What It Is
20 years ago this month, Nintendo introduced the world to Game Boy, the company’s first handheld gaming system. That first chunky, black and white, Game Boy would go on to receive a lot of upgrades over the years —color screen, improved graphics, longer battery life, smaller and lighter size, and better sound—as new models were introduced until it was replaced by the DS in 2004. This month, the latest version of the DS, the DSi, arrived in stores and while it’s appearance hasn’t changed much on the outside from the more recent DS Lite, the upgrades under the hood make this one of the coolest gadgets I’ve ever played with.
At its core, the DSi is a hand-held gaming system just like it’s Great, Great, Great(?) Grandfather Game Boy. You buy games, open them on the DSi and voila, you are playing a video game in your hand!
Why It’s Fun
With the DSi’s preloaded camera and sound applications you can take it out of the box and have hours of fun without ever buying a single game. The camera has two lenses—one between the dual game-screens so you can take your own picture and one on the outside of the unit’s casing for taking pictures of other people and things. What you do with the pictures after taking them is where the fun comes in because the DSi allows you to manipulate, distort, graffiti, and, my favorite, add mustaches to your pictures.
The sound app uses the DSi’s microphone to record surprisingly clear and high quality external sounds. I tried recording music from a speaker as well as a person’s voice and in both examples I was pleasantly surprised by how great my recordings sounded when played back. Like the camera app, you can mix and manipulate your sounds by changing the tempo and pitch or converting it to one of 12 included sound effects such as parakeet, electric fan, tunnel and robot. You can also use the Sound app with your own music thanks to an SD Memory card slot.
Your pictures and sounds can be stored in the DSi’s internal memory or you can save them onto an SD Memory card.
Who’s Going To Love It
When Nintendo released the Wii, their goal was to reach an audience of people who rarely, if ever, played video games and they accomplished that goal with amazing success. The DSi has the potential to do the same thing for people that aren’t already using a handheld game system. The review unit I was sent has spent a lot of time on my kitchen counter and just about everyone who has seen it couldn’t resist picking it up and playing with it. The navigation, controls and tutorials are extremely user-friendly, which makes it that much easier for first time users to start enjoying immediately.
Another reason why the DSi might find a following among non-gamers is the large and growing number of available games that aren’t actually games. This trend began with puzzle games for casual gamers but has evolved to include tutorial cartridges on tons of subjects. My favorite, and one I use all the time, is Personal Trainer: Cooking, part of a series that also includes a math training game, which, call me crazy but I’ve never been interested in checking out.
The only people who might not love the DSi are the ones that recently purchased a new DS because now they are going to want to go out and buy the DSi (myself included).
What To Be Aware Of
The DSi has built in WiFi capabilities, which you can use to access the Online DSi Shop where, after being treated to some awesome elevator muzak, you can shop for games and apps to download directly to the DSi. Some downloads are free but others will cost you DSi points, which can be purchased at retail locations or on the DSi using a credit card.
The WiFi can also be used to access the Internet. It’s a bit slow and not very intuitive but it’s still a nice added feature.
There are a few negatives worth mentioning. I know, shocking right? But don’t worry, the negatives are few and fairly minor. First, the DSi is the first of the DS series that does not play GameBoy Advance games or allow you to play DS games that used the GBA slot such as Guitar Hero. All other DS games should play without any problems on the DSi. Additionally, the DSi won’t work with a DS power cord. This isn’t really a big deal, especially if this is your first Nintendo hand-held system but if you’ve got as many gadgets and over-flowing power cord drawers as I do, it’s always nice when you can charge multiple devices with the same cord.
Overall, the DSi is an amazing gaming gadget and worth every penny of the $170 price tag. While it certainly isn’t necessary to run out and replace a perfectly good DS right now, I highly recommend the DSi to anyone who is shopping around for a hand-held gaming system.
0 out of 5
It has to be fun or it wouldn’t be on Time to Play. But some games are more fun than others so here’s our scale: 1 is fun, 2 is a lot of fun, 3 is great, 4 is awesome and 5 is out-of-this-world!
Video Game Information
Available: Now, at most major retail and toy stores as well as electronic gaming specialty shops and many online e-commerce sites.
Launch Date: April 2009
Date of Review: May 2009