Posted by Ben at 07:59

In the second of our summer backlog reviews we take a look at BeeWorks' adorable DS adventure Touch Detective 2Ĺ

As inexcusable as it may be, we at Bitparade never reviewed the first Touch Detective game. Part of the reason for that was that it took an age to reach our shores, which should have acted as a warning because this sequel is never going to get a UK release.

For anyone reading this who didnít play the original (the majority of you), Touch Detective centres around MacKenzie, a pre-teen detective, and her friends Penelope (who happens to be Mackís best client) and Chloe (Mackís greatest rival). Gameplay is fairly standard point & click, with some light adventuring. The touch screen is used to guide Mack around, and select items to touch and investigate.

Youíll also be able to talk to the many weird and wonderful characters littered throughout the game. In gameplay terms this is vital for getting missions and clues, but this should be important to you because itís these interactions that provide the game with its abundant charm. Even if you take that youíre playing as a 10 year old detective as a given, thereís still her 300 year old zombie butler Cromwell, the self-centred town mayor (a turkey), a big red yeti thing, a surly freeloading mouse, the attractive but atrociously out of shape Inspector Daria, and the hilarious ticket inspector.

The presentation of the game has something of the Tim Burton about it. Characters have shadows under their eyes, the palette is washed out, and the environment is ever so slightly skewed. The top screen is used solely for Mackís asides, sometimes endearingly naÔve, sometimes witheringly biting. It all adds up to make for a game you cant help but feel some affection for, and one that is genuinely funny.

Of course that all means nothing if the gameplay doesnít match up. The first game was criticised for its obtuse puzzles, it had its own bizarre logic and it wasnít always clear where you were supposed to be. This is an issue thatís been addressed in Touch Detective 2Ĺ somewhat. Perhaps itís that playing the previous game acts as preparation for what this game expects from you, but the puzzles this time around seem much easier. Yes you will still spend some time touching every single thing on screen, but those occasions are few and far between.

Condensing the play area for most of the missions, whether a deliberate design decision or not, has really helped the flow of the game. Rather than have to trek through every location in town, instead youĎll often be faced with a smaller play field. The first of which is the train mission, but thereís also a space ship, both of which are made up of multiple areas, but itís much more linear than the first game. Helped too are the restrictions placed on which locations are accessible when youíre in town, thereís very little wasted space anymore, and that makes a huge difference.

I thoroughly enjoyed Touch Detective 2Ĺ, and would wholeheartedly recommend it on charm alone. However this is supposed to be a critical review, and as such it would be remiss of me not to draw attention to the games flaws. At points it is too easy, and it is conceivable that youíll never click with the gameís logic. There were times where I was wandering around without a clue what to do, but these really were rare. In short, so long as you donít go in expecting a life changing experience, thereís very little reason why you shouldnít fall just a little bit in love with Mackenzie and her insane world.
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Posted by Ben at 12:44

Depending how things go, this will be the first of a few backlog reviews. And as these things go it's not a bad place to start.

Soul Bubbles is a difficult game to describe. At its core itís a platformer, but one that features few jumps, and very little challenge. Your role is to guide the 7 spirits through a level using only your lungs (in real terms, your stylus). These spirits are typically lovers, not fighters, and so you must protect them by housing them in a bubble. This bubble itself is quite fragile, and so you must guide it through the level, avoiding spikes, thorns, fire, and a multitude of enemies.

You have a few tricks up your sleeve so youíre not entirely helpless. You can deflate your bubble as well as certain enemies, and also cut objects. The cut move is one of the more useful in the game, allowing you to cut down sticky vines and tap enemies, as well as split your spirits to fit through smaller gaps, thus allowing you to explore otherwise impassable areas. You can also pick up seeds that allow you to fling Ďbulletsí at enemies, of these there are 3 different types, all with their own strengths.

