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Sun, 29 Jan 2006

Rising Star Games day

Recently Mstation was on the tenth floor of a hotel checking out some adaptations of old games titles for transfer to the Nintendo DS and Sony's PSP.

It is funny that these two machines are being considered as rivals when they really aren't. The DS is in a different price and size category and it has a huge head start on the PSP. In the UK, quite recently, some games reporters were announcing that PSP was now in the lead - this information based on the fact that the PSP had managed one month of better sales whereas the DS has vastly more numbers out there and has sold a ton more software. In other words the reports were complete BS.

An important side effect of the DS's relative lack of complexity (despite its two screens) and it's not being part of the Sony control freak culture is that people can be more daring with their games -- which is to say, more imaginative. The proof sits on shelves in most every city.

The PSP is a nice object, no question, but it is a less casual thing all round. You will need to be careful in a lot of places where you use it and when you've finished you'll most likely have to put it into a case to protect that nice screen. You just snap the DS closed to protect its screens -- not all that elegant, but effective.

We saw two games on the PSP, both to be released in March. The first was Bubble Bobble Evolution from Marvellous Interactive in Japan and released in Europe through their affiliate, Rising Star Games. In fact this was a Rising Star day so all these games are from them.

BBE is a platform game with a graphically rich game world and quite a few puzzles to solve. The idea was to "evolve" the original title by making additions and changes suitable for the platform.

You can catch a podcast of the game's producer, Tony Byus, talking here.

The other PSP title we saw was a flight sim called Pilot Academy which has a whole bunch of different planes to fly from WW1 multi-wing prop fighters through crop dusters to modern airline planes and fighters.

'The game is built upon staggering technology, which represents the landscapes from 30,000ft down to landing and with three regions to explore, each around 64km square, this handheld flight sim packs significantly more than its home console counterparts. Controls offer the complexity of piloting a range of aircraft without insisting players are double-jointed, and the game will provide specific vocal instructions for those who veer off course.

Pilot Academy begins with a series of training exercises which teach the basics of flight. From there, players can jump into the cockpit of commercial, private and military planes in a series of increasingly tough challenges and missions.'

The first game we saw was the DS version of Snow Board Kids complete with cute characters "with Mario Kart-style dynamics" which was fun and easy to play.

Another DS game was an update of Taito's Rainbow Islands. In the DS version the key-based jumping from platform to platform is replaced by movements with the pen on the DS's touchscreens.

So, a little retro and a little now in the same box for these titles in that they're old concepts gussied up for some new platforms. As far as value goes, there's been enough adaptation work to ensure the things stand on their own. For people just starting out with a new DS or whatever, these will essentially be new games.

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