Trauma Center: Under the Knife
When we heard that a surgical simulator game was coming to the DS, we were intrigued but sceptical as to how much fun the game would actually be. Then we got the game and became hooked on it for weeks.
Trauma Center's theme is deceiving - it comes across as another one of those novelty gimmicks on DS, but make no mistake; this is one of the most hardcore, time-based challenging games on the portable, and will put your reactions and hand-eye co-ordination to the test. You will pull your hair out on some of its harder levels, but the rewarding feeling you get when you complete a tough operation is immense. This is no girl's game - few gamers we know have battled through it.
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Could the fairly low-powered handheld manage the strain of an FPS with half-decent graphics? Metroid Prime: Hunters confirmed the answer to that question to be a firm 'Yes'.
It also proved that the touch-screen interface provides the best FPS control system outside of a PC with a mouse and keyboard. Then, of course, it was an absolute online gaming revolution for handhelds, with awesome online deathmatch that was easy to use, seamless in connection and even allowed for voice chat between mates. One of the best DS games ever.
Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain
We remember a time not so long ago when the only handheld we saw being played on the Tube was the PSP. Now we see a DS being played almost every day, and not by young children either - we're talking about full-grown adults in suits.
You know when Brain Training is in the slot because they hold the DS sideways, and you can see the intense concentration on people's faces as they rush through 100 simple sums. It's games like Brain Training, along with Nintendogs, and Animal Crossing, that made the DS an attractive prospect for new audiences and even though it's a game of sums, puzzles and no actual gaming, it must be applauded.
New Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Land 2 on the Game Boy was the last 2D Mario action Nintendo had served its fans before the long overdue New Super Mario Bros. finally landed on DS.
Just like Yoshi's Island DS, its best attribute was how faithfully it stuck to the traditional gameplay of the series, building on the old-school platforming gameplay rather than trying to change it radically. The new items - the Blue Shell and the Small Mushroom which shrunk Mario to mini Mario - were just enough to put a refreshing spin on an old formula, and the game put the power of the DS to perfect use, with huge enemies and morphing scenery, without trying to shoehorn in some unnecessary touch-control. A tad on the easy side, but a worthy addition to one of the most important series' in gaming.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright is a game that could be misunderstood for all the same reasons as the equally niche Trauma Center. Being a lawyer in a courtroom doesn't sound like a very exciting prospect for a game. But again, just like Trauma Center, it brain-bending challenges and investigative mechanic makes for one of the most unique games on the DS.
But where Trauma Center challenged your twitch reactions and co-ordination, Ace Attorney worked your brain matter, presenting you with a testimony and leaving you to spot the games in a criminal's story, and compile the evidence presented to you to build a case. It doesn't hold your hand - you have to think for yourself, so while it's a very difficult game, it's also one of the most uniquely rewarding games you can buy today.
Big Brain Academy
Brain Training is a fantastic piece of software but it lacked any kind of aims, goals objectives or any sort of character. You just did your brain exercises, got your results and watch your performance improve. But Big Brain Academy took to same principles and applied them to a more gamer-friendly structure, with medals, challenges and mini games.
It was easy to become obsessed with the progress chart in Brain Training - you picture yourself become some kind of genius as that red line rise up the ranks, but it became boring and tedious just a s quickly. But Big Brain Academy keeps you hooked until you get all those shiny gold medals, and what a challenge that is. Then you find there are platinum medals and that, in actual fact, you're still thick.