Soul Bubbles is made up of numerous areas, each of those consisting of 5 levels. In typical Ďplatformerí fashion these areas are themed, such as the fire based level and the native American level. While this may seem par for the course, what it allows for is new ideas to be thrown at you at regular intervals. Soul Bubbles is overflowing with ideas, some of them good enough to warrant their own game. Take the ice level for example, the cold makes your bubble heavy, meaning that momentum when rolling becomes the key gameplay factor rather than precision blowing.

The wealth of ideas does come at something of a cost, namely that too few are ever really explored. The gas clouds are among the most used of these ideas, but itís only the very final level where you feel the concept is taken to its extreme. Indeed, youíre rarely tested to any real extent; thereís a handful of thoughtful puzzles, but most of the game is simply devoid of challenge. That also means many of the levels can be a tad barren, with the worst offenders feeling like one long linear path with only a handful of reasons to pay attention, a training level that never kicks off.

The lack of difficulty is also one of Soul Bubbles strengths however. Removing frustration from the equation lets the games charm and inventiveness shine through. It would perhaps improve things overall is the difficulty picked up towards the end, or at least the calabash collectibles were harder to acquire. However the games low difficulty makes it easy to like, and certainly difficulty to have any animosity towards.

Soul Bubbles doesnít quite rank among the best games the DS has to offer, but itís certainly among the most intriguing. Itís rare you come across a game with such a wealth of ideas, nor one that is quite such a breeze to play. Graphically the game more than holds its own, putting most other DS platformers to shame. Itís fresh, inventive and fun, and more than worth your time
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Posted by Ben at 08:23

The DS has turned into something of a new home for classic games these past couple of years. Weíve already reviewed the excellent Chrono Trigger, and already seen a Dragon Quest, as well as the likes of New Zealand Story, Broken Sword, and countless Final FantasyĎs.

Dragon Quest Hand of the Heavenly Bride (or DQ 5 from here on out) is not just a simple port, for one the graphics have had something of a 3D overhaul. Generally the game still look 2D, certainly on the outer map, which is commendable if you appreciate retro stylingís. It would be nice to see some more special effects on the special moves, but thatís seemingly not DQís way.

The updating of the graphics has allowed for some new sections to be added relatively seamlessly. There are a handful of missions unique to this DS version, at least one of which leads to an epic, breathless fight, the kind thatís worth the hard work to get through.

Of course with any rpg graphical trickery etc all mean nothing if the gameplay isnít up to it. DQ 5ís battle mechanic is nothing you havenít seen before; youíll stumble into random battles and face off against groups of enemies. Changed from past games is that you can potentially have 4 members in your active party (plus another 4 in your caravan, and countless others stored away if you so chose) rather than 3, this sounds trivial, but later on having a spare healer or stat based magician can really affect your battle strategy. During fights your options are a little limited, essentially you can only use items, magic, or attack. You can control your team-mates or set tactics for them, but itís worth pointing out that early on your monster characters wont necessarily follow orders, not until they reach level 20 wisdom at least.

Which brings us to the monster catching mechanic. Not available early on, catching monsters becomes a necessity for the middle portion of the game. Frustratingly characters you developed early on leave, which means youíre stuck with items and equipment youíve spent money on yet cant be used by anyone. These characters must also be replaced, occasionally leaving you without a spell or character type youíd grown to rely on. Fortunately monsters are relatively eager to join you, and surprisingly some of the early creatures remain worthy party members right through the game.

The afore mentioned strategy element isnít really as thought out as it could be, later on stat changing and equipping certain items does become quite important. However for the vast majority of the game youíll rely on nothing more than brute force and healing. Likewise, if you hit a bit of a wall on a new section of the game itís grinding rather than thought that will get you through. Weíre not talking 20 hours plus of grinding, but enough to make the game outstay its welcome by 10 hours or so.

You can also be left without a clue where to go next. I dread to think how long this game would have taken me to finish prior to the rise of the internet. To some extent it forces you to get into fight after fight, which does mean the grinding becomes less of an issue, but the games progression takes a hit.

