Friday, August 24, 2007


10 pixels in - my first video game review

(Note: Although Postcards from the Mothership is now live at http://danigirl.ca/blog, I'm continuing to cross-post for a couple of weeks until I get all the kinks out. See the original post at http://danigirl.ca/blog/2007/08/24/10-pixels-in-my-first-video-game-review/)

Not too long after my recent post talking about how the boys have transitioned from a TV addiction to a computer game addiction, I got an e-mail from a nice lady offering me a sneak preview of "the first video game made for kids 3-6 on Nintendo DS." The boilerplate advertised that "Storybook DS features skill-based mini-games and read-aloud fairy tale adventures for shared play and interaction between mom and child." I wrote back to say thanks for the offer, but we only play games on the PC and we don't have any game consoles. She wrote back to say, "No problem, we'll loan you a DS console for a while to play to the game. You can keep the game cartridge, and send back the console when you're done."

Hard to say no to an offer like that, isn't it? And that's how someone who doesn't really like video games becomes a video game reviewer - or at least whores her children out as video game reviewers. Let the record show that they didn't seem to mind.

So I have to start out by admitting that I'm a little bit biased against handheld games, especially for the preschooler set. I like to see and hear what they're doing, and it's harder to share a four-inch game console than it is to sit together in front of a 15 inch monitor.

Nintendo StorybookHaving said that, I have to admit I was immediately impressed with Storybook DS. I know kids get this stuff so much more intuitively than we did, but literally within one minute of snapping the cartridge into the console, Tristan was using the stylus to colour a picture. A few minutes later, he was showing Simon how to do the same. With no input from us, they found their way through a counting game, a music game, a drawing tablet and a storybook reader.

Both boys enjoyed Storybook DS, even if it was a bit on the simplistic side compared to what they are already playing on the computer. Tristan had an easier time navigating and exploring, but both boys could use the stylus to play by themselves. I'm not sure about it being billed as "shared play and interaction between mom and child" - more like interaction between child and video game. I peered over their shoulders a few times to see what they were up to, but three of us jockeying for position around a four-inch screen didn't work well for us. If you'd like to pick one up, they'll be available in stores in late September. (Sorry for the lack of links. I had asked for a URL to point to, but never did get one.)

It was nice to be able to test-drive the Nintendo DS as well as the game itself, and Beloved didn't waste any time going down to the local rental place and picking up a few other games for us to try. I can see the appeal of handheld games, especially for long car rides, or for when one wants to watch TV and the other wants to play games, but I'll stick with my initial assessment of handheld games. They might be a nice treat for the older kids, and no doubt my 3 and 5 year old would love to have one, but when we finally capitulate to a game system for the family - sadly, with three against one I know it's a matter of when rather than if - I'd much prefer a full-size, TV-based console rather than a handheld one.

So what do you think? What age - if any - do you think it's appropriate for kids to start playing with personal, handheld video games? I don't think I can hold out on this one forever, but seven or eight years old sounds about right to me.