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NEO Coding Competitions => NEO Compo 2011 => The past Neo Coding Compos => The compo review collection area => Topic started by: DesertDog on September 09, 2011, 07:31:13 PM

Title: NDS Reviews
Post by: DesertDog on September 09, 2011, 07:31:13 PM
I only reviewed the DS entries, using a DSi with an Acekard 2. Sorry to everyone else, but I didn't think it would be a proper review if it wasn't on real hardware.

Here's the summary of my review scores:

Wildlife Greenhouse - 6/10
TuneItDS - 5/10
WhatTheHexDS - 3/10
U.S.A. Naturalization Civics Test - n/a (my entry)

Arsenal - 8/10
DScraft - 7/10
Mind Maze - 7/10
Super Smash Bros Crash! DS - 7/10
Everyman - 6/10
Flyin' - 4/10

For the full reviews, you'll need to come to my site. Sorry, but it's worth it - I put some effort into making it look pretty and magazine-like. (

Title: Re: NDS Reviews
Post by: DesertDog on September 12, 2011, 08:58:38 AM
I have been asked to put my reviews on the forum, so here they are. I still recommend reading them at the link in the original post though  :)

It’s been said that, in real life, one doesn’t ‘win’ a gunfight, but merely ‘survive’. The same isn’t true in the sub-genre of vertical shoot’em ups, the appropriately-named ‘bullet-hell shooter’. Deft reflexes are required to dodge the seemingly endless curtains of death flying towards you. Sure, you could attack, which at times will reward you with a powerup, but you can just hang on. End of level bosses will require taking care of, so now all you have to do is survive and attack. Sounds straightforward, right? Arsenal does most things right. Controls are immediate and the graphics crisp. Music is reportedly temporary but accompanies the arcade action well. The ability to save a replay of your journey through each level allows one to gloat amongst friends, or simply relive that WTF moment where you somehow managed to get through that hailstorm unharmed. Collision detection is possibly unreliable - even with a visible hitbox one feels that bullets that killed looked like they should have grazed instead. It’s probably too hard for newcomers to the genre (it’s called ‘bullet-hell’ for a reason), but Arsenal is a solid game that presents well and plays mostly as you would expect.

Hit indie title ‘Minecraft’ gets an adaption onto Nintendo’s dual-screen handheld with DScraft. Essentially a electronic Lego set, players are given blocks and allowed to build the world they wish. First-person controls make the construction process a journey rather than a mechanical stacking of bricks, and elements like water and the day/night cycle give your world some life. Save your creation and share with others to explore, add to, or simply destroy. DScraft is a sandbox in the purest form of the word. It’s as fun and engaging as one is willing to allow it to be. There is no goal, no enemies, no pickups. Some will bore of it immediately, while others will spend many a night building some homage to popular culture or internet meme. Thankfully, the game’s execution is fine - the controls (of which there are multiple layouts) suit the building process without giving you a cramp, and many block-types and additional texture map packs allow more tools for creativity. DScraft does justice to its big brother, an impressive condensation of a ‘next-gen’ idea on a ‘last-gen’ console.

If graphics were everything, Everyman would be a work of art. Its stylish sketchy images render wonderfully on the DS’ two screens, and its muted colour design is well considered. However, being a platform game, Everyman stumbles from its visual highs. Sadly, the art comes with a cost - it’s hard to tell how long the platforms are that one jumps on. Even worse, sometimes it’s hard to identify platforms at all. Threats in the world (usually ivy-like) sometimes look like innocent sketchy inspirations of the artist, but instant death reveals otherwise and always too late. It’s a bit trial and error, though at least you know that you’re slowly moving forward each time you bite the dust. The dystopian storyline adds a certain charm, though be warned that the prologue cutscene cannot be skipped. The music fits nicely with both the theme and the action; techno beats that wouldn’t be out of place at an Amiga concert. Everyman has mostly the right ingredients. It’s just a shame that the weakest part of the game is the thing it should do most competently; namely, the platforming.

Dark moody graphics and melancholic music set the stage for a horror story, but first impressions aren’t always accurate. Sadly though, the reality of Flyin’ pales to the false impression. As an constantly-moving fly, the player navigates each level in search of the green bulb exit. Able only to slow down briefly or stop momentarily if a red bulb is found, it’s a race to make sense of the 3D world before one collides with something (anything) and the level restarts. Instant death is not necessarily bad, but the game solely relies on trial and error to find the perfect path. Cheap deaths compound and patience wears thin rather quickly. Those dark graphics are attractive but hinder, and the field of view feels too narrow as the game asks you to turn along every axis. Difficulty is misjudged poorly. You accelerate too fast, your ‘brakes’ are too limited. Better use of lights and textures could have been used to visually hint to the next direction to be taken. It’s a shame as the main menu imagery, that of an open book, suggests something worth discovering; the game just makes it very difficult to do so.