Having hordes of fighters at your disposal is largely pointless as youíll stick with the same few, however it does mean that youíll regularly be levelling up which really does keep things interesting. The plot is quite clever too, initially a fairly generic tale of revenge, youíll soon learn that you are not the hero this time, more a facilitator. Itís quite a journey too, tracing generations and multiple relationships.

Initially DQ5 had me touting it as being right up with the best rpgís Iíve ever played, unfortunately this doesnít last and both the gameplay gripes and slow plot development drag the game down. However I do still hold DQ5 in very high regard, it isnít as good as Chrono Trigger, but if you do want something slightly retro and simple as an role player, then you could do far far worse. Not essential, but certainly worth many hours of your time.
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Posted by Ben at 11:28

Another week, another rpg remake from Square-Enix. But is this a shameless cash in, or does it still deserve its place among gaming's greats?

Itís easy to be a little cynical if youíre playing Chrono Trigger for the first time. After years of it being heralded as one of the greatest games of all time, and the tears wept in joy at its DS announcement, itís hard not to be suspicious, thereís every chance that Ďrose tintsí might be a factor.

Certainly thereís been more ambitious ports on the DS, the recent Final Fantasy games have all made the leap to 3D, where as Chrono Trigger looks much the same as it always did. It turns out thatís no bad thing, thanks to the DSí small screen the sprites all look sharp and environments defined. While a lot of the game is played in dank dungeons and a desolate future, when the colour everything looks vibrant. Thereís a simple charm to the graphics, thatís not a backhanded compliment, more that it manages to look engaging and portray what is often quite a bleak tale.

And itís this tale that makes Chrono Trigger something special. You play as Chrono, a young man from the year 1,000, he and his friends set about travelling through time, initially to save his mum, but later to save the entire world and avert an apocalypse. Thereís bags to discover outside the main story, typical rpg fare where saving someone will reap you rewards later in the game, but also the chance to add to your party, even alternate endings.

Gameplay can be switched between traditional turn-based and a real time style of turn-based combat. A meter dictates when you can act, offering up attacks, healing and specials. Wait for a partner to be fully charged and you can launch powerful combination attacks, involving up to 3 players. Each party member you meet along the way has attributes suited to certain situations, the stat boosting of Marle isnít exploited as much as it could be, but it is there if you want it. A nice touch is that while characters will level up outside of the 3 man fighting team, they wonít develop new skills and moves unless they fight alongside you. This all means that making smart choices when selecting your battle party is important.

Itís all very simple, but oh so effective. Levelling up comes thick and fast, and youíre encouraged to mix up your party, which means youíre rewarded with new moves to try, keeping things interesting. The time travelling allows for new skills to be used in item hunting across time, opening new locations previously blocked. The downside is that there are times where youíll be left without a solid lead, or even bad advice, and waste hours scouring the wrong locations, thankfully though these moments are scarce. Indeed for the most part the only aspect of the game leaving you scratching your head is the best way to beat some of the bosses. These can be painful lessons to learn.

Chrono Trigger has aged superbly, the script is sharp and funny, and the plot still stands out for avoiding conventions. Perhaps the games age shows in the characters, as I, at least, never really connected with the members of my party. They are all amiable enough, certainly none of them will aggravate you. Being susceptible to attacks while youíre trying to select your heal spell, but it soon becomes something you adapt to.

There are few reasons to knock Chrono Trigger, certainly nothing remotely game breaking. If youíve never played it in its original form, as I hadnít, then the DS version is a superb introduction. Thereís a huge game to lose yourself in, precious little grinding, and oodles of charm.

A DS essential
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Posted by Duane at 13:47

The Katamari games have had enough success globally that you'd think that more people would of picked up on the idea by now. But so far we still have just the Katamari series in the "explore a location and absorb everything possible" genre. Well, we did, until Tornado appeared.

But its not like the game will be making any kind of impact on Namco's titles hold on the genre, and this isn't because its an awful entry into the genre, its just thats its so completely and ridiculously forgettable that even if you do buy it, by the time you get it home you may have forgotten that you own it. It doesn't get anything particularly wrong, but it doesn't really do anything to make it noticeable, its like the kid at school who'd sit in the middle of the class and just grind out average grades, not answer questions and who'd dissappear at lunch times for home dinners.

You're placed in control of a cat from another planet and it seems Earth is under attack from another bunch of aliens who have taken it upon themselves to steal all of our worlds major landmarks, and its this alien race of cats job to retrieve these particular items and return them back to their proper place all via the power of tornadoes. The games controls are incredibly basic and easy to get to grips with, unlike Katamari's tank system. by simply rubbing from side to side on the DS' touchscreen with your stylus you will create a tornado, keep sucking stuff up and keep rubbing and your tornado will become bigger and more powerful and able to pick up larger items. It's as simple as that and it works as well as you'd expect, but surely it can't be much good for your DS screen?

The games biggest problem is that it stands next to Katamari and its just not quirky enough to outshine the Prince and his family. The characters are bland, as are the locations and the art style is completely uninspiring. But in the games fairness, it feels more like its probably pitched at a younger market who don't really care about this things, and for this reason its fairly fun, but as I said previously its utterly forgettable, perfect Easter Holiday "trip to the grandparents" fodder then.
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Posted by Duane at 16:24

First off, what a nice little suprise this is, a Metal Slug game on a handheld that carries the franchises strengths on its shoulders without showing any major signs of struggling. Despite the games rather simple appearance, its always felt a bit of a resource hog, due to its frenetic pace and the amount of action thats happening on screen all at once, and with Metal Slug 7 its a credit to SNK Playmore that they've managed to keep true to that core feeling that is such an important aspect of what makes Metal Slug what it is.

The game itself is as you'd expect, run from one side of the screen to the other, obliterating everything in your path using any weapon (or vehicle) that comes to hand, and its a testament to the series that this is still highly enjoyable after all these years. Each difficulty level is perfectly weighted to suit any one approaching the game, regardless of experience with the genre and series. Whilst visually there's very little evidence of slow down despite the animation carrying all of the character and humour of its "bigger" brothers.

I mentioned previously that it's a testament to the series' quality that its still enjoyable after around 9 or 10 different instalment, but that doesn't mean tweaks haven't been made in Metal Slug 7. There's a stronger focus on score attack this time round, with enemies dropping coins for you to pick up, the more of these coins you pick up in quick succession, the higher the multiplier for them, likewise, even in the easiest difficulty level, infinite continues are a no show (although you do get 9 of them...) forcing you to improve as a player rather than relaxing too much and making the same mistakes. SNK Playmore have also tried to add longevity to the game too, with mini challenges presented in the form of a combat school for you to tackle and beat, giving the overall package a little bit of weight rather than settling for the rather small number of levels available in the mission mode.

However, its not all positive, the games largest weakpoint is the lack of variety in locales, they're all rather brown and dank in contrast to the sheer scale of of designs we've seen in previous instalments, with no sign of a jungle in sight. This is a huge shame as that's always been one of the series' defining characteristics but fortunately it doesn't detract too much from the overall experience.

So overall, Metal Slug 7 is an highly entertaining run and game fest, it fits in incredibly well with its siblings, even if it is the slightly uglier one of the bunch (although its obviously better looking that 1st Mission on the NeoGeo Pocket Color), and if you're a fan of the series or genre, you'll find a lot of love for this. I'd also reccomend it for newcomers to the genre too thanks to the Combat School which will allow everyone to get to grips with the game and aid in improving you as a player.
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Posted by Ben at 10:24

The ĎMetroidvaniaí era of Castlevaniaís have generally been well received, even if for my money they havenít achieved the commercial success they deserve. Perhaps itís because the series Ďhasnít moved oní since it was redefined with the epochal Symphony of the Night. There certainly seemed to be a sense that the good will of both fans and critics was starting to run a little dry due to the over familiarity.

