with a bevy of wacky events masterfully tied into a good ol' fashioned love story.
The game puts you in the role of a young guy who's gone head over heels for a local hottie he desperately wants to date. In fact, he's so determined to get her attention, he teams up with a crew of super-performers who call themselves the "Rub Rabbits". With their help, our hero undergoes a series of madcap performances ranging from defending her from bulls, blowing out candles and even turning himself into a human bowling ball to take out pedestrians. I especially love the level where you must help Han and Lando escape the clutches of the deadly Sarlac Pit by rubbing the stylus below their feet to help them climb to safety. Actually, wait - that's not entirely right, but the level seems to have been inspired from the classic Return of the Jedi scene. There are a few odd events as well...ever helped goldfish escape out of an digestive system? Yeah, I thought as much.
Players start out with three "lives", which can be lost by failing to complete an objective within the allotted time, or simply failing to beat the levels altogether. Should you complete a level, it gets stored in what I've considered to be the "practice" mode called 'Memories'. There's also a mode which allows you to customize the appearance of your girlfriend upon unlocking certain conditions in the game (most likely completing levels in the quickest time possible).
And that's only the beginning. When he finally does succeed in asking her out, the insanity gets even more extreme after he encounters a rival who could possibly put an end to his new love life. Will he ever be able to feel the magic of true love? Only you have the power to decide his fate.
Feel the Magic is an enjoyable, addictive game that will offer hours of replay value. The distinct art style is distinct and cutting edge, depicted by the use of silhouette images; putting the game in a class of its own. And it's not uncommon that a smirk should come across your face due to the game's surreal, twisted sense of humor. (Anyone that loved Katamari Damacy would definitely fall in love with this). There's still plenty for me to uncover so it's safe to say I'll be playing this game for quite some time. Rub it!
Feel the Magic XX/YY is also the first game to take advantage of the system's dual-game design in the form of some tasty unlockables. Click here for details.
Overall, I am totally impressed with the Nintendo DS and its existing launch title lineup. Many of you have all the proof they need and will soon be able to experience the same joy as I've been doing over the past few days. While the rest of you will require a bit more time to convince. Understandably, price is a major concern for the average consumer and I won't lie to you -- $150 is a lot to ask for a handheld system. But when you put things in perspective, the DS offers GBA backward-compatibility and a fine selection of innovative features which until now, were never offered on any portable gaming device. Imagine the possibilities of a system that offers voice-recognition, two-screens, and wireless connectivity. I have, and I am eager to see what Nintendo and third-party developers have in store for us. Plus, with the advent of Nintendo's next-generation console, we're bound to see some unique developments where the DS and the "Revolution" will work together. Ultimately, the Nintendo DS is a remarkable piece of technology that many gamers (myself included) will find difficult to put down. Need more proof? Then take a visit to your local retailer, sample their featured titles, and experience the DS for yourself.
*Note: Because of time constraints of this feature, The Urbz: Sims in the City and Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt will be featured in upcoming updates later this month.