Good at video games means bad at life

And I'm very good at video games.

I got a Nintendo DS for my birthday and have been playing it in every spare moment I have (and many spare moments I don't have). At this point I have three games for it, Meteos, Wario Ware: Twisted, and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows. You may be aware that developers have peculiar naming conventions with respect to games on Nintendo systems; half the games released for the Super Nintendo had the word "Super" before them, e.g. Super Buster Brothers, Super Star Wars, etc. This created confusion for poor Super C, the sequel to Contra, which was for the regular NES. Nintendo 64 games tended to have "64" at the end of the title, creating a strong link in the minds of many gamers between the number "64" and the concept of crap. Game Boy Advance titles have "Advance" in the titles (The name of the system is Game Boy Advance, which, since the "Advance" lacks a D at the end, makes the word a verb, not an adjective. So the name means "Game Boy Move Forward," as opposed to "Game Boy Not Primitive."). Nintendo DS games have the peculiar tendency to feature contorted subtitles that have the initials "DS." Hence: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrows and Mr. Driller: Drill Spirits. The most favored D word is "Dual," while the most favored S word is "Strike." Thus: Dig Dug: Digging Strike, Guilty Gear: Dust Strikers and Advance Wars: Dual Strike. If I were naming a DS game, I would use the subtitle "Dipthong Stratagem."

In any case, I've only opened one game thus far, Meteos. I opened it first because it seemed the least interesting of the games, and I like to work up from least-liked to most-liked in these things. Now I can't stop playing it. This surprises me, because it's a puzzle game. I have a mild affinity for non-frenetic puzzle games (Adventures of Lolo, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Klonoa: Empire of Dreams), but a general distaste for the falling blocks school of puzzle games, which seem to have taken over the puzzle genre on console systems. So Meteos surprised me; it's a falling blocks puzzle game that I actually really like, and it makes good use of the DS's unique architecture. I never really got into Tetris, so it's probably the only falling blocks game I've liked since Dr. Mario.

The play all takes place on the bottom touch screen. Blocks of various colors fall from the sky and you can select them with the stylus and shift them around vertically within a column (but not horizontally within a row). The controls work flawlessly, and I've never found myself grabbing the wrong block or having a block that I'm moving get finicky and not go where I want it. It's not something you usually actively notice, but poor controls really make themselves known when they're there, and you can see where the potential for poor controls in a touch screen game are pretty high. So you have blocks falling, and your goal is to arrange them into triplets by color, either horizontally or vertically. When you do this, the matched meteos turn gray and blast off, turning the whole set of meteos stacked on top of them into a sort of rocket. The problem is that they generally don't have enough power to break into orbit; the meteo rocket shoots up, and any meteos that clear the top of the screen are destroyed, but then it stops and slowly drifts back downward. You then have to create more matches within the rocket (or push another rocket into it from below) to give it an extra boost to get off the screen. And, obviously, when the meteos pile up over the top of the screen you lose.

Further, you pick a planet to play on before you start. There are something like 50 planets, and each one has its own unique mix of meteo colors, it's own unique meteos (they come in various designs, from simple blocks to little colored aliens to japanese characters), an entirely unique soundtrack (there are no duplicate sound effects between planets), and its own gravity. On some planets your rockets move upward slowly, then drift back down. On others, they fly straight to the top of the screen, bang the top layer on the atmsophere, then plunge downward. On some world vertical matches immediately clear a whole column, on other worlds they barely get a boost.

In any case, I've been playing this game too much; I just took a nap (I've gotten two hours of sleep in the last 36 hours) and dreamed of meteos. I see meteos when I close my eyes now. On the other hand, this could just be sleep deprivation.

So far I'm really excited about the DS; I haven't even really used the second screen much, or any of the controller buttons, or Pictochat, or the wireless capabilities, or the microphone. But the touch screen is very cool for video games. I imagine it'll allow somewhat deeper gameplay, since the stylus-on-touchscreen works almost like a mouse, but is somewhat more intuitive. I'm also unreasonable excited about Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It's a lawyer simulation video game! What sold me on it is that, as part of the game, you cross-examine witnesses. When your opponent is examining witnesses, you have to object if he gets out of line. In order to do this, you must shout "OBJECTION!" into the DS's microphone. I can't wait to get that game and play it on the subway.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on October 24, 2005 10:34 PM.

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