DS Roundup • Page 4

Top trumps, crosswords, dragons, etc.

Stratego

And I thought explaining the rules of Top Trumps in a paragraph was hard. Stratego is much more complex, and if you're that bothered you're best off doing some extensive research on Wikipedia.

In short: Stratego is like a cross between Chess and Risk. It's played on a chequered board with numbered pieces to represent soldiers. You take it in turns to move and attack, and battles are decided according to which piece bears the highest number. The object of the game is to capture the other person's flag, but you can also win by eliminating all their pieces.

Not that you'd know any of this if you relied on the rubbish in-game tutorial in Stratego DS. Actually it's not in-game, which is the problem. It's just a long series of text-based instructions and diagrams, which you're supposed to absorb and then recall while play the game. This would appear to be a hard task, as the instructions are complicated and the diagrams are confusing.

However, get stuck in and it's possible to work out what's going on pretty quickly. As with all the best strategy games, Stratego's rules are easy to grasp and it's the tactical element which takes time to master.

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Look, Sharpe.

When playing the board game, the way you lay your pieces out before the battle begins is key to developing a winning strategy. In the DS version you can choose from a number of pre-determined layouts. Handy if you don't have a lot of time to spare or are feeling lazy, but Stratego purists would probably say this is missing the point. While picking stray strands of Golden Virginia from their beards and rubbing the stains on their CAMRA t-shirts.

The DS game offers three game modes to choose from - original Stratego, Stratego 90 (the board is tilted 90 degrees) and Stratego Duel (each player has 10 pieces rather than the traditional 40, making, obviously, for a much quicker game). There's no online option. There is local multiplayer, but if you've only got one copy of the game you can only play Stratego Duel.

As a single-player game, Stratego DS is fun for beginners. It's rewarding to work out how the tactical element works and develop your own strategies. However, once you've got the basic rules down, it quickly becomes apparent the AI isn't good enough. You'll find yourself winning game after game without any problems at all.

What with the sub-par AI, stingy download play options and limited long-term challenge, it's hard to recommend Stratego DS. Which is a shame, because it's easy to see how the fundamental principles could make for an involving, satisfying game against a human opponent. You might want to give the board game a go instead.

4/10

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