Domo Games Micro-Review: No Thanks, Nintendo

If there's a good Nintendo and a bad Nintendo, then the release of five linked, downloadable games on the DSi represents that latter corporate personality at its worst.

1) Take five mini-games from what must have been an underwhelming 2002 Game Boy Advance game.
2) Bank on the fact that Americans will be delighted that these mini-games star a Japanese pop culture icon.
3) Charge two bucks a pop.

That's the seeming strategy behind Crash-Course Domo, Rock-N-Roll Domo, Hard-Hat Domo, Pro-Putt Domo and White-Water Domo, five downloadable games starring NHK TV mascot Domo which were all recently released for American Nintendo DS owners.

This is the dark side of DSiWare, from the company you might forget brought you Super Mario 64, WarioWare and Wii Sports but that you might remember used to churn out the Mario Partys and sold NES games on the Game Boy Advance for $20.

Hated
Shallow Gameplay: In the deep end of DSiWare, we've got games such as Art-Style Pictobits and Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again, which layer complex gameplay atop the simple, offering variations on the essentials of Tetris and Lemmings pioneered years ago. In the Domo end, we've got a side-scrolling bicycling game that lets you change lanes, tap a button to speed boost, go up and down a few hills, with barely a touch of innovation beyond what was done in Excitebike. White-Water Domo is a downstream slalom. Pro-Putt is rudimentary one-button mini-golf. Rock-N-Roll Domo, which at least has an option of touch-control, is the simplest of music games — tap one of three circles in time with music note streaming through them. The only game demanding the player do something they haven't done more interestingly elsewhere is Hard-Hat Domo. That game has the lead character painting floors of a half-constructed building as he tries to erect color-coded ladders that match the floor he's standing on and the one to which he'd like to climb.

Lowest Of Values: Nintendo's frequent release of new cameras and clocks through DSiWare may bother some folks, but the company has provided numerous substantial games for those looking for something to play and enjoy. Even in the 200-points ($2) range, where the company has been releasing chopped-off pieces of larger retail games, there has been gameplay value. Take Bird & Beans, which was ripped from an old WarioWare and consists of nothing more than a single-screen Missile Command riff involving a bird sticking his tongue out to catch air-dropped beans. Its tight design rewards return play and harkens back to an era of single-screen arcade ingenuity. The Domo games, however, lacking in depth or more than a handful of levels of content, feel like clumsy side-attractions. The games make little use of the DS' second screen other than for maps, minimal use of the touch-screen, and sport graphics barely better-animated than what was on the GBA. The DSiWare store doesn't even offer a budget option for people who buy the full-set. What a strange way to sell such strange goods.

Barely a half year old in North America, the DSiWare downloadable service may still be in its experimental phase. If so, these Domo games may be just another test tube shaken up and stared at. What's the better concoction: The $5 and $8 DSiWare games that sparkle with creativity and nostalgia? Or the repurposed portions of a game that betrays no design breakthroughs conceived in the past decade?

The ratio of quality to filler on DSiWare may still be superior to that of iTunes, but the Domo games hurt the credibility Nintendo was gaining as a curator of an online games store that emphasized quality and value.

Crash-Course Domo, Rock-N-Roll Domo, Hard-Hat Domo, Pro-Putt Domoand White-Water Domo were developed by Suzak and published by NIntendo for the Nintendo DSi's DSiWare service on October 19. Each retails for 200 points ($2.00 USD). Played them all. Only planning on playing Hard-Hat Domo again.

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