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After the run away success of the DS as a casual gaming device, Nintendo were keen to prove that it could do 'proper' video games as well. As was true of Zelda: Twighlight Princess on the Wii Phantom Hourglass is aimed towards fans who had followed the Zelda franchise from its roots on their console in the 80's, the NES.
Action adventure games are enjoyed for two reasons. They provide a variety of fast action encounters where you are fighting, fleeing or evading some enemy. They also provide a large world in which to explore and adventure. This exploration is usually driven by some particular plot-tension introduced early in the game that you must resolve.
As you adventure through the world, you encounter the action sequences through encounters with enemies and general hazards. Success in these encounters opens up more of the world to explore and provide new equipment.
Phantom Hourglass manages what many thought impossible, a fully realised three dimensional Zelda game on the DS. Even the scale is up to the series' usual goliath proportions, along with their careful attention to detail. Players familiar with the series will immediately warm to another outing for Zelda's unique musical and graphical grammar that creates such an evocative experience.
Zelda follows pretty strict rules in its design. Phantom hourglass is no different - you slowly discover a series of dungeons that represent the main challenge of the game. A new weapon or gadget is discovered close to the entrance of each is then put through its paces as you battle your way through.
Phantom Hourglass tweaks this formula to make it better suited to play on the go. However, this restructuring around a timed central dungeon has inadvertently introduced more repetition than is usual in a Zelda game.
Although cartoony in style, Zelda is successful at making you care about the characters you meet. It has become famous for re-visiting old locations at different times to create a sense of awe and connection to the world.
No other game has the attention to detail lavished over so large and interactive environment. This results in all sorts of incidental enjoyment. Taking to the high seas, standing on the bow of your boat creates a genuine adventuring emotion that has stayed with me ever since.
Although the console Zelda games demand a good hour for each session, Phantom Hourglass has been designed with play on the go in mind. Accordingly, you can easily save (or sleep) the game at any point and the dungeons are broken down into smaller chunks. Even so you still need a good 30 minutes free to play a session.
The game as a whole still stands at a good 25 hours, much longer than the average DS action adventure game. Once the main game has been completed there are still some online and local multiplayer modes to extend the experience.
Although it has a cartoony art style similar to that seen in Wind Waker (Phantom Hourglass continues that story), the depiction of monsters may alarm more sensitive children. The sword, boomerang and explosive weapons are by their nature a little violent, although this is always in context - fighting on the side of good verses evil.
Phantom Hourglass is the most accessible of the Zelda games and novice players will find the tutorials and easier early levels helpful. Difficulty steadily increases as you progress. The slightly repetitive central dungeon aside, anyone with a degree of inquisitiveness and determination should be able to get a lot out of the game.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: