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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Confirmed - You Can Now Touch The DS Dead!

March 22, 2007 8:41 PM |

- You may remember that I had an in-depth trawl of GameFly's pre-release information a few weeks back, happening upon the following entry: "- Touch The Dead (Eidos, April 30th) - sounds like a logical title! Are there any Japanese zombie touching DS games that Eidos could import, or is this a whole new title? No info online at all."

Well, information has now broken (huzzah!), and MTV's Stephen Totilo has a cute write-up of the game (scroll down) as part of his Eidos game inspection festivities in New York. He notes: ""Touch the Dead," which Eidos initially planned to call "Dead and Furious," is a first-person shooter on rails. You don't control where the character moves, you just tap the touch screen in the right spots to shoot at the zombies. When you're out of ammo, you drag bullets to the gun."

What's more: "In later levels, the zombies throw their heads at you. The player has to touch those craniums into oblivion. The game, which is slated for May, is running off a crude 3-D engine. It may have been the worst-looking game that Eidos was showing. But it doesn't matter. It had me using a stylus to tap zombies to their doom. So I crown it the best new game I played Tuesday."

[Anyhow, looks like the game, instead of being imported from Japan, as I conjectured, is heavily Japanese-inspired but made by Dream On Studio, a French developer spun off from Infogrames Lyon. The studio also makes Winnie The Pooh's Rumbly Tumbly Adventure - bit of a stylistic contrast, there!]

Impressions: Q Vs. Disney: The Showdown

March 19, 2007 10:12 PM |

- The folks at Buena Vista Games were kind enough to send over Meteos: Disney Magic for the Nintendo DS, and I'm going to continue the grand GSW tradition of only posting impressions of games created by Q Entertainment - of which this, alongside Lumines 2 for PS2, is the latest.

The first thing to note is the cute message on the back of the box: "Basic reading ability is needed to fully enjoy this game." And indeed it is, since there are several specifics tasks to be done in Story Mode which you have to understand in order to accomplish, such as blasting off particular types of block to complete levels.

Also worth commenting on is that this is actually an outsourced Q joint, as the credits explain: "Concept planning & Management: Q Entertainment; Development: ASPECT Co. Ltd, Platinum Egg Inc.; Product management: Jamsworks Co." All small Japanese devs, I think - if anyone knows anything about them, post in the comments. [UPDATE: Even before this went live, Brandon Sheffield has done the research for us - all hail the IC massif!]

So, the gameplay! I feel that being able to shuffle blocks both vertically and horizontally makes the game, sure, slightly more of a vanilla block-shuffler, but much more natural and fun to play. Meteos is fun, but for me it always felt like I had one hand tied behind my back while playing it because of the vertical only gameplay. (Though I believe that the hardest single-player level in Disney Magic has horizontal shuffling turned off, and turned on via a power-up?)

- Something that I definitely appreciate is a little depth, and with silver and gold benchmarks to beat on each level in Meteos: Disney Magic (apart from an actual 'Stage Passed' milestone), you can keep going back to do better - though you need to play through levels in one sitting.

Also, the branching level structure after the 'Easy' stage in Story Mode is appreciated for a bit of variety. Honestly, the game doesn't seem that easy for a Disney-themed title, either. 'Normal' level was already reasonably challenging for me, and there's 'Hard' and 'Expert' after that, as well as various endless-style modes. There's a lot to keep you occupied there.

In addition, it's good to see another game with vertical orientation, something that started feeling more natural on DS after Brain Age did it. [Mind you, I don't think the original DS works quite so well vertically, ergonomically speaking, but the DS Lite certainly does.]

For me, the art was just a little bit 'vanilla', for some reason. I think I expected slightly twisted and cooler versions of Disney characters, but maybe I'm spoilt by Kingdom Hearts, which does that really well. And also, this is a game for kids and families, not for me, so they would likely be expecting regular depictions of their Disney favorites, from Toy Story through Lilo & Stitch and beyond - there's even Pirates Of The Caribbean in there somewhere. And Nightmare Before Christmas, of course - which looks cool, actually.

