A Question: Nintendo DSi or Sony PSP?

The question machine has plunked a spinning, golden question in front of me:

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My 8 year old son is very keen to purchase either a PSP or Nintendo DSi …however his parents have no idea which is the better option – if there is one? We would appreciate any information you can give us – even if it is just a website where we can compare the two machines. Thanks for your help.

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Firstly, I must warn you: by asking this question you are raising one of the most fervent religious battles of our time. The religiosity of the Sony-Nintendo-Microsoft console fanboy battle makes Christianity vs. Islam look like an angry game of mini golf. At each corner of the battlefield, you will find acolytes willing to claim that their console of choice is capable of curing cancer and ending world hunger, while asserting that the competing consoles are built from the carcasses of innocent kittens.

And so I beseech you, check carefully if your son has a preference for one brand over another. If you choose not to heed this warning, you may risk unleashing the wrath of a fanboy scorned. One possible way to check for a preference is to casually drop the name of some “exclusives”: games and characters that exist on one brand of console, and not others. Here is a handy list:

  • Nintendo DS(i): Mario, Zelda, Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
  • Sony PSP: Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Grand Tourismo
  • Microsoft (who don’t have a portable console): Halo, Master Chief, Forza Motorsport

If you get a rousing Huzzah! regarding one of these “exclusives”, you may have solved your question there and then. If on the other hand all options raise equal (dis)interest, then you have a hard road to travel. In this case, to help you (and perhaps your son) I’m going to try to outline the general ‘vibe’ of each console below, and add a spanner into the works too, just to make life hard.
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Nintendo DSi Review: Evolution or Revolution?

The Nintendo DSi might look like an evolution on the previous DS console, but it is more like a revolution.

Nintendo DSi Comparison The console is almost indistinguishable from the previous model (click on the image to see a comparison). By removing the Gameboy Advance game slot, Nintendo has been able to slim the console down by a barely noticeable 13%. The coating is now matte instead of gloss, and the colour options are black and white. When you flip it open, you’ll only notice the bigger, brighter screens if you’re a long-time DS user. From a distance, the only noticeable difference might be the black spot on the cover that belies the revolutionary nature of the DSi.

The black spot covers the lens for one of the two built in cameras. The 3 megapixel external camera is never going to out-shoot your regular digital camera, but it’s more than enough to capture silly memories. The 0.3mp internal camera will no doubt spawn some interesting new games, with at least one Wario title already announced: you leave the DSi on a flat surface, then wave your body around in front of the camera to play. The included camera software is great fun, but doubles as a nice, usable photo archive too, with a calendar to show you when the photos were taken.

I personally prefer to use dedicated devices for photos, music, and gaming, but I’m sure a large number of DSi buyers will appreciate its ability to store and play music files. The downside is the DSi doesn’t support normal MP3 files: you’ll need to convert music to AAC. I have absolutely no idea why consumer electronics companies do this to us. Just stick with the de-facto standards please!

Despite the horrifically bad name (DSiWare? It makes my teeth ache!), Nintendo have stepped up their online game with DSiWare: an online shop that you can use to browse and purchase games and add-ons right on the console (assuming you have access to a Wifi network). If you’ve used the Nintendo store on the Wii console, you’ll be familiar with the approach. Early downloads include a web browser and ebook reader. Unfortunately I can’t test these out yet, because Nintendo have locked the store away until after the April 2 release date. I’ll update once I’ve had a play.

Of course you can also play all your old DS games on the DSi. The removal of the GBA slot means you won’t be playing any old GameBoy games, but there is a huge back catalog of DS games available.

Overall I’m a bit more impressed with the DSi than I ever was with the DS. I’m a little less sure whether it deserves the NZ$150 price premium, but I’m hoping the DSiWare shop and the cameras will bring us some fun times.

Update: I’ve had a bit of a play with the DSiWare shop. The process is almost identical to the WiiWare shop. I tried downloading and installing the web browser, and it was painless. The available games were rather pathetic, but I presume that will improve in time.

Quick Review: Madagascar 2

Madagascar 2This is going to be short. Madagascar 2 (the game, not the movie) is just average. There is nothing in the game to excite the regular gamer – it’s a bunch of mini-games and is designed to make additional money from the movie franchise (which happens to debut in New Zealand on the 12th of December).

Having said that, I do imagine my 5 year old son will be begging me to play it once he has seen the movie. That is the appeal of these games I guess: they extend the pleasure for the kids.

Conclusion: harmless, pointless fun. Hard to see why you’d spend close to $100 on the game unless you have a hard-core King Julian fan in the house.

TVNZ Game Reviews: 3rd December 2008

Hello, and a hearty welcome if this is your first time here. Grab a pew and feel free to browse around the archives.

I’m part-way through writing up full reviews for the games that featured on my segment on TVNZ Breakfast this morning, but in the meantime you can find these ones:

The reviews for the other games will be appearing smartly, but do feel free to ask any questions by adding a comment below. You can also find a place to buy any of the games by hitting up these links:

Also don’t forget you can win an XBox 360 plus two games at TVNZ’s website.

Star Wars: Force Unleashed: Barrels of Fun

pre-e3-2008-star-wars-the-force-unleashed-images-20080701023110197_640w I?m not a massive Star Wars nerd. I have seen all six of the movies, regardless of how badly I want to un-see the last one, but I wouldn?t know the name of any Wookie other than Chewbacca, or even how to bulls-eye a womprat in my T-16.

Having said that, I do enjoy a good bit of lightsabering and Sith mayhem, which is exactly what Star Wars: Force Unleashed offers up.

The game starts in an admirable fashion. No namby-pamby cutscenes here. You?re dropped straight into the game as none other than Darth Vader. Starting as Lord Vader gives you an opportunity to see the potential of the game, with virtually limitless ?Force? power, you can throw opponents across the screen, push them off bridges, collapse trees and structures, and just generally wreak mayhem.

Once the initial level is over, you are back to a more mundane character, albeit still with a good deal of Force powers and plenty of lightsaber skill. From there you progress as per most modern games, unlocking skills and powers as you work through multiple levels, meeting ?boss? characters at the end of each one.

The beauty of Force Unleashed is not in the storyline (although this is adequate), but in the gameplay. The visceral fun of flinging boxes, crates, bombs, and characters around the environment is palpable. I find myself using Force powers more than the lightsaber, purely for the fun of it. A few levels offer a platform or puzzle segment where you must use your ?Force Grip? to move objects or parts of the level in order to progress.

I haven?t completed the game, so I don?t know the length of it, but at the moment I?m having so much fun playing the game that I hope it never ends.