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Point Blank DS (DS) artwork

Point Blank DS (DS) review

"Restricted Nostalgia"

Existing at a time when nearly everyone was focusing on 3D gaming in both the arcades and at home, the Point Blank light-gun series, overwhelmingly abundant in "basic" 2D visuals, still managed to win over an audience. Unlike your typical light-gun playthrough, which include injuring criminals and terrorists, each Point Blank experience is wrapped around the completion of mini-games with some very off-the-wall goals; to name a few, there's a stage that involves shooting away soda cans, books, and chickens being thrown at a poorly-performed musical, another tasks with quickly corresponding the displayed time with one of numerous twin bell clocks, and another has you blow away literal cardboard cutout goons in a hallway. These scenes are usually accommodated with intentionally cartoony graphics and an energetic, wacky soundtrack, all helping to make the series standout with its unconventional style.

From a distance, it seems like harmless, simple fun, but once you pluck a coin in and pick up the gun peripheral, you realize there's actual challenge behind the humor. Successfully completing the barrage of random mini-games is going to be much harder than it sounds, as you have to contend with brief time limits and stages that demand either precise or rapid fire, not to mention some of these give you a restricted number of shots to get the job done. One moment, you'll be having a good ol' time preventing U.F.O. catchers from abducting one of the series' protagonists, and in the very next stage, you're now in a panic as a tiny fly, swooping in a room, needs to be shot with only one bullet to spare. The difficulty is definitely something that's going to catch you off guard if you're just expecting a chuckle, but it certainly sends a message that the Point Blank series is more than just giggles and looks.

It felt like a franchise that could easily prevail without fail, due to its uncomplicated design and charm, but, in what seemed like a crime against humanity, Namco stopped releasing new content with 2000's Point Blank 3. However, just when the gaming world was moving on and all but forgotten about this gem of a series, Namco plopped a new Point Blank in 2006 on the Nintendo DS, titled, um, Point Blank DS. Before all nine of the remaining Point Blank fans were able to get super excited, however, it was revealed to be a remix. Still! Having a Point Blank in the palm of one's hand is a pretty cool thing to own, in theory. And while it loses the coolness of holding a light-gun, especially the GunCon, the DS' stylus is a perfectly capable substitute. Super accuracy, in most cases, is no longer a thing, too, but reliance on quick reflexes and judgement is still a firm aspect in this port.

So, what exactly is inside Point Blank DS? The portable conversion compiles over 35 mini-games taken from the series' three titles, complete with their original visuals, sound effects, and music. Newcomers might think that's a healthy dose to fiddle with, but Point Blank fans will quickly tell you this is a surprisingly small batch. In fact, I pretty much blazed through every mini-game the first day I received this game, which lasted approximately an hour. To be somewhat fair, I guess, Point Blank DS does have a varied degree of difficulty options that make the mini-games quite demanding and often unforgiving on the higher settings. So for those that thrive on overcoming huge challenges and netting a better high score based on accuracy, quickness, and bullets exhausted (the series is stat happy), there's replay to be had here.

However, Namco had a tremendous opportunity with this conversion to include nearly every, if not all, mini-games from all three titles, transforming this into an amazing collection of over 100 stages. Now, I understand not including specific mini-games, like having to shoot a distant, non-moving target with one bullet, as the challenge is rendered obsolete with the touch screen and stylus. And a lot of the stages are pretty much recycled tasks with different visuals, sure, but that certainly didn't stop the port team from featuring at least six enemy cardboard cutout mini-games... The biggest disappointment for me is the ludicrous absence of stages with cameos from other Namco games, like the Galaxian, Tank Force, and Mokujin mini-games, or the mask stage that displays various faces from Splatterhouse, Mappy, Klonoa, and Dig Dug.

I mean, seriously, what is the deal with Point Blank DS? I refuse to believe it all came down to laziness on the port team's behalf, and more inclined to speculate some type of behind-the-scenes meddling was involved. Like, there had to be some kind of forced, short deadline to outrun, programming hardships, or a decision to hold off on including more stages in case they could milk them for a follow-up. That's how much denial I'm in with the extreme lack of content in this port; I can't possibly imagine the team looked at the finished product and thought, "Good enough." Because it's not. The DS remix really comes off more like a demo of what's featured in the original three releases than a complete title itself. The PlayStation 1 port of the first game even went the distance to include a bonus, in-depth Quest mode with exploration and NPCs! What's Point Blank DS' bonus? A stat mode, in an already stat-heavy series, where a talking bird delivers your results in the form of jokes...


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (June 03, 2014)

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