Overall, this is competent and playable, and I'm actually having more fun with it than the original Meteos. But it's not as cool and original IP and all that kinda of stuff, and you don't get to mess with planets and weird abstract signs. Hey - how about Disney characters traveling through the Meteos universe? That would have been the ultimate mash-up here. But I'm just spitballing now, and the fact is that this is a fine DS puzzler based on a neat concept (lacking only Wi-Fi play, boo), and well worth checking out.

GameSetLinks: Tekken vs. Daft Punk vs. DS Guitar

March 12, 2007 12:17 AM |

- Right at the end of GDC week, there are quite a few random, semi-random, and entirely random Web posts, both about Game Developers Conference and not, that have occurred over the course of these 7 days. So here they are:

- There's nothing like a little rivalry, and over at 1UP, James Mielke compares Tekken and Virtua Fighter in a very much Vs. style, raging: "Where Virtua Fighter has gone, Tekken has always followed (and occasionally surpassed). In this feature we're going to break down each series in a number of critical categories and evaluate who comes out on top, determine who exactly is the winner, declare who is the champion of them all." You do that!

- I never ran into Gus Mastrapa at GDC (hi Gus!), but he made a cute post on the music used before/during the GDC keynotes, noting that Daft Punk "...was played at both of the convention's major keynotes. Just prior to Phil Harrison's talk Sony staged some emergent gameplay -- a soccer match played with inflatable soccer balls. The song "Around the World" looped as the audience batted the huge balls toward their respective goals. Before Shigeru Miyamoto's keynote today Nintendo looped a handful of Daft Punk songs from Discovery." Also: "In semi-related keynote music news, the creators of Little Big Planet played a good part of the Go! Team's debut record Thunder, Lightning, Strike during their presentation."

- Some good ol' eBay randomness - I was looking for a new watch this weekend, and ran into a big auction of Beatmania-branded watches, all sealed. Apparently, "They Vibrate, they have an alarm, and they blink!", though I'm still trying to work out whether they're ugly or G-Shock-ish gimmicky fun from the grainy picture. Anyhow, for $10 including shipping, even with needing new batteries, y'know, it's worth a quizzical look.

- N'Gai Croal ended up posting a couple of non-GDC-specific exclusives into his blog this week, and he revealed that Ubisoft is publishing Jam Sessions for the DS, a conversion of the previously GSW-mentioned and extremely clever DS guitar sim 'M-06', in the West this June. Yay. He also added a fascinating chat with Jam Sessions designer Seth Delackner - turns out he's a Westerner working at Tokyo game developer Plato and has plenty of intriguing things to say.

- A couple of other fragmented things of note from GDC. Firstly, game designer David Sirlin has some really thoughtful write-ups of Wed/Thu/Fri's events (from his perspective) on his weblog. Secondly, Dan Tabar of Data Realms has a whole bunch of GDC photos up, with quite a bit of sightseeing, but notable because it has the first pics I've seen of Virt playing out at the IGF party. Rawk.

- Finally, Gillen points out the awesome cover to a Swedish game magazine, commenting: "Oskar Skog drops me a mail, showing the cover art for the second issue of +N, which he’s the editor of... I share, and am slightly nostalgic for the days when magazines all actually commissioned unique works of art for their covers. This one’s the handywork of one Kamekichi." I approve.

GI: Agetec Brings Cookie & Cream To DS

February 15, 2007 8:19 PM |

- Doesn't look like there's been an official announcement about this yet, but the latest March 2007 issue of Game Informer magazine reveals that Agetec is bringing classic PS2 collabo-platformer The Adventures of Cookie & Cream to the Nintendo DS, in a version simply called 'Cookie & Cream'.

