DS: 12 Games of Christmas

Polly Pocket.

And another thing: I hate the way the sun always gets in my eyes in winter. Sometimes it feels like the whole world is against me; it did last night when I glided unaware through some dog mess. Got right in the tread. Will probably need a toothbrush to get that out - I hope my flatmate doesn't mind. Still, when you run yourself a hot bath and sink into a cosy bed you can almost forgive the biting cold and animals - escaping the winter is what makes it memorable.

Nintendo is memorable, too (making sense now), because it gave us a DS to help us drift off from a train full of flu, or to wake up lovingly beside on a relaxed Saturday morning. You can play it on the toilet if you like; food for thought, considering the usual strong line-up this Christmas.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass may be the stand-out title of 2007, but Pokmon Diamond, Pokmon Pearl and More Brain Training have propelled the DS to such global success it has romped charts routinely from week to week. A bit like Arsenal. Currently the DS golden number stands at over 50 million, certainly enticement enough for onlooking publishers and developers to splash out.

What follows is our pick of what to whisk off the shelves this Christmas, with a few plucked from earlier in the year in case you passed them by.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

zelda

Nintendo pours so much care and attention into its Zelda series that it was unsurprising Phantom Hourglass turned out to be excellent. More shocking was its continued ability to revitalise what is more or less the same idea and make it more exciting and alluring each time. Phantom Hourglass picks up where Wind Waker left off, both in terms of story and style, and teases you through one intricately designed dungeon after another. It's as though your enjoyment was always a certainty; more a question of when than if.

The real master class, however, was given in controls, as you guide Link around using only the stylus. Audacious and flawless, a cheeky bar-raiser of an idea you feel Nintendo thought it was about time it showed off.

One thing less barked about was its quirky and indecently addictive multiplayer mode, where one Link collects gems and the other players direct phantoms to stop him. It was put in as a throwaway feature but adds enough to genuinely lengthen what was a relatively short campaign at 20 hours. Phantom Hourglass is one of the best games on DS and fits it as it was intended - like a tailor-made glove. Love it, cherish it, buy it.

Ghoulish: The Phantom was one of the Defenders of the Earth and I can remember most of the theme tune to it.

Sonic Rush Adventure

One that caught us off guard in September like a hidden lamp post on a drunk walk home. We thought a game with Adventure in the title and sections with water skis had to be rubbish, you see - but not so. We soon found ourselves jovially hopping between tropical islands, besting really quite well thought-out mini-games, and embarking on classic, enjoyable-as-ever 2D platforming. It looks snazzy too, and only really trips a little in performance when you bump into gigantic bosses, which make nifty use of both DS screens.

Rush Adventure is easier to get to grips with than the previous game, and also brings with it an enjoyable case of replayability, as you revisit old levels and find you uncover lots of secrets now you are a bit better at controlling the clearly steroid-abusing hedgehog. Sonic often comes off worse in comparisons with his moustached rival, but pops in an altogether must-have performance in here.

To fast for me: Sonic is presumably so-called because he runs very quickly, but he could be super if he went faster than roughly 770mp/h.

More Brain Training

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Dr. Kawishima is a clever old sausage. Ask a person to name a handful of games for the DS and Brain Training springs up like a daffodil in March every time. It is rather good, you see; built around the idea that you play a selection of brain-twisting games for 10 minutes a day and sharpen up your neurological reactions. As you do, it records how well you do and gives you a brain age to reflect your performance; do badly and you will be given an old person's age, do well and you will look years younger.

The sequel assumes you are familiar with all this and makes things a little trickier with a batch of new tasks to keep the squashy bit in your head ticking over. Not only is it fiendishly addictive and easy to pick up and plug away at every day, it also has some sort of real world benefit to do with your brain and how it oh look a butterfly. No secret that it has spawned copycats and follow-on ideas like Sight Training and Face Training. One even your parents will like.

I'm pretty stupid: in that I am out of the office today and I have left Tom to post my feature. Which will give me something to ponder when I dance home listening to Donna Air and doing cross-stitch swastikas for my book-burning club.

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