Itís true to say that level themes and sprites have all been reused since the 32 bit classic made Castlevania relevant again, Aria/Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Run did each tried to introduce some new mechanics at least. And itís here Order of Ecclesia takes its cue, reworking the best ideas from those games and creating something fantastically fresh.

Rather than weapons this time the games battle system focuses on glyphs, these can be found dotted around the maps, stolen from enemies as they cast them, or dropped when an enemy is defeated. Itís easy to see the glyphs as a slightly fancier take on the old weapon system, after all youíll still end up with a sword, throwing knives, an axe etc as well as the usual variety of spells and summonings. Everything you do, be it a weapon based attack, a magic, a summoning, a stat boost or even the necessary glyphs attached to the R button, you use some of you magic points. Thankfully this bar replenishes rapidly, but it means, at least early on, you have to be more deliberate about how you approach things.

Where Ecclesiaís differs from past weapon systems is that you donít have to equip any one style, for instance rather than having a weapon and a spell you can equip two weapons, two spells, or even the same glyph twice if itís particularly effective. Because glyphs are equipped to the X and Y buttons (and R) it adds a rudimentary combo system, at its most basic this might just mean an effective 3 hit combo, but as the game opens up you can really make the most of enemies weaknesses by carefully selecting which 3 glyphs you have equipped. Thereís also the combined attack to consider, it uses hearts at an alarming rate, but pick the right glyphs to combine and it can make short work of most enemies.

The map system has also seen something of an overhaul. Clearly taking inspiration from the paintings in Portrait of Ruin, the game is now split into areas on an over world map. Each stage you open up has various new enemies, glyphs and items, as well as a boss and often a plot point. Once bested you return to the world map, and then usually the village to restock and pick up some prizes, before heading to a newly unlocked area. This works brilliantly to keep the pace up, youíre always encountering new things, gaining new rewards, and youíre never far from a boss fight. It also helps make Draculaís castle seem absolutely huge, at least initially.

Of course all these new ideas count for nothing if the gameplay isnít up to scratch, fortunately itís as good as ever. Itís hard to say whether itís a deliberate consequence, but due to the shorter, more streamlined structure of the maps you will never feel out of your depth. Youíre never in a position where you donít know where youíre going, looking all over the maps for something youíve missed, everything you need is right in front of you.

The boss battles have also been subject to some special attention, familiar faces have been given a spruce up, seeing a re-imagining of their overly familiar moveset. But the game is also packed with new faces, these are universally inventive, with one or two of them involving thought rather than force to overcome. Their patterns are of far more importance, less vague than they were in recent games, and you are even rewarded for beating enemies without taking a hit.

The graphics too have been given a complete overhaul. The backgrounds, largely thanks to much of the game taking place outside the castle, are all new, often treading on virgin soil as far as Castlevania level themes go. There are only a handful of re-used sprites this time, with scores of whole new enemies to face off against. Thereís also some fantastic graphical tricks on show, the candle lit areas in particular standing out for its shadowing technique.

Itís hard to find anything to criticise about Order of Ecclesia, but there are a few flaws if youíre willing to look. Firstly the gameplay does still boil down to the same thing as previous Castlevaniaís, but then what else do you expect from a sequel. That said I found myself reverting to using weapon + magic glyphs purely through force of habit, itís also the route the game leads you down at first, when the fancier glyphs are a rarer and more costly choice. Once youíre powered up the game also begins to feel much smaller than when it starts out, particularly Draculaís castle, at first suitably epic but once youíre on your final approach most of it can be handled without needing to visit a health replenishing save point. Thereís also less to go back to than in previous games, maps are easier to 100%, glyphs easier to track down, and the villagers tasks less interesting that Winds (from PortraitÖ). There is a hard mode and new character mode to unlock though, and with the games difficulty being what it is, while still reasonably completable, itíll take you longer to finish than its size would suggest.

