Point Blank DS (DS) review
"A charming and frantic game, itís all the fun of a carnival, without the hawkers, rigged games, and petting zoo aroma. Then again, there are reasons I donít go to carnivals anymore."
The carnival came to my pocket
The Time Crisis series is undoubtedly Namcoís most popular light gun shooter, but like a quiet and faithful sibling, Point Blank has always stood by its side. With simplistic graphics and gameplay, Point Blank does not make a strong first impression, and so it sits in the shadows of smoky bowling alleys, seedy truck-stops, and forgotten arcades. In Point Blank, there are no romps through war-torn battlefields or alien hives. There are no bloody headshots or massive explosions. Your enemies are cardboard cutouts, bullseyes, and rubber ducks. A charming and frantic game, itís all the fun of a carnival, without the hawkers and petting zoo aroma. Then again, I never liked carnivals that much.
The knife-thrower goes to a gunfight
The most major adjustment to Point Blank in its move to the DS is the loss of the GunCon. In the world of light gun shooters, the GunCon was nothing short of a revolution. No longer could gamers cry foul over missed shots. Whereas other light guns connected to consoles and arcade machines via controller inputs, the GunCon hooked directly into the video signal, allowing for accuracy to within one pixel. Instead of pulling a trigger, Point Blank DS makes full use of the DS touchscreen. Tapping targets is an obvious way to bring Point Blank to the handheld system, but the stylus is no match for the GunConís pinpoint accuracy. Some of the small, stationary targets are nearly impossible to hit, while fast-moving targets often experience lag, forcing you to figure out the proper lead-in distance through trial and error. After only a few rounds, it became obvious that Point Blank DS was not made with the stylus and small screen in mind.
The fat lady only knows one trick
With 40 different stages, four levels of difficulty, and five modes of play, Point Blank DS appears to tip the scales with content. Numbers donít lie, but they donít always tell the whole truth either. Some of the stages share targets and concepts, such as shooting bullseyes, but each one is easily differentiated and provides a unique challenge. In one stage, the bullseyes flip around an axis, and in another, they wind up and down on a rollercoaster track. The problem is that each stage generally lasts 30 seconds or less. I wasnít expecting epic, finger-straining stages, but nor did I expect to complete the game in 20 minutes.
The different difficulties in Arcade mode, ranging from Practice to Insane, add some replay value, but if youíre like me, even Insane will only offer a temporary challenge. If you happen to find some favorite stages, or just need to practice, Freeplay mode allows you to play any stage without worrying about scores. Quickly disenchanted with the Arcade and Freeplay modes, I checked out the Game Museum, but that only offered the chance to play four of the stages already in Arcade mode. Finally, I turned to Brain Massage mode. Apparently Brain Age for the DS is more contagious than I thought. Brain Massage features (surprise surprise) all the same stages as previous modes, but with a diagnosis to rate your performance. Maybe Iím just ignorant, but I seriously doubt the scientific validity of a diagnosis based on my ability to tap cardboard cutouts. There was still a Versus mode to contend with, but subjecting my friends to such monotony didnít seem right.
Even the tattooed man gets touchups
Over the years, I assumed that people passed over the various versions of Point Blank because they were too elitist for the gamesí simple, carnival-esque charms. Looking back, itís more likely due to Point Blankís graphical inadequacies; something that has yet to be fixed. In short, Point Blank DS is an ugly game that barely meets 16-bit standards. A few of the stages are crisp, but most of them look like they went through the pixel-blender. I have always stressed gameplay over graphics, but itís a little hard to play with what you canít see.
10 bucks to win a $2 bear
The box for Point Blank DS boasts, ďThe ultimate collection of mini shooting games!Ē At least they arenít lying, but then again, itís easy to be on top when there is no competition. Itís bad enough that Namco Bandai did not bother to overhaul the gameplay or graphics for Point Blank DS, but not making special accommodations for the stylus is unforgivable. Very few of the stages work well without the GunCon, and as for those that do, they are little more than glorified whack-a-mole games. At the very least, Namco Bandai could have offered some distinguishable modes instead of slapping different names on the same game. Suffice to say, I feel like the sucker who just emptied his wallet to throw a ball at a stack of weighted milk bottles.
Staff review by Brian Rowe (July 10, 2006)
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