Race Driver: GRID
- Developer: Firebrand Games
- Publisher: Codemasters
Last year's Race Driver: Create & Race was a clumsily titled effort that nevertheless managed to squeeze an incredible amount of game into a small space. Online play, with a robust lobby system. A track editor, the fruits of which could be shared wirelessly. Oh, and a whole heap of courses and tournaments to play the old fashioned way. The only downside to Race & Create was the slightly bland graphics, but even those seemed like an acceptable compromise given the dearth of serious racers on the DS.
I don't know how they've done it (possibly voodoo, we're looking into it) but those busy beavers at Firebrand have managed to create a sequel that contains everything from the previous game, but now with far more impressive visuals. Trackside details have been vastly improved, and the addition of city street racing alongside the expected real-world courses is most welcome. From muscle cars in America to drift racing in Japan, GRID on the DS covers pretty much every base that race fans will expect.
You could, if you were feeling particularly unforgiving, level the criticism that this is simply the version of the game we should have got first time around. It's certainly true that apart from the graphical polish, this is essentially the same in terms of core gameplay, albeit structured slightly differently. But with new courses, new cars and the freedom to create your own content, it's hard to imagine too many DS-owning race fans being put off by such a piffling complaint though.
Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution
- Developer: Firaxis Games
- Publisher: 2K Games
Once developers twigged that the stylus and touch-screen combo was a remarkably effective substitute for a mouse, it was inevitable that a host of PC clicky classics would try their luck in handheld form.
For the most part, the results of these experiments have been mixed. Sim City floundered slightly in the transition, undone by shallow gameplay and finickety controls, while The Settlers simply made a right old arse of it, with a broken and butt-ugly effort that disgraced the series lovely heritage. Age of Empires fared best, and it was while reviewing that particular PC port that I typed these prophetic words: "Coming in a week when Sid Meier hinted at bringing Civ to the DS, it's a tantalising display of how much can be crammed onto one of those dinky cards."
Well, Sid Meier has brought Civ to the DS and he's crammed the bloody lot onto the dinky card. Yep, it's a fully featured conversion of a massive game, recreated in miniature with very few concessions or omissions. Although it shares its name with the recent console iteration of the venerable series, in both looks and gameplay Civ DS harks back to the very first Civilization games, in all their sprawling splendour. The goal is simple, yet daunting: starting in 4000BC, just build up a civilisation from one small city to the world domination. Whether you do this through economics, politics, warfare or simply by reaching outer space before anyone else, is entirely up to you.
You get sixteen Civilizations to choose from, each with their own unique bonuses during each era. Play then unfolds across a randomly generated map, according to which of the five difficulty settings you've chosen. If that long haul doesn't appeal then there are also ten preset scenarios, all of which start you off in some very clever situations. Beta Centauri, for example, casts you as an advanced race colonising a new planet, so you start with all the technologies. Golden Age, on the other hand, will appeal to those who favour science and culture, since those are the dominant forces rather than military might.
The game boasts a full complement of unit types, from trading caravans and spies to bombers, tanks and space rockets, and great people from history appear in successful cities to further your advances. Add a tech tree laden with over forty technologies to be researched, and it's clearly not a game that can be accused of dumbing down for the handheld crowd.
The interface is instantly intuitive, while menu choices are always clear and easy to find. There are multiplayer modes for both local and internet play, while you can also download a "Game of the Week" from the Civilization servers. There's really not much more you could ask for. It's Civilization, in all its glory, so if you take your DS on the bus you'd best start praying for traffic jams.