Nintendo DS Reviews U-Z

Ultimate Mortal Kombat
Grade: B
Publisher: Midway (2007)
Reviewed: 2014/5/27
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence)

screenshotAs the biggest Mortal Kombat fan in the world, I feel a moral obligation to review every version of the game I can get my hands on. This DS edition is really just a glorified version of Mortal Kombat 3 (SNES, 1995), a game released twelve years prior! In case you weren't born yet, Mortal Kombat was once a madly popular one-on-one fighter boasting mystical stages, splattering blood, and spectacular fatalities.

There are some unexpected benefits to playing it on the DS. The graphics are super crisp and since the game was never in high definition to begin with, you're not losing any detail. Likewise the music and voice effects sound remarkably clear. Best of all, the special moves (including fatalities) are listed on the screen at all times! This is kind of a big deal, considering my friends and I used to study magazines in order to memorize these moves!

The button configuration makes sense (shoulder button to block) but the DS directional pad kind of sucks when it comes to hitting diagonals (not a problem with the 3DS). Still, the game is fun and it's always satisfying to uppercut a foe through the ceiling and continue fighting on the level above. Should you lose and not continue, the deep narrator voice delivers random put-downs like "That was pathetic" and "It's official: you suck." Yes, it actually says that! I knew Mortal Kombat was brutal, but this time it's personal!

Ultimate Mortal Kombat also contains an addictive Tetris clone called Puzzle Kombat. As you bust blocks on the lower screen, cartoon versions of the characters battle on top. A decent scoring system for all of these games is sorely lacking, but at least win streaks are recorded and there is a steady stream of unlockables. I never figured Mortal Kombat to be a good fit for the DS, but I have to admit this is a pretty sweet miniature edition. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Underwater Attack
Grade: F
Publisher: UFO Interactive (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/12/1
Rating: Everyone


screenshotWith more and more publishers entering the crowded DS waters, I've noticed a growing epidemic of poorly designed games. It astounds me how a game that sucks this badly could even get published. On the surface, Underwater Attack looks like a classic 2D, side-scrolling shooter from the 16-bit era, but don't be fooled.

The stylus is used to aim and shoot, prompting you to inquire, "Hey, wouldn't that obstruct your view?" Why, yes it would! Thanks for asking! Hell, this game is barely even playable! At least you don't have to tap on anything, and can just drag the stylus around to unleash a steady stream of projectiles. Sadly, shoddy controls are the least of this game's problems.

The unimaginative, repetitive stages just go on forever! After ten minutes of shooting the same three enemies in front of the same repeating scenery, you can actually feel your brain cells deteriorating. Then you reach an unspectacular boss that takes another eternity to destroy. You can upgrade your firepower between stages, but that only provides false hope. Underwater Attack's cookie cutter design is only good for one thing, and that's for making a quick buck. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Wario Master of Disguise
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/8/16
Rating: Everyone


screenshotMaster of Disguise introduces some original new elements but isn't as fun as it could have been. At first its gameplay seems typical as you jump between platforms, pounce on enemies, and play mini-games. Once you begin unlocking "disguises" however, the game takes on a real strategic, puzzle vibe. These aren't as much "disguises" as they are costumes with special powers. For example, Cosmic Wario fires a ray gun, Artsy Wario "paints" blocks, Genius Wario finds hidden paths, and Sparky Wario can light up a room.

As you accumulate powers you'll use them in conjunction with each other to solve puzzles and access new areas. Switching disguises is done by drawing a simple pattern over Wario's head, such as a circle, check mark, or lightning bolt. Sometimes you'll need to switch disguises in rapid succession, which can be awkward. The mini-games typically last about a minute, and they are a mixed bag. I really enjoyed squishing bugs and connecting dots, but didn't like coloring in patterns to match a memorized image.

Master of Disguise relies equally on the buttons and touch screen, causing my hands to cramp up something awful. It doesn't help that there's so much goofy text to page through. I wish the game allowed you to save at any time, because the save points are few and far between. Wario Master of Disguise had enough unique elements to grab my attention, but couldn't quite close the deal. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Wario Ware Touched
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (2005)
Reviewed: 2006/6/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIn the tradition of Wario Ware and Wario Twisted for the Gameboy Advance, Touched offers a collection of short but fascinating mini-games presented in rapid-fire succession. Using the stylus, you slice fruits, steer remote controlled cars, draw mustaches, pet a dog, swat flies, bowl, shake trees, tune radios, and play guitars. Some of the more bizarre games defy description, much to the credit of the imaginative minds at Nintendo.

One stage is a tribute to old Nintendo games, and another is played completely by blowing into the microphone, almost causing me to pass out. I like how the games are randomized, and even the same ones will vary slightly each time you play to keep you on your toes. Touched challenges your problem-solving abilities and requires quick thinking. Control with the stylus is both precise and forgiving.

Unfortunately, you'll spend an inordinate amount of time watching inane animated sequences. Silly as can be, these provide unnecessary background stories and attempt to tie everything together. Yes, these exist in the other Wario games as well, but never seemed this lengthy or irritating. When the action kicks in however, Wario Ware Touched is insanely fun. It's one of those novel games that must be experienced to be appreciated. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Yoshi's Island DS
Grade: C+
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/8/16
Rating: Everyone

screenshotYou have to hand it to Nintendo - they really know how to bang out these side-scrolling platform games. Having played this game steadily over several months, I have to say that Yoshi's Island is quite playable but won't rock your world. Controlling a Yoshi (which resembles a baby dinosaur) is always a treat because of its unique abilities. After snatching an enemy with his long tongue and swallowing it, Yoshi can poop it out as an "egg" which in turn can be hurled at hard-to-reach targets.

