There's going back to your roots, and then there's going back to your roots. New Super Mario Bros might have partied like it was 1989, but 42 All-Time Classics winds the clock back a further hundred years, to Nintendo's birth as a manufacturer of playing cards. Maybe that part of the company's history now only exists meaningfully deep in the echoing, marbled halls of retired president (and family heir) Hiroshi Yamauchi's memory, but that's still a pretty important place when it comes to Nintendo. And it certainly won't be lost on the old bird that the company's current burning desire to be all things to all demographics has brought it full circle, turning the DS into a vehicle for something Nintendo was peddling back in the late 19th century: social games with good old-fashioned family values. Er, and gambling.
42 All-Time Classics is just that, a compilation of 42 games - card games, board games, bar sports - most of which predate the video variety by decades if not centuries. Blackjack, Texas hold 'em poker, chess, bowling, Ludo, dominoes, solitaire, battleships (under the clumsy title 'grid attack', presumably for copyright reasons), draughts, Othello (here called 'turncoat'), darts, billiards, rummy, backgammon, sevens, even hangman and a game where you scribble on the touch screen to shake a soda bottle and pass it on. It is, basically, a country pub, a students' union and a 1970s suburban dinner party (minus the rosť and marital infidelity) all rolled into one, packed onto a tiny game card and put at the tip of your stylus.
It is an idea so dumbfoundingly simple and brilliant you can scarcely believe you didn't conceive and code it yourself in a spare afternoon ten years ago. But ten years ago the DS didn't exist, and without it, 42 All-Time Classics would have been a forlorn fraction of what it is. The twin screens are a great asset in presenting most of the games, for scoreboards and keeping track of turns, if nothing else. The touch screen is the perfect interface, even better than a mouse for moving pieces around a board, flicking cards into play, stroking a bowling ball down the lane. And of course, the majority of these games are for more than one player, so 42 All-Time Classics brings the full force of the DS' considerable social skills to bear, offering all but its three single-player games for online or local wireless play, full download play support for friends without the game, built-in PictoChat for local play and between friends online, simple self-translating chat phrases for online use, and even the facility to send any one of the games as a gift to be stored in memory until the recipient's DS is turned off. And - this is of vital, life-changing importance to all of you, so pay attention - it means you can play solitaire on the bus.