Cheap-Ass Gaming and Underrated DS Titles
About a month ago, I was settling into my plane seat, just about to leave Gatwick airport and return to the US for three months. I completed my usual ritual – prayed no-one sat next to me, wished i’d bought more food in the terminal, and tested how far my seat reclined (it turns out not too far on cheap-ass Icelandic airlines). Then I reached for my trusty flight companion – the PS Vita. Imagine the horrific dread when I realised i’d left the only source of entertainment on this 12 hour flight (and nightmarish snow delay it turned out) on my bedside table – lovingly recharged and left out the night before so as to definitely not… forget it. In the end I turned to the video games of our ancestors – a mediocre book.
I could not be saved on that flight, but as the next month drew out it became increasingly clear that my trusty Steam account wasn’t satisfying a craving for tactile gaming. I got bored of moving a mouse and tapping a keyboard – what can I say, i’m a button kind of gal. So I peeked online and found a Nintendo DSi for $20 which was quickly snapped up and delivered within two days – success. I had buttons again.
There’s something about holding an entire game in your hands – with all the possible controls strategically placed for your cramp-filled grasp. I feel like I have more of a say in a game when there are 10 different options for what i can do, each represented by its own special button. Holding that kind of power in your hand – having the experience literally in your palm is unmatched to me – and while this extends to console gaming – the intimacy is truly at its height in the portable world. Possibly the most alluring feature of the Nintendo DS for me as a lowly student, however, was the price.
Being region free, the DS is the ultimate travel companion – it’s the same console wherever you are, and games from anywhere will work in it. Not only that but – and this might come as a shock in the era of the iPhone product cycle – they still work. The expectation that a device will only work in ship shape for a few years is a contemporary notion – thanks to Apple we don’t trust in the lifespan of our gadgets. The DS will still work as it did out the box, and despite any cosmetic wearing, under the hood the console seems infinite.
Nowadays you can become the proud owner of a powerful, best selling handheld console of all time for about $20. And there are games out there that are seriously underrated – being sold for pennies. The Nintendo DS system had an unprecedented and since unmatched arsenal of games in all genres. So I end my appraisal of the Nintendo DS as the cheap-ass gamer’s destiny with a list of the 5 most underrated titles for the console, that i picked up second hand for under $20 all in.
Age of Empires: Age of Kings $3
This is listed as $5 pre-owned on GameStop’s online site but i picked it up for less than that in-store so don’t believe everything you read online kids. I would never have normally picked up this incredibly addictive turn-based strategy battle game, but when games are this cheap I feel I have very little to lose in taking the risk. I’m glad I did – because this gem of a title offers an intuitive, dynamic play experience that seems to steal hours from your life. The campaign mode sees you through famous battles of the medieval world’s most ruthless leaders, while there’s an open map mode ready for you to orchestrate your own battles – building villages, organising defences, and strategically attacking until you control the land. The layers of play are plentiful – from researching new technologies to help your villagers eat, your miners collect gold, and your armies attack, to building civilisations and training up your warriors – in any one turn you’re considering all angles of your situation.
Chibi-Robo Park Patrol $4
I actually got this one free – it seems employees at GameStop will throw in some titles from the crate of unsold DS games if your haul is impressive enough. Initially a Walmart exclusive, this spin-off from the fairly successful Gamecube title will have you frantically pummelling the D-pad and treating your RSI from all the touch-pad swiping. Controlling a 4″ robot tasked with renovating a rundown park sounds strange – and that’s the beauty of this title – it’s really weird but it works. In a casual set up with well established goals but a non-pushy narrative system, it’s an intense but relaxed mind-clearer of a game.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 $5
At the pricier end of our list – Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is possibly the only game i’ve played that rotates the DS into vertical orientation. In this detective puzzler, this orientation creates the impression that you’re holding your very own detective’s notebook – an intimate mechanic that can only be achieved on this system. While there’s a lot of words to digest – the puzzles and story of this adventure will lure you surprisingly deep into its tapestry.
I picked this one up out of whim when I was just about to finish my game hunting for the day – it seemed interesting and what’s 99 cents of risk. It was surprisingly lovable in its attempts. It looks like an early Assassin’s Creed rip off, in the same way that a go-kart looks like a Ferrari in that it’s nowhere near the quality but a good laugh if you find one cheap enough.
Lego Games $5
There are a surprising number of Lego games available for the Nintendo DS. Harry Potter Years 1-4 offers some fun times if you’re a fan of the series, with spells and the usual mechanics that the Lego games deliver. As well as some adorable Lego facial expressions in cut scenes.