In this game the Yoshis come in every color of the rainbow, and their mission is to protect baby versions of Nintendo characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Peach. You carry one baby at a time on your back, and it endows you with an additional ability. Baby Mario breaks blocks, baby Donkey Kong climbs, and baby Peach lets you glide on an umbrella.

It's possible to switch babies at certain locations, but I found this idea to be more aggravating than fun. When your Yoshi takes a hit, your baby floats away in a bubble as you frantically rush to retrieve it. The over-the-top screaming and crying sound effects are absolutely hilarious. Your enemies are the usual suspects for a Mario-style game, save for occasional surprises like Shy Guys on stilts.

The graphics are somewhat bland, and most of the backgrounds have an understated, washed-out look. The controls are surprising in that they do not use the touch screen controls at all! Instead you use the pressure-sensitive buttons to perform jumps of varying heights. I didn't even know those buttons were pressure-sensitive! Yoshi's Island DS amounts to standard Nintendo platform fare, and for most gamer's that's good enough. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Yoshi's Touch and Go
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (2005)
Reviewed: 2005/11/19
Rating: Everyone


screenshotI'm really glad I purchased this game along with my DS, because it demonstrates the system's unique capabilities beautifully. Yoshi's Touch and Go is like nothing I've ever experienced before. Played entirely with the stylus, the object is to guide a baby Mario around enemies and into coins. The game is played for high score - a great concept that's lost on most modern game publishers.

The action begins with baby Mario floating down from the sky on balloons, and you must skillfully draw lines of clouds to alter his direction. You can also draw circles around enemies to "pop" them for bonus points. Both screens are used to convey one long vertical view. When baby Mario reaches the ground, Yoshi gives him a ride through some old-fashioned side-scrolling screens. Here you can "bridge" gaps for Yoshi and make him toss eggs at targets in the upper screen.

The control scheme is intuitive and pretty ingenious in my opinion. The audio features understated music and cute but funny sound effects. Yoshi Touch and Go is simple and short, but its irresistible old-school charm makes it a real treat for DS owners. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Zenses: Ocean Edition
Grade: C+
Publisher: Game Factory (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/1/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI was pretty lukewarm about Zenses: Rainforest, but this edition resonated with me. Perhaps it's my love of the sea, or maybe these games are just a little bit better. Zenses: Ocean offers six puzzle games presented with relaxing aquatic themes. Gentle music, serene backgrounds, and thoughtful gameplay make this ideal for more mature audiences. In the first game, Zen Stones, you match up similar shapes in rows of sliding rocks.

It's very simple and even my wife said it was fun and she hates everything. Pearl Diver is a real gem of a game where you attempt to connect scattered pearls of various colors. The connect-the-dots gameplay is impossible at times but so addictive I couldn't stop playing. Turtle Turn is a lame entry - one of those "match this pattern" games that will drive you crazy. Hot Spot is also mediocre, letting you piece together undersea creatures like turtles, shrimp, and jellyfish.

The touch interface is clever enough, but all the pieces look the same. Shell Twirl is very enjoyable, challenging you to fit colored shells into a series of rotating rings. The final entry, Wave Breaker, features some nifty wave effects, but its memory-style gameplay won't appeal to everyone. Like the other Zenses, the difficulty is configurable and high scores are saved. All in all, this is a likeable collection for those looking for a kinder, gentler gaming experience. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Zenses: Rainforest Edition
Grade: C
Publisher: Game Factory (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/1/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe new "Zenses" series isn't your typical portable fare. It caters to a more mature, cerebral audience looking for some quiet, relaxing entertainment. Zenses offers six unique puzzle games presented with a tasteful rainforest motif. The puzzles generally involve manipulating shapes and objects in front of serene waterfalls and lush jungle foliage with rays of light filtering through the trees. No doubt about it, this game looks great, and the soundtrack is soothing as well.

I liked a few of the puzzles, but not all of them resonated with me. Stack Jack lets you combine similar shapes of various sizes as they gently flow down a waterfall. In Flower Board you clear boards by creating flower combinations, and Sapphire Wheel is a compelling brain teaser where you construct a large shape from smaller ones. Solitaire and Treasure Spin are too tedious to be enjoyable, and Twist-N-Turn is the kind of thing that puts people into mental institutions (I'll pass).

You select your skill level before each game, and high scores are saved automatically - along with dates! Zenses: Rainforest Edition isn't terribly exciting, but it wouldn't be a bad way to pass the time during a business trip. I'm really not sure if there's an audience for this, but if it sounds like your cup of tea, give it a try. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Zookeeper
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2004)
Reviewed: 2005/11/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis has got to be one of the most underrated games I've played in a long time. Apparently it's been out for quite a while, yet I had never even heard of it! Zookeeper may be the most addicting puzzle game since Tetris. Heck, I couldn't even pry it from my wife's hands - and she doesn't even like video games!

The game presents you with a grid of square-shaped animals on the lower screen. By swapping two at a time, you try to create rows or columns of three or more creatures of the same type, causing them to disappear. The grid then collapses to fill in the empty space, often resulting in very satisfying chain reactions.

Using the stylus to select the animals is easy and fun, allowing you to execute many moves in rapid succession. The top screen displays game statistics, but you'll never really have time to look at it. Zookeeper offers a number of variations on the basic game (including a two-player "battle") and it saves the top ten scores for each mode.

As much as I enjoy this game, there are two obvious issues I need to mention. First of all, the same playful music loops continuously throughout the game, and it will drive you nuts! Second, this is an easy game, so if you're any good at all, a single game can easily run well over a half hour. Still, it's hard to not like Zookeeper - a game that should appeal to both men and women of all ages. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Moby Games