by Mitchell Dyer
Some DS games simply can’t keep your attention. Sure, there are a few stinkers out there that are just plain bad, but even solid games need a little something extra to grab you by the arm and pull you in.
The biggest problem is when the games don’t live up to the name and capabilities of the handheld. How many games have you played where you’re stuck cramping your hands while holding the d-pad and cranking the A button for ten minutes straight? It gets old, doesn’t it?
It’s not to say that you need stylus controls or touch-screen menus in every game. New Super Mario Bros. barely made use of touching and tapping, and it was better for it. Can you imagine jumping across a wide lava pit with the touch screen? But some games strike a certain balance between the regular controls and the touch pad.
My baseless assumption is that the brain stimulation triggered by swappin’ between your thumbs and stylus keeps you focused on the game.
Look at Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure. There are two gameplay segments that you’ll switch between as you play through the challenging levels. For the most part, you’ll use the d-pad and face buttons to run, jump, slash and shoot cuddly creatures of evil. But on occasion you’ll jump down to the touch screen for some puzzle-solving.
Dragging colored blocks to match three of the same eliminates enemies and awards you bonuses that you can use when you hop back into the platforming game. This is a regular event as well. Every couple of minutes you’ll need to match colored blocks, and if you’re not paying attention it’ll come back to bite you in the butt with a penalty. Switching between regular ol’ run-and-jump gameplay and arcade-y puzzle action makes for a faster paced game, to the point where you’ll stop sticking the stylus in its slot.
Similarly, Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars makes excellent use of the bottom window. Jumping into your GPS, PDA, and e-mail account is a smart way to give you quick access to everything. Setting a destination in your new (stolen) car simply works better on a touch screen than if you were stuck looking around a map with a d-pad cursor.
GTA also sticks quick mini-games on the bottom screen, from undoing screws to assembling sniper rifles to planting explosives. Don’t be surprised to see the DS stylus sticking out of your mouth as you anxiously await the next interactive section. Running around with the d-pad, solving a touch-screen puzzle to steal a car, and then swapping back to the regular game keeps you physically involved with the game.
Do you get the feeling that this kind of engagement keeps you focused on a game? If I’m playing a game in bursts, staying constantly involved with a variety of gameplay that spans multiple methods of execution is going to have my full attention. Let’s see more of this!