Games: DSi delivers fun in a snap
April 19, 2009
Nintendo last month announced that it had shipped its 100 millionth DS. A month later, the company has given gamers a reason to head back to the store.
The new DSi boosts the system’s power, screen size, memory and graphics but also adds new elements to its winning mix. The system now boasts two cameras, which will open up new avenues for game play. However, the biggest addition is the ability to download games from Nintendo’s DSi Shop via the system’s wireless Internet connection.
The DSi bears a strong resemblance to its older cousins, offering the same dual-screen format and game play buttons. It’s just a bit longer and a bit slimmer and it comes in either light blue or black.
The most noticeable change is the addition of two cameras — one facing inward from the hinge between the two screens and one facing outward. Preloaded software lets you shoot, store and manipulate photos. You can warp the lens to distort faces, add graffiti or blend photos of two different people. You have 10 basic options but it’s fun to experiment with combining multiple effects.
You also can save the photos onto an SD card and then transfer them to your computer. However, the photos are relatively low resolution, so don’t expect to make a poster of your friend’s face on a dog’s body.
The cameras can get a little finicky in certain lighting conditions. For example, some of the applications will only work if they detect a face and will balk if a person’s face isn’t illuminated just right.
The inner camera is also required for the new game "Wario Ware: Snapped!," which is one of the few titles currently available at the DSi Shop. The game involves making quick gestures with your head and hand, which are picked up by the camera and relayed to the screen. It’s reminiscent of the popular "Wario Ware: Smooth Moves," which featured gesture-based micro-games for Nintendo’s Wii console. Once again, you need ideal lighting to make the game work well.
The system also comes with Nintendo DSi Sound, which lets you capture and manipulate brief audio clips. So if you ever wondered what you’d sound like when singing "Happy Birthday" on helium, here’s your chance to find out. The application is pretty basic but is popular with the younger set.
The DSi Shop doesn’t offer much at this point, but Nintendo plans to keep adding new applications. Such downloadable content has become a popular — and lucrative — market on the larger game consoles. I would expect this trend to carry over to the DSi, which seems to be an ideal platform for developers who want to target casual gamers.
Aside from "Wario War," the shop’s offerings include: "Bird & Beans," which features a small bird with a rubbery tongue who likes to grab beans; "Master of Illusion Express," which uses the DSi to help perform magic tricks; and "Brain Age Express: Math," which features math elements from the popular brain-training game.
Games generally cost a few bucks — or actually a few hundred DSi Points, which can be purchased through the shop or at some stores.
The DSi Shop also offers a free Internet browser from Opera. Unfortunately, it crawls pretty slowly and quickly fills the system’s memory. It’s fine for checking Twitter or e-mail, but not so great for sites with lots of graphics.
While the DSi adds plenty of new features and applications, longtime gamers are likely to miss what’s been lost: the port that accommodated GameBoy Advance cartridges in earlier version of the system. It was actually the first thing one of my friends noticed when I showed him the DSi.
However, judging from Nintendo’s track record with downloadable content for the Wii, it probably won’t be too long before longtime GameBoy favorites find their way on to the DSi Shop.