While Castlevania fans will have their own order of preference, thereís no doubt that Order of Ecclesia gives the series the shot in the arm it needed, and surely ranks as one of the best of the series. A must for all Castlevania fans, and frankly every gamer with a DS. Superb stuff.
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Posted by Duane at 12:56

Wow, what a title! So, mad title aside, what is it? BOING! Docomodake DS is a side scrolling platformer of the old-skool variety, with some strong puzzle solving elements thrown in for good measure, much like Braid, but without the time twisting elements or deeply engrained plot structure.

The game has you controlling a mushroom like creature, whom absorbs other mushroom like things. These change his size and can be broken out of the entire creature to overcome obstacles, such as weighing down a platform or building a bridge, they can also be used as weapons against the few creatures which seem to have a problem with the giant, but cute, walking mushroom that is under your control.

It's an incredibly simple concept, and the game eases you into its way of thinking in an incredibly comfortable way, never really leaving you frustrated until roughly the final two stages, and whilst its never going to attract the attention other games in the genre might do, especially on a system with as large a line-up of software as the DS', it's certainly a game that came as a complete suprise, especially considering that its not really a looker.

The pricepoint is also something that needs to be taken into consideration as its being released as a budget title on the system, immediatly putting it into a bracket where it can do no wrong, although because of its budget price, visuals and its not a highly hyped title, many will question wether its worth shelling out their twenty pounds for. In short, it is, BOING! Docomodake DS is an incredibly charming, relaxing yet taxing game thats rewarding to play and deserves any kind of attention that glances its way.
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Posted by Ben at 07:22

Raised eyebrows all around when Bioware and Sega announced they were working on an rpg based around the Sonic the Hedgehog game world, but itís a pleasure to report that despite the mash of styles, it actually works.

You might not think that the Sonic world is rich enough to carry an rpg, but to their credit Bioware have done a very good job with this aspect of Sonic Chronicles. Things start off quite basic, Knuckles and the Chaos Emeralds have gone missing, Eggmanís robots are on the rampage, and you, as Sonic, need to track down the rest of your friends. In the first few chapters things begin to expand with multiple characters, mysterious new enemies and secret government agencies, and thatís all before you head into space.

Sonicís friends have a tendency to grate in his other games, here though Bioware have handled them knowingly, Amyís desperate infatuation with Sonic is parodied from the off, Bigís naÔve stupidity now makes him a charming buffoon rather than the unrelenting idiot of Sonic Adventure, and Eggman is laughably diabolical. If youíre willing to explore the conversation branching then the game will raise a few smiles.

Of course all this effort with the plot and narrative counts for nothing if the gameplay doesnít hold up, thankfully then itís probably the games strength. Chroniclesí gameplay is split into exploration and battles, and who you pick in your team affects how you progress in both. Dotted around the landscape are various obstacles that can only be traversed by certain characters, for example ramps and loops will need Sonic or Shadow, gaps flown over with Tails, and blocks destroyed by Amy. Item boxes, Chao and enemies appear on the exploration sections and can be collected/avoided as you see fit, with enemies respawning once their location goes off screen.

The environments look superb, with soft pastels recreating the look of the old 2D Sonic games nicely, things do get dingy later on, but even then the screens ooze charm. The 3D character models look a little messy and sound effects are re-used more than the should be, but on the whole the look, sound and general presentation of Sonic Chronicles is comparable with anything else on the DS.

The battle system mixes a familiar Dragon Quest turn based system with some Oendan style screen tapping. If you select to use a special move youíll be presented with a combination of timed screen taps, rapid pressing, or line following that affect the damage dealt and even if the move has any affect at all. Enemies special attacks can be blocked or weakened by the same screen tapping antics which helps keep things interesting and acts as some sort of defence against stronger enemies.

