Nintendo DSi Review
Aside from a new body, the DSi’s interface has been redesigned for the better. It’s actually a bit like Sony’s XMB, with navigation occurring through a single row of icons. Moving between programs is fairly snappy, and most icons are big enough on the new touchscreen to allow for stylus-less navigation. In other words, we used our fingers most of the time.
The first time you load the DSi, it snaps a shot of your face. Your face then fills the entire top screen whenever you’re in the main menu screen. If you are pretty, this is an obvious plus. If you are not, maybe you know someone attractive who might fill in for you.
DSi Sound is thematically similar to DSi Camera, serving as a sound recorder and editor (along with an low bitrate AAC music player). There are some clever ideas here, like Excitebike and Starfox-themed equalizers, and modulators that make your voice sound like a robot or parakeet.
Neither DSi Sound or Camera is at all bad. It’s just that this is cutesy stuff that will probably only be appealing for 5 minutes or so to anyone over 10. We could see children loving these apps, but everyone else will probably grow bored quickly.
Oh Right, Playing VIDEO GAMES
As for the DSi’s actual gaming experience, loading DS titles is not noticeably faster, despite an internal processor that’s almost twice as fast.
We tried out two DSiWare titles, however, and there’s at least a bit of promise in the new platform.
WarioWare: Snapped! ($US5) is a like any typical WarioWare game (meaning that it’s really a collection of frantically paced minigames) but you use the DSi’s camera for motion control. When things worked, it was fun to reposition your head to catch a dropping hat, or grab at coins before the buzzer ran out. But it also stresses the limitations of the DSi camera. Often, in a variety of lighting situations, we simply could not get the camera/game to recognise faces/hands. And in these cases, the game is nothing more than contortionist torture as you try to line yourself up with the DSi’s camera and a lighting source. Spoiler: The game does use a trick that we’re positive others will follow. It takes shots of you midgame and replays them upon completion. The idea is both brilliant and funny, and we’re guessing it’s too resource intensive to be possible on the old D
S, even if it had a camera. Oh, and you can play through much of the game in a few minutes.
Brain Age Express: Math ($US8) is essentially the math sections of Brain Age 1 and Brain Age 2 broken out into its own game. A good deal if you were only looking to improve on the math section of your Brain without regard to your ling…ui…stic…areas. There are also mini-games inside this that have you act and make faces for the DSi’s camera. We have no idea what part of your brain this trains.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these games, but keep in mind that these are essentially mini games within a system that’s already founded on mini games. The DSi could could make DS gaming into something frighteningly granular. Then again, $US2-$US5 DSiWare quality already looks to outpace the games you get on the iPhone for the same amount.
The DSi is a DS that’s just a little nicer, a moderate upgrade that’s more Sony’s style than Nintendo’s. This isn’t the jump you saw from the original DS to the DS Lite, but something more akin to the PSP 2000 to 3000, or the GBA to the GBA SP.
The DSi could be renamed the DS Slightly Liter.
The build alone cannot possibly justify the $US170 pricetag—there’s no way this system costs Nintendo $US40 more per unit to build than the DS Lite did when it was released. What you’re really doing by purchasing the DSi is subsidising Nintendo’s costs launching and running DSiWare in the US (once again, a cost that shouldn’t approach $US40).
There’s little doubt that DSiWare will become a serious platform all its own. The question is, how long will that development take, and what is that platform worth to you?
At the moment, it’s got a handful of games and apps. So our answer would be, not much.