GI explains of the DS conversion and update: "On one screen you'll move and platform your way through eight worlds and many stages, while the touch screen is used simultaneously to clear obstacles, solve puzzles, and defeat the bosses that get in your way." And co-op will still be possible via Wi-Fi, with 9 extra mini-games bundled into the whole dealio. (The image in this news story is from the PS2 version, but there are a couple of DS screenshots in the mag.)

[It's also notable and even surprising how many other major announcements got tied to this month's Game Informer street date - the cover is Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which just got announced, of course, and it looks like the folks at Gamecock also timed their announcement to the Game Informer publishing schedule. One forgets how influential paper-magazines can be sometimes - esp. those with 2 million+ circulations!]

Your DS Is Now A... Guitar?

February 2, 2007 2:34 AM |

- The handy blog of New York-based import game retailer NCSX has added info on Plato's Hiite Utaeru DS Guitar M-06 for DS, which is, semi-unbelievably, "the strangest axe ever in the annals of guitar technology."

It's explained: "With 16 chords to use at any time from a library of 120, users may strum out a song relatively easily if you're familiar with basic guitar playing. We were able to play the Main Riff I for "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman and "Torn" from Natalie Imbruglia this morning by following guitar tabs found on the web. In addition to its function as a guitar, the software also includes a library of 20 songs and a listening-then-repeating exercise."

The NCSX game notes have lots more detail, explaining: "On the touch screen, a thick crop of vertical lines represent the guitar string. It's pasted against a black background so that the focus is the line itself. To play, strum the line with your touch pen or finger and you'll hear a twang. Change chords with the D-pad by moving it in the direction of the chords shown on the top screen and the tone of the twang changes every time you move the D-pad to another chord." This is wild.

GameSetQ: Mind-Reading & The DS' Dual-Screen Opportunities?

January 27, 2007 11:45 AM |

- So, this is partly an observation, and partly a call for ideas and suggestions. I rented Touch Detective for the Nintendo DS the other day, which is a decent, but very very Japanese adventure game where you randomly run around solving crimes and trying to combine/use objects in an illogical fashion.

The game itself is, you know, OK - but what I was excited about was the fact that a picture of the main character (Mackenzie) fills the top screen, alongside location info, and her internal monologue is actually timed to what's going on in the game. For example, in this screenshot, you can see another character talking, but if you want to glance up to the top screen, you can see what Mackenzie is thinking at that exact time.

This mechanic (which, for this game, is just icing) wouldn't work so well without the dual screens. There are actually some great gameplay possibilities spinning off ideas like this. I could imagine it being integrated into a detective game where you could interrogate people, turn on your special mind-reading powers, and see their thoughts pop up at the top of the screen. You could then speak to them and try to divine their true motives. But you could only use mind-reading for particular periods of time so you'd have to pick when to turn it on, etc.

So my GameSetQ is - what has been the best use of the DS' non-interactive top screen you've seen in a game so far (here's a list of DS games to help you out.) Have you guys got an idea for using it in an even more clever way that hasn't been done yet? Don't worry about spilling the beans, no game developers read GSW or, uhh, anything.

Minna No... Curling?

November 25, 2006 9:04 AM |

- Over at knowledgable import store NCSX, they have a write-up of a pretty funny Japanese DS title - the newly released Minna No Curling, which takes the ice-based precision sport kicking and screaming onto Nintendo's handheld.

NCSX handily explains: "The "sport" of Curling may be compared to bowling but instead of a ball and nine pins, the thrower shoves a flat-bottomed stone across a field of ice towards the vicinity of a target. Once thrown, teammates vigorously brush the path in front of the stone to guide it into the house. The intention is to affect the movement and spin of the stone by polishing the ice so that the stone glides into the intended area. Virtual curling follows the basic procedures of real curling and NDS gamers get to control everything from the launch of the stone to the brushing of the ice."

Oh, and apparently: "The Japan Curling Association gave their stamp of approval to the game." Seems like the Japanese sometimes make games on _very_ niche sports (see: a marathon running game for the PS2 - though it's possible that the latter is a bit more popular in Japan, just as track and field sports seem significantly more popular in the UK than in the United States.)