Mind Maze
One genre that suits the Nintendo DS well is puzzles. Here, gameplay is paramount - there is no blaming hardware limitations for one’s flaws in rules and logic. That said, it doesn’t mean those same rules and logic can’t be tarted up a little with an appropriate amount of style. Mind Maze is essentially four different puzzle mini-games: sliding tiles, memory cards, mazes, and flip cubes. On their own, each game is simple and nothing new. Indeed, as far as homebrew goes, each of these mini-games could have been individually released without criticism. But as a package, Mind Maze is a higher-value experience. and better for it. The graphics are varied and well-drawn, whether it be 2D or 3D. Music too is worth a listen, and there’s enough of it to not annoy the ears. Those looking for a slower-paced mental challenge could do a lot worse than Mind Maze. It’s a confident title that offers plenty to sink one’s teeth into.

Super Smash Bros Crash! DS
Nintendo’s all-star fighting game slash fan service finds its way onto the DS with Super Smash Bros Crash! It’s quite a serviceable attempt too; taking a lot of space on your memory card to offer 29 playable characters and an equal amount of stages to fight in. The concept is basically intact (beat up your opponent enough to they fall off the stage) and while it may just end up being mindless button-mashing, the same criticism can be applied to the original too. Those who like quantity will adore the amount of game modes and extras that come with the game. Special mention must go to the bonus NES games (via the nesDS emulator) in the ‘Vault’ menu, which is cheeky, yet accurate. Those who prefer quality though will argue that the stages are poorly hand-drawn at times, the animation limited, and the play area cramp. It’s not original by any means, but Super Smash Bros Crash! is good evidence that big experiences translate well - as long as you commit to it all.

Whether one is a beginner or an experienced guitarist, one of the fundamentals of playing said instrument is the ability to tune it correctly. No doubt the experienced can do it by ear, but for everyone else, TuneItDS proves useful. Presented with little fuss, the app does exactly (and only) what its name suggests. Guitar strings are displayed and highlighting one produces a sound that (hopefully) the same string on your actual guitar sounds like. Besides changing the tuning scheme to produce alternative tuning combinations (to allow you to not only tune standard guitars but also more uncommon variants such as the Russian Balalaika), there's nothing else that would attract the interest of any non-guitar outsiders. And perhaps the most important part of the app, the notes themselves, sound hollow. No doubt in part due to the DS' less-than-stellar audio hardware, but an increase to the bitrate used for the samples wouldn't have hurt. TuneItDS is single-minded and does what it does, and for that you can't fault its intentions.

U.S.A. Naturalization Civics Test
n/a  (My entry)

Colours are numbers. What kind of numbers depends on where they show up. In print, colours use CMYK. On displays: RGB. In website authoring, HTML traditionally uses hex codes to define its colours, which is essentially RGB but a bit more computer-friendly. This of course means that hex codes become less user-friendly as a result. WhatTheHexDS tests one's knowledge of such hex codes in a quiz-type environment. A code is displayed and one hopefully deciphers it and taps the corresponding colour tile. One suspects this is already difficult in itself - after all, knowing that this hex code is 'green' doesn't necessarily reveal what 'shade' of green it is. With up to 64 possible answers (the app's highest difficulty setting), the odds are against you, especially considering that your DS' brightness level can interfere with your perception and the app doesn't seem to take this into account. The app is a five-minute distraction for graphic designers. For everyone else, its usefulness is akin to picking numbers in a lottery - sometimes random does just as well as reason.

Wildlife Greenhouse
With the rise of genetically-modified food and the corresponding growing popularity of organic food, the idea of eating wild plants is no longer the exclusive domain of extreme vegans or doomsday survivalists. Wildlife Greenhouse offers photos and descriptions of common edible plants found in the wild, and includes a quiz mode to test if you can recognise your (next potential) meal. Ignoring the rather amusing use of an exclamation mark instead of a question mark, the quiz actually adds value to the otherwise basic and dry 'Guide' mode. Photos are crisp and colourful, though it would have been nice if there were multiple shots of each plant, as one is fairly sure plants in the wild don't look so heroic. Text descriptions are limited to a single screen, offering the barest information about the respective plants. All in all, Wildlife Greenhouse is lean on content, but practical and tries to be fun. Those of us who buy our groceries from the supermarket will not care less, but outdoor types who find themselves away from camp could do worse than have this app with them.