Infendo@GDC – Wario Ware: Snapped and DSiWare Hands On!

Ever since the DSi was announced Nintendo Fans have been asking themselves if they really wanted to upgrade.  The question hangs heavy, because while there are new features such as SD card support, a larger screen, and the heavily touted camera, it seems to pretty much be the same old DS – not appearing to be much smaller, more powerful, or significantly superior in any standalone way.  That leaves one question – what is the software like?  Hardware is supported by software, and until we see DSi only software, why should we upgrade?  This week Nintendo showed three WiiWare titles at GDC – and while I admit they were interesting, I can’t yet say that they justify upgrading to the new handheld.

Nintendo’s front running DSiWare title at GDC was WarioWare: Snapped! Featured in Iwata’s Keynote, WarioWare Snapped uses the Dsi Camera to give players the “eye toy” style of gaming on the DS.  In true WarioWare fashion, each “game” only lasts a few seconds at at time, prompting the user to do some action with silly results.  One game requires you to play “peek-a-boo” with a baby, another asks you to get closer and closer to the DS screen until something “pops out” to surprise you, another still has you grabbing for coins in the air in front of you, guided by your on screen shadow.  When your round of play is over, the game shows you clear picture of all of the strange and funny poses you struck while trying to beat that particular level.   The game has some fun moments, but is a little plagued by calibration issues.  The first time I played the game I had virtually no problem, everything worked as advertised – but when I tried the second set of minigames the camera seemed unable to calibrate me, and I often found myself unable to complete the task at hand – my movements improperly recognized by the DSi.  The demo was fun, but seemed to lack the excitement other WarioWare games bring ot the table – at the right price point, I could see Wario Ware: Snapped being a decent addition to a DSi ware collection, but it’s certainly not enough to push me over the edge to an DS to DSi upgrade.

The other two offerings were on polar ends of “good”and bad.”  The first, another ArtStyle game, is a puzzle game consisting of a column that runs through the top and bottom screen filled with muti colored squares.  Like many puzzle, lining up three squares will eliminate the trio, earn you points, and shift the contents of the play field slightly.  In ArtStyle, rather than having new bricks rise from the bottom or fall from the top, the player inserts the from the side.  Inserting bricks into the left side of the column will force the bricks on the wall of the right side of the column out of the tower – giving the player their next piece to insert into the puzzle.  It’s a simple puzzle game, but it suits the idea of DSiWare well – it’s small, lightweight, high quality, and enjoyable – giving a DSi owner the option to play a quick puzzle when they only have a few spare minutes, or aren’t in the mood for a “serious” game like GTA Chinatown Wars.

The most disappointing DSi title at the show was something called “Bird and Beans.”  The player controls a small bird on the bottom of the screen, as beans slowly fall from the sky.  The object of the game is to eat the beans, snagging them with your tongue before they reach the ground, removing a square of land.  It sounds simple enough, but it feels almost too casual.  The tongue only goes up at a very specific angle, so most of the game is just knowing where to stand – there is not a lot of action, and it’s not very exciting – it feels sort of like a lightweight cellphone game – simple, short, and really only good for a short distraction while waiting in line at the DMV.  Fortunately, you can form your own opinion on Bird and Bean, as a similar version is available to play for free online.

GDC also showcased the Moving Memo Pad, a great piece of animation software which integrates with a “youtube” like website.  I’d say that the majority of the DSiWare showings would be worth downloading if you are going to buy a DSi, but I see none of them as a justification for buying the system if you are teetering on the edge of keeping your old one or upgrading.  We’ll keep watch as the DSi draws clearer to release for a “killer app” that totters your teeter to upgrading!