Dual Pen Sports

DualPenSportsThis Nintendo 3DS exclusive game takes full advantage of the console’s touch and 3D capabilities as the first dual touch action sports game. The two included light green styluses are ideally lightweight while the gameplay equals the appealing packaging.

Character creation and customization gives players choice of overall appearance, name, expressions, and wardrobe through the seven well-known sports with two main modes in each. Players can customize athletes or randomly fill in features including gender, name, and appearance.

Soccer, basketball, archery, and baseball are available for local wireless multi-play (each player must have a game copy). The host chooses among aesthetic options among the exclusively versus sporting events – cooperative play would be a nice future addition though. Skiing, paragliding, and boxing are not available in the multiplayer mode. It is refreshing to experience these sports, especially boxing, which are rare on the Nintendo DS much less on the 3DS…so far.

The two sub modes in the single player gameplay are rank match (top of the touch screen) or a score match (bottom). After some initial practice, players can choice between these two modes and earn points. Rank matches pit players against AI players at similar levels while score matches take the best performances. High scores can stop matches earlier allowing players to rip through levels quicker and get more special bonuses. Performance points include “Athli” and “fingergility” categories. Players can watch replays of outstanding performances in the top screen during point results segment at the end. Don’t get too confident though – players get point deductions for bad performances. Additional performance challenges occur throughout each sport (e.g. high winds during archery), so look for visual cues and animations.

Novice players can savor the movements with slow, methodical actions while carefully awaiting the color in the initial action (left side of the touch screen) to disappear before starting the next one on the right side. Game modes do not incorporate annoying time limits. Novices can also improve performance with separate and trace exercises lasting 60 seconds each. The symmetry exercises last 30 seconds and involve touching colored squares. The today’s challenge mode players progress using a special daily calendar. Red stamps means success; blue means failure; and gold means successful bonus challenge completions.

This enjoyable game includes two special light green styluses that resemble drumsticks and are bigger than regular Nintendo DS styluses yet lightweight, which allows for quicker movements and response times. Players can succeed with a “do not touch two spots” approach, which seems odd because it might be natural to touch the screen with both styluses simultaneously. Novices might get better results with promoted two stylus use – just make sure the Nintendo 3DS is on a flat surface or table or invest in a non-slip cover. Other players might choose the “shortcut” approach of using one stylus because it is just as easy to just switch over from left to right on the touch screen. It is easy on some sports, but not all.

The big console games can always taut the cardio exercise benefits, but these challenging dual-handed movements give the hands and brain a good workout. It is a different physical workout from the major, motion-controlled console games. Overall, the two stylus method promotes a player’s analytical and creative side which almost compensates for lack of motion controllers while adding an extra challenge to each sport.

Boxing (knockout battle and sandbag puncher) is best suited for the dual pens due to the simple right and left-handed action simulations with blocks in middle. No blood or damage is shown but opponents get spun around and knocked off their feet. Opponents are defeated after three knock downs while bonuses activate when a special graphic appears. Baseball features the home run battle and zone hitting with wooden bats. Timing is everything here as special icons indicate good performances. Audible crowd reactions reflect performance as well.

Soccer (free kick battle and pinpoint kicker) requires quick actions following swiping stylus actions done quickly then just enjoy watching the satisfying goal kicks. Basketball (jump shot and all points battle) requires players to catch a pass at the top of the key then range their following jump shot. The controls and timing take some finesse here. Use both styluses for skiing (slalom battle or snowman crash) because overcompensating with one stylus is very hard. It would have been great to have some gyroscope controls where players could briefly lift up the console for jumps or, even better, just to tip the console one way or the other for movements while using the stylus to move your poles.

Paragliding (thermal flight battle or target flyer) is also ideal when using both styluses. Steering is the key here. Altitude is not really a concern as checkpoints appear in vertical strips where any part of the parachute not just your body can register to advance. Players can see wind, but there is no display of wind speed like in archery. Just use shorts bursts when moving and watch out for red transparent vertical strips for updrafts.

The 3D effects enhance the action making each movement and athletic attempt more impactful. Important text and ballooned information really pops in the forefront. Player actions show a visual trail when using the styluses. The menus are text heavy, but improve with the specially designed segments utilizing space and color.

Players can turn the guide display on or off to clear up the visuals more. Developers miss some noticeable, but non-essential translations in the menus (e.g.  “select event” versus “select sport”), but really hit the mark in the sound department, especially in boxing.

The difficulty levels are easy, normal, hard, very hard, and expert. In the Miscellaneous mode, players can delete or edit character files, see game credits, or view tutorials. The character dialogue is honest with a little “smack talk”, but still evoke good sportsmanship while special reminders during character creation keep players mindful of the all ages atmosphere. Recommended (*** out of four stars).

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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