Not since my Mii arm-wrestled the Mii of television's own Geoff Keighley has Nintendo technology allowed me to witness such a titanic virtual battle of video game journalists as it did the day Photo Dojo allowed me to battle… me.
The image you see attached to this Photo Dojo review is of me, the guy who couldn't beat Soulja Boy in Street Fighter II, throwing a fireball at another version of myself. The fireball is my face. The background is a white chair in my living room, my fat cat sitting on the armrest at screen right.
All of this is made possible by Photo Dojo a Nintendo DSi game that raises the question: What kind of game would Nintendo give away for free?
It's A Comedy: Why call Photo Dojo a fighting game? Sure it is one. It pits character-on-the-left against character-on-the-right, each able to punch, kick and super-move until someone's health meter is depleted. But it is the shallowest of fighting games, possibly even a bad one. Who cares? The game is a comedy. It is 100% about making people who play it laugh. In that regard, it succeeds. How could it not? The fighters and backgrounds are composed of posed photos of anyone or — shudder — anything. The sound effects are mostly made up of speech you record into the mic. You have one of four fighting styles (translation: choice of bonus special move) and a taunt at your disposal. All of this is captured by you and your friends using the DSi's two cameras and mic and then played on the same system. The potential for amusement is high.
Single-System Co-Op:It's a little weird that Photo Dojo has no online and not even a two-DS wireless mode. But so be it. It has single-system two-player. If consoles are going to diminish the amount of single-system multiplayer opportunities they offer, then let handhelds continue to compensate. Some PSP Mini games and now Photo Dojo on the DSi allow two players to clutch opposite ends of a portable gaming machine to play a single game. With Photo Dojo that puts me in charge of d-pad and shoulder button to control my fighter (simple moves, remember?) and your hand on the face buttons and other shoulder buttons. It brings people together and surely will be the hit game of many first dates.
The Equally Ridiculous Single-Player Mode: Picture me running from screen left to screen right fighting giant and regular sized photo-made versions of myself or my friends. The animation is crude, the strategy available minimal. But who cares? This, as with the rest of Photo Dojo is just a joke diversion to amuse you and others before you play whatever game you actually turned on your DSi to play. Single-player involves brawling through 100 enemies. That's it.
I could hate on Photo Dojo if I was expecting it to be a game that plays with any sort of complexity. I could hate it if I expected it to includes new ideas or do anything that you or I wouldn't have thought of ourselves, had Nintendo assigned us the task of making a camera-based fighting game. But I am not holding Photo Dojo to those standards. It is a light diversion, a simple amusement, a joke of a game in the best possible sense. You won't need to hear this routine more than a few times before you get bored of it, but the first couple of times will make you laugh. This is no system-seller. This is a joke. And, for Photo Dojo, that's fine.
Photo Dojo was developed and published by Nintendo for the DSi on May 10. It is download-only for the DSi's online store and playable on the DSi and DSiXL systems. Retails for $0 USD (will be $2 starting June 11). Played single-player. Played multi-player. Kept it clean, which surely some of you won't.
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