[And as an aside - NCSX have a plethora of pictures for the Dreamcast watch, which is already out of stock at the shop, and for which it's explained: "A silver-colored DC console shell houses the timepiece with a lid that flips upwards by pressing the "eject" button on the lower left side of the console." Pure decadence!]

Trouble In Super Macho World?

November 16, 2006 6:30 AM |

- Over at Serious Games Source, which is the sister site to GameSetWatch that deals with games for training, education, and other cultural shenanigans, Gonzalo Frasca has posted a piece discussing the questionable gameplay themes in Super Princess Peach for the Nintendo DS.

The piece does a good job of explaining how the game's arguably sexist concepts were toned down for the West (as previously discussed on GSW), but my favorite bit is an afterword: "On an incidental note, I would like to mention that a few months after Super Princess Peach was released, Nintendo launched another Mario platform game for the Nintendo DS: New Super Mario Bros. This game featured new superpowers for Mario, too. Rather than using his emotions, Mario was able to shift sizes, from tiny to enormous."

Frasca notes: "I never thought about this until I wrote this article but Nintendo’s choice of female and male superpowers for both games in nothing short of hilarious. One game defines women as emotionally unstable while the other one presents boys as being obsessed with their size. Why is Mario so worried about how big he can be? Who is he trying to impress? Has Luigi been recently dating somebody?" This line of questioning could go far!

Feel Like Scribbling On A DS Lite? Konami Did It For You

November 6, 2006 7:14 AM |

- NCS continues to provide the snappiest write-ups for import video game goods around - and the latest is the new Winning Eleven-themed Nintendo DS Lite, and it's... odd.

As they note: "Someone used the top of a jet black Nintendo DS Lite as a soccer play scribble pad and lucky consumers get to pay a dear price for the gold-inked chicken scratches, arrows, circles, and the occasional text such as "Goal!" and "Jockeying." NCS' collective opinion is that the unit looks a frightful mess but there might be an audience for such a stylized rendition of the DS Lite. "

Of course: "The Winning Eleven DS Lite Bundle includes a copy of the Winning Eleven DS game and the special Nintendo DS Lite unit" - so I guess you get a fun game of soccer with your odd hardware purchase. Anyone got any nominations for an odder/plan weirder limited-edition hardware bundle decoration?

Elite Beat Agents - The Tracklisting!

October 16, 2006 10:30 AM |

fsaab.jpg Of course, this is way too BREAKING not to post - Wired.com's Game|Life has got the complete Elite Beat Agents DS tracklisting up, and it's pretty darn interesting!

Keiichi Yano told Game|Life of the announcement: "The concept for song selection was this - the roaring songs you would want to hear if you went to a college frat party... I used to play in bands like that, and when the whole crowd is jumping up and down to your tunes...this is the essence of our selections."

I'm not sure I was expecting them to go that way, and there are certainly some cheesy tracks on here - but I like it! Here's the full skinny:

1. Walkie Talkie Man - Steriogram
2. ABC - Jackson Five
3. Sk8er Boi - Avril Lavigne
4. I Was Born to Love You - Queen
5. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
6. Highway Star - Deep Purple
7. Y.M.C.A. - Village People
8. September - Earth, Wind and Fire
9. Canned Heat - Jamiroquai
10. Material Girl - Madonna
11. La La - Ashlee Simpson
12. You're the Inspiration - Chicago
13. Survivor - Destiny's Child
14. Without a Fight - Hoobastank
15. Believe - Cher
16. Let's Dance - David Bowie
17. Jumpin Jack Flash - Rolling Stones
18. Makes No Difference - Sum 41
19. The Anthem - Good Charlotte

Also noted: "Where the hell is "Livin' La Vida Loca"? A fair question. Near as I can figure, the song was dropped from the game." When I spoke to Yano at TGS, he confirmed that the track wasn't in the game any more - maybe Ricky Martin got greedy? We shall never know!