We can all bemoan the lack of good, interesting, original product on the DS. For example, my ongoing pointed, Nintendo handheld-related question has been why no Blades of Steel? In early GameBoy days, that was my go-to title, a slick, violent ice hockey sim that, to my mind, hasn’t been beaten since.
A lot of DS / DSi product is very, very samey or slow to appear: come on chaps, why so long for a new Brain Training experience? But, every now and again, it comes into its own. The Professor Layton series has shown that it’s the perfect device for puzzlers and, with this release of Pictionary, there’s a chance that the system could replace the need for a travel games / game compendiums.
There is one unavoidable fact, however. Single player sucks. As in Dyson levels of suckage. As in, well, insert your own analogy involving lower league sports teams, people you hate or porn star names. It’s terrible: amusingly so for a few minutes, but then to levels of frustration you will find hard to express as you grimace with rage.
As an example, get a piece of paper and draw a rough oval. Now, within that oval, add a much smaller circle: think childish representation of something Page 3 is famous for. Got it? Marvellous. Now. What is it? Aside from a childish representation of something Page 3 is famous for.
Once you start “typing” your answer, the game will bring up predetermined words within its vocabulary. For the record, “breast” isn’t one of them. Nor is anything else that it remotely resembles. As the timer drips away, you are finally put out of your misery. It is, apparently, an olive. W, as I believe you youngsters have it, TF?
Obviously, when playing Pictionary – and I speak as one who nearly lost his eye to a hastily thrown sharpened pencil in the Great Pictionary Battle of 1994 – part of the joy is the frustrated screaming at your team mates, the urging them to draw something different or a clear indication you haven’t a Scooby what they’re on about. The DS, as clever as it is, can’t do that sort of flexibility and, when you’ve only got three wrong answers before you crash out, it will wind you up.
After a few frequently embittered tube journeys, I was tempted to flick the cartridge into the nearest bin and never investigate further. However, I’m a dedicated journalist me. Admittedly not the sort that goes undercover in war zones or anything, just the kind who, er, plays a bit of Nintendo Pictionary from time to time.
And that’s when it all started to make sense. The two screens can be gameboard and notepad. Rather cleverly – and I like a nice bit of thinking through – if you draw on the bottom screen, the picture is reflected, the other way around, on the top screen, meaning other gamers can see All Play questions and the like. The standard game can thus be played, in reduced style, anywhere you can keep your DS charged.
However, that’s not enough for the good boys at THQ, er, HQ. Realising that the DS can free the game from dining tables everywhere, they’ve added a whole load of DS-inspired tricks and a new variation, called Pictionary Mania. Here the drawing modes include Get It Straight (where you can only use the “Paintbox” style options to draw in straight lines), Ink Limit (self explanatory), One Line (the picture must be drawn in one continuous motion), No Peeking (where you have to draw without looking at the screen and the brilliant Off Hand. Before playing, you’re asked to specify which hand you use. If you get an Off Hand question, you have to draw with the other hand and, to ensure you do, you have to hold down the R or L button which takes your good hand out of the equation.
- Supremely convenient travel game – board and pad combined
- No learning curve to speak of – genuinely a game for all the family
- Superb twists and variations on the standard Pictionary experience
- The solo experience is impossible
- Graphics are basic to say the least
- It would still be nice to see more original content on the DS
The Short Version: If this is the start of a series of boardgames reduced to the most convenient of travel sizes, this is a very good thing. It’s potentially a whole new sector for the DS and, if Pictionary is a sign of things to come, well thought out. Graphics are limited but as good as they need to be and, while unlikely to be top of anyone’s Christmas list, should stop a few back seat and holiday homicides in months to come.