The screen tapping does a very good job of keeping things interesting and may be enough to tempt you into repeating battles during the early stages of the game. Perhaps because of this dynamic the actual RPG gameplay is a little light, and there is very little strategy involved when battling. As well as a handful of items characters can be equipped with a Chao, these Chao add strengths and abilities ranging from better defence, increased damage, elemental strength (e.g. ice damage), recovery from Ďdeathí, increased luck, and many more. The problem is that once you equip the Chao useful for your entire party, such as the PP (special points) and health recovery Chaoís, the Chao to stop you getting ambushed and the one that nets you an extra item after battle, there is no room in your party for any extra, more strategic choices.

In the same way, that PP is so limited (with characters typically having in 12-17 by the games completion) character boosting specials are a luxury best ignored in favour of enemy damaging attacks for everyone bar those enemies with ridiculous defence stats. Similarly there are some moves you will never use because the environment dictates your party to a large extent, so having the necessary characters in your party to activate them is not feasible. Itís also a shame that some characters seem to fall by the wayside as you progress through the game, Tails for example is a great character early on thanks to his healing move and high defence, but once you get Cream heís made largely redundant in favour of her team healing and PP replenishing moves, especially as he really has nothing offensively useful.

It seems a shame to finish on a bit of a downer as Sonic Chronicles is great game, the shallow gameplay is a bit of a shame but the game still remains a joy to play right up until the game. The lack of depth actually helps to make things very accessible, itís an rpg for action game fans, which thanks to its length and your ability to defend against powerful attacks is completable by just about anyone. Things take a bit of a dip in the second half when you come across some enemies who completely heal whenever they land an attack, but this section is very brief and a good way to level up. The levelling up itself is also a plus point, with so many characters youíre never too far away from gaining another level.

Where Chronicles ranks against other DS rpgs is hard to say, itís a lot of fun and is deserving to be played by just about everyone. However as addictive as it is at first the lack of depth does begin to show, thankfully Bioware seem to have noticed this themselves and draw things to an end before things start to drag too much. For Sonic fans itís a must buy, for everyone else itís an intriguing take on the rpg genre and you could do far worse than giving it a chance.
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Posted by Duane at 06:09

Viva Pinata always felt a bit odd on the 360, not just because of its visual stylings offset against more "realistic" or serious looking games. But also because of its source material, a garden management "sim" based around attracting various different creatures to your plot of land. It's why when Rare announced they were bringing the title to the DS it just made sense, because it is the sort of game you could easily expect to see on the DS and control wise, it fits the mechanics of how the DS works perfectly.

The game itself is pretty much a straight port of the original, although Rare seem to have done some tweaking and tuning to make it more accessible to the handhelds more "casual" following than the versions that on the XBox 360. Everything in the game can be controlled via the stylus, but there is the option there to take advantage of shortcuts placed upon the face buttons too giving complete ease of use. The game has a heavily structured tutorial mode at the start of its main mode that eases you into the game comfortably, and eventually lets you off the reins to manage your own garden and experiment with various things in order to gain the attention of the creatures you want to inhabit your domain.

Visually the game was always going to take a hit when stepping down to Nintendo's handheld, however its still visually impressive, if a little cluttered at times. But it the graphics do their job well, give a good sense of the space you have in your garden and all the things that are going on. Menu's are all easy on the eye and simple to navigate further lending itself to being more accessible than its big brothers.

Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise is probably the first instalment in Rare's gardening management franchise that lends itself to being accessible to pretty much everyone aswell as being a deep and rewarding experience. Nearly everything about the game works suprisingly well, with the only major problem being that moving around your garden is sometimes far too slow. Even so, the entire game is incredibly enjoyable and the premise of its subject matter suits the handheld platform well. There is the option there to take on individual chapters of the game where-in your set tasks by the developers or just throw yourself in to developing a full-blown garden, giving everyone the opportunity to take what they want from the game. A highly reccomended game for both serious and casual gamers alike then!
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