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DS Roundup

Pet Alien, Nervous Brickdown, Drawn to Life, Prism and more.

Nervous Brickdown

  • Developer: Arkedo Studios
  • Publisher: Eidos

Let's tackle that name, for starters. How they must have chortled and left for an early lunch when they came up with that. This is a game with bricks in it, yes. It's an Arkanoid clone (or Breakout if you want to be retro-pedantic), dressed up in new clothes. Nervous, though? Nope. That's as far as the ill-fitting pun gets

Title criticism aside, there are nine different variations on the theme of batting balls at bricks to make them disappear. One puts the emphasis on speed, for instance, testing your reactions; another removes gravity from the ball, forcing you to hit it with force to gain height; and another asks you to switch paddles to match the colour of the incoming ball. Nine levels of each precede a boss battle.

Some levels are pretty easy, some are frustratingly hard. Given the nature of the two screens, and the occasional fast-moving ball, we sometimes wish that the gap that separates the two halves of the board wasn't quite so large. It often makes lining up a shot a little, how would you say, imprecise.

Yet, we'll forgive it some of its shortcomings as each world has its own distinct bright and colourful visual style, even if the chunkiness does hinder play sometimes. Overall presentation is somewhere between the kitsch graphics of Rub Rabbits and the stylishness of the GBA's bit Generations. This is a good thing, as beneath it all it's still just Arkanoid. It's still just that game where you can't seem to hit that last brick in the top right corner no matter what angle you hit the ball. It's a game relegated nowadays to mini-games in bigger budget titles, or as shareware projects for bedroom programmers.

Not to say that this isn't a nice distraction; it's a fine showcase for some good ideas, doing for Arkanoid what Flipnic did for pinball. But its novelty value doesn't make it a game you'll come back to for long, though.


Full Metal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy

  • Developer: Bandai
  • Publisher: Empire

Oh, is it time for more wide-eyed shouty-boy action already? Dual Sympathy is the new DS iteration of the popular Japanese comic and animated series Full Metal Alchemist, a fantasy tale set in early twentieth century Europe about a boy and his brother using the power of alchemy to save family and friends. Their epic story touches upon such heartfelt emotions as loss, responsibility, guilt, and sacrifice, played out in the midst of deeper social topics like religion, terrorism and war (with plenty of wide-eyed shouty-boy action, of course). Every reason indeed to turn this game into a scrolling beat 'em up.

Special moves are ludicrously over the top and readily available.

And not a very sophisticated one at that. Two buttons do all the work - punch and jump - with a special attack and a shield-stroke-stepping stone operated via the touch screen. It does throw in the occasional simple obstacle to overcome with your powers, but most of the game can be got through pretty quickly by punching.

That time spent in battle is relatively short compared to the time spent in cut-scenes. Displaying stills from the anime and the occasional sentence of speech allows the game to put battles into context. Coming in cold, however, it's nigh-on incomprehensible, either through poor translation, or more likely the fact that it tries to compress dozens of plot threads and characters into short info bursts. One for the fans, then, and even then only the ones who've watched everything as spoilers abound.

Completing the main single player game does allow further characters to be unlocked in order to view a sliver of a different cut-scene, yet they don't really add any significant difference to how you play. Worst of all, it's missing any multiplayer option, as fighting along with a friend might have added a little bit more enjoyment. Obligatory mini-games don't really make up for it, making this a brawler that's more a nod to easily pleased fans than an essential purchase.