The Tetris of old gets a few new twists, and they prove divisive. The now-standard ability to spin a block endlessly - effectively allowing you to play the game indefinitely without succumbing to an onrush of blocks from above - robs it of some of its charm, but with many new modes (some of which are actually pretty decent) and ten-player multiplayer available on a single game-card, it's hard not to recommend to puzzle funs bored of Zoo Keeper. From the review: "There will be complaints that you can't turn off the things that have changed about Tetris since it was the main reason to own a Game Boy - namely the store option and ability to see six pieces in advance - and for those without the ability to take their DS online, it's slightly less essential - the new modes are fun but the old one is still the most important. Regardless, this feels as welcome as any of Nintendo's recent DS reworkings, and, given that I had to pay for my own copy, I feel like I can say that with a bit more conviction than I ever did when heaping guilty praise on GBA releases. It's 'Tetris with the Nintendo touch!' the box declares. Touché."
You buy a puppy and look after it. That's the whole game. But it's such a convincing illusion of a puppy that it's hard not to feel some empathy for the little fella and put time aside each day to deal with his, well, crap. The addition of countless unlockable items found whilst out for walkies guarantees that there's much in it for you as well - and it remains one of the best uses of the DS's microphone interfaces to date. Worthy of its 21st-century-Tamagotchi label. From the review: "The basic feed-train-compete mechanics are always there no matter how many puppies you own. And if you're lacking in patience, you're likely to get frustrated with the endless walking and dodgy voice recognition. But we challenge any child, dog lover or generally soppy individual not to enjoy Nintendogs, and not to fall in love with their fluffy little bundles of fun. Not a perfect game, no, but one of the freshest, most innovative and all-round entertaining titles we've played for a while."
When Nintendo chose to begin its touch-screen odyssey with a retread of an old game, a lot of us thought "uh-oh". But it hasn't been like that, and now we can look back on Super Mario 64 DS, one of the system's launch titles, with a bit more than the guarded affection we had for it at the time. It's a lovingly fleshed out port with new stars to find, and a range of mini-games for four players. The latter are done better in New Super Mario Bros., the 2D platformer due out later this June (and using just one copy of the game too), but Super Mario 64 DS remains an excellent example of what's possible on the DS - and if you can get your head around the analog-nub control system then you'll be well equipped to take on a lot of the system's fiddlier games. From the review: "The genius move in this instance is to use SM64 as something of a Trojan Horse to showcase the touch-screen capabilities of the DS. And we're not talking about the rather contentious and not altogether satisfying control system for a game that was never designed to use this input, but more the remarkable array of mini-games that serve not only as a mini-glimpse into the future of handheld games, but help drag you through one of the best platform games ever made too."
Games about the law are few and thankfully far between - but Capcom's madcap attempt to capture the drama of the courtroom is best described as an amusing adventure with a legal background than Kavanagh QC: The Game. Responsible for most of my friends running across the pub to greet me by pointing dramatically and yelling "OBJECTION!!!" From the review: "Unlike Another Code, this is a hefty game. There are at least ten hours of play up until the end credits, and even then there's a little (read: very big) extra bonus. Well, ok, a vast, epic bonus. Another entire story has been written for the DS version, lasting about as long as the rest put together. Astonishing. The bumper extra even implements new features, such as a 3D inventory and DS gimmicks like blowing on the mic to dust for prints. It's like being cuddled by fun."
Sadly never destined for the kind of success its studio stablemate Lumines enjoyed on PlayStation Portable, Meteos is nevertheless a surprisingly gripping game. Essentially a falling blocks puzzler, it's about sending stacks of blocks flying off the top of the screen by using the stylus to arrange them into rows, and that's just the start. With great music and tons of unlockables, the only slightly jarring thing is that you can cheat at it to a certain extent by scrubbing the screen with the stylus. But people who do that should be rounded up and killed, so that's alright. From the review: "When you think about what it's like to play Meteos, you understand why men like Tetsuya Mizuguchi are so revered. Because they thought about it. They thought very hard. And if you respect that the same way we do, and see it borne out the way it is here, you'll play it the best way, and you'll likely agree that it rockets into 9/10 territory with fuel to spare."
Kirby's not been at his best in recent years (as anybody who played Kirby Air Ride can attest). Leave it to the DS to sort that out. It's not one I've played yet, but if I needed an impetus to do so then the coming summer months and the release of DS Lite ought to see to that. From the review: "It's difficult to over-stress how wonderful it is to have a complicated and intricate platform game that's so remarkably relaxing to play. It's a rare treat, and very appreciated. Kirby: Cursed Canvas comes from nowhere, but deserves to go everywhere. It's another absolute proof of the validity of the DS as a unique gaming platform, and sets a new challenge bar for relaxing platform gaming."
Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan
For the most part we've tried to stick to European releases here, with a Coming Soon section later on, but if we're going to make a concession to imports then it's going to be for this brilliant example of rhythm-response at its most engaging. Simply, you tap icons on the screen in time to J-Rock. And out of that you get one of the most ludicrously addictive games on the system. Perfectly playable in its native Japanese, there's talk of a European release later this year, but it wouldn't be quite the same if you knew what was going on. So buy it like this. From our impressions: "It's denied the honour of an import review score only by our caution - as we haven't been able to try the multiplayer mode, and our lack of Japanese language skills means we haven't worked out whether the non-linear level-selector is actually prompting us to play in a certain order, which would doubtless inform our views on the difficulty curve differently. If we did score it, it seems obvious what we'd give it though: three cheers."