DS Roundup • Page 2

Cooking Guide, Harvest Fishing, My Health Coach, Wacky Races.

My Health Coach: Manage Your Weight

  • Developer: Ubisoft
  • Publisher: Ubisoft

Don't take this advice as medical fact, warns the disclaimer that precedes the menu screen to Ubisoft's latest "go you!" digital foray into helping you improve your life. Don't worry, there's nothing here that will truly do you an injury unless you haven't gotten out of bed since last January. Despite the Manage Your Weight subtitle, My Health Coach places less emphasis on losing weight than advising you how changes in your lifestyle can lead to the desired results.

It's all terribly American by its nature, something that we of a more cynical European nature will heave a sigh towards. From the very beginning it maintains a positive can-do attitude, never offering up criticism, only encouragement. It certainly takes a little while to get rid of the image of inane whooping and cheering to Oprah in the back of your mind.

Upon firing it up, a lengthy intro process of entering personal statistics and answering questions about what you do and how you eat builds up an idea of where it should take things. Once done, it then becomes a daily planner interspersed with advice, giving you tasks to accomplish each day. Much of this is worked out in the form of voluntary challenges to surpass, like eating at least two vegetables for dinner or walking to the shops.

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And while it might not be able to rustle up a balance board it does come packaged with a handy pedometer to help with step-based challenges. It's a smart decision to include something that physically requires you to do something (even if it turns out to be shaking it up and down for five minutes while sitting on the sofa) to progress. Indeed, you can't get on with the initial coaching session without it. Either that or it's an ingenious form of copy protection. I can't think of many people wanting to pirate Crysis if they had to walk around the block to load up a level. Maybe you can still get that done in time for Warhead, eh Crytek?

Still, it goes without saying that it's entirely reliant on your honesty and commitment in getting the results you want. There's no way for it to tell if you're cheating (although your doodle-drawn coach glaring intently at the screen letting you know you've let yourself and everybody else down would be a remarkable sight). In absence of that knowledge, it relies on its constant stream of compliments to encourage your participation in its programme. Every time you accomplish something of any note, it's determined to mark your progress in order to let you know how great you're doing. This is all that you need of it, but it's a shame it's nothing more than an animated checklist of goals, really. It would be interesting to see someone translate what you'd eaten that day or how many steps you'd walked into some kind of RPG adventure. Alas, not here.

As a guide to helping you on those first steps to ditching the burgers and fizzy pop, it only really works if you're in the right frame of mind. It's only ever encouragement towards a solution rather than the solution itself, and not a quick fix. As an actual coach it really only works in general terms: there's no way to finely tailor the experience for your own capabilities in ways that an actual person could, and there's not much to commit you if the determination lapses. My Health Coach is a fair package for those who treat this as a first small step in getting off their plump behinds, though it's not essential.

6/10

Wacky Races: Crash and Dash

  • Developer: Farmind
  • Publisher: Eidos

You can't begrudge Hanna-Barbera for being prolific at a time when kids wouldn't watch anything unless it had a wise-cracking animated animal in it. Yet their shows were of a variable quality, often more akin to bad sitcom than madcap cartoon. Only through the sheer force of nostalgia and the Adult Swim parodies like Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law have the memories been kept alive even after the time we learned that Hanna-Barbera was an animation studio and not a woman's name (come on, it wasn't just me, was it?).

Wacky Races, then, was one of the more memorable cartoons in which an eclectic series of characters in oddball vehicles competed for first place in your usual screwball style. Ideal inspiration for a racing game license, no doubt, in an industry still obsessed with trying to find a worthy competitor for Mario Kart. Indeed, there've been Wacky Races games before and they haven't exactly been great. No surprise then that this DS version is worse - as enjoyable as stepping in a pile of Muttley's steaming dog eggs.

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Slapdash and gash, more like.

Racing is done from a semi-top down view of the track. You accelerate and steer around obstacles by moving the stylus left and right. If the restricted viewpoint makes seeing what lies ahead difficult, the bigger problem is in the mess of vehicles that clutter the screen. What should be enjoyably hectic is just annoying as your rivals bump and bash around you without anything approaching sense. Every five seconds somebody unleashes a power-up, as you're constantly doing yourself, leading to the commentator babbling the same sound-bite over and over again until you're sick of his voice.

To make matter worse, the race will stop dead at certain points to forcibly initiate a mini-game in the guise of one of Dastardly and Muttley's futile foils. You're then required to tap or scratch the screen to get rid of it and get back into the race. Really, what were they thinking? Beyond working out how to add substance to a poorly made racing game that nobody in their right mind should play, it's an interruption as unwelcome as it sounds.

And even worse than that is the race to the finishing line. For some unknown reason, as soon as you reach the home straight all bets are off and you have to blow into the microphone in order to stand a chance of earning first place. I don't know exactly how hard they want you to blow, but my paltry lung power wasn't enough to do it. Thankfully, you can rapidly scribble on the screen to the same effect, but even that wasn't enough. The solution was to do both at the same time, puffing like a dilapidated steam train and scratching like an epileptic DJ. I eventually won the rally and lost all respect for this awful excuse for a racing game.

3/10

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