DS Review: Viewtiful Joe - Double Trouble

Thanks to its unique visual style, Viewtiful Joe has no problem fitting in on the DS. Aside from the lowered resolution, it's hard to see what's been changed initially about the stylistic flair this series was born on. The changes that have been made come into play later and are on the second screen. They're the worst things about this completely new version of the franchise.

At its heart, you'll find everything you need from Viewtiful Joe. It's still a solid, satisfying mix of innovative puzzles, beat-em-up fighting, and mild platforming. This handheld version is chopped up into tiny pieces, allowing for save points at the end of each room. It doesn't hinder the flow at all, and it's all for convenience.

Controls feel a tad sluggish here, and the combos don't quite come out with the ferocity or speed they used to. It's not the occasional slowdown (which has no effect on gameplay), but the whole game. Even after earning a variety of combos, this DS exclusive is missing a little extra punch, no pun intended.

That's minor compared to the issues with the new touch screen powers. As always, Joe brings a wild set of moves that are explained in length when they're first needed. Innovative ideas like splitting the screen in half to make it inside unreachable areas, swapping screens to zoom in on objects, or beating an enemy by stabbing at it with the stylus are all unique.

The issue is that they don't work all that well. The console has a hard time differentiating movement in the touch screen, and pulling off the wrong move is more common than not. Worse, the majority of the time they're used for nothing but puzzle solving. They would have been far more interesting if included in the combat more often. Instead, when they are used, it's desperation. Making an enemy that can only be killed by touching them is a weak way to implement this since they could have been taken out just as easily with the standard punches and kicks.

Menus are also irritating at times. For instance, on the opening menu, you can highlight an option with the stylus, but you can't actually select it. Other menus use the stylus for everything; others fail to use it at all. Cinematic sequences, a mix of still pictures and in-game engine animation, need to be "flipped" like pages in a book. It's another example of how wasted the touch screen can be at times.

With all of these new touch powers, there should be some challenge to put them to use. However, the developers highlight exactly which power needs to be used and how around 80% of the time. It's hard to screw anything up or feel like you're being challenged when the entire thing feels like a tutorial.

Even with a myriad of issues however, Double Trouble is an average success. Even with some sluggishness, the fighting is still a joy, with perfect collision and impactful blows. Stages are close to the brilliant category, including an entire stage set inside Resident Evil's mansion, complete with window crashing dogs. The in-jokes and nods to other games are too numerous to mention. This is still the game that Capcom will be milking for the next 20 years, even if it doesn't all come together as it was intended.

Based on that, if you know and love the series, there's nothing that should deter you. It's superb graphical style, feel, and quirkiness maintain everything that has made the series popular. Its problems are outweighed by its basic engine that has already been used many times over on other consoles. If it's good enough to produce multiple sequels, it's good enough for the DS.

(*** out of *****)

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