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Playing multiplayer Metroid Prime Hunters DS with my kids turned out to be far more rewarding and fun than I'd imaged. Not often the case, but here the wonderful controls were the star feature and easy enough even for me. Here me and my kids found a rich experience that will ensure those wet summer afternoons are filled with family fun.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and realise the kids are far more with-it than you. As I patiently waited for my six year old to set up our multiplayer game I realise I'm going to need some tips. He juggles with a DS in each hand, choosing the arena and a host of other complicated settings. Kindly handing me the handheld and then guiding me through the various characters and their special abilities, he keeps from breaking into a laugh. It soon becomes obvious that Sylux is his favourite as he leads me towards the insect looking beast of Trace.
With the radar switched off there are shrieks of laughter when we actually discover each other.
Diving into the battle I am thankful for some control tips, to get to grips with what seems at first as a fairly complex system; holding the DS in one hand the pen in another I finally get the idea. The more I play the more I realise that this setup is actually a stroke of genius; I cannot see any other way Nintendo could have tackled the feat of getting a first person shooter onto a handheld with a touch screen. Firing with the shoulder buttons and looking with the stylus really works and with time becomes a smooth experience; far from the awkwardness I initially worried about.
With that lesson learned I can get into actually playing. The level we have chosen is Ice Hive; a cool shiny experience, and I'm struck by how nice the graphics flow for such an old game. It's more than just functional, the intricate level design means even sniping is possible - long distance shooting on a 256 x 192 pixel screen is impressive; which means when I get my head shot off by a more that able six year old I know I must have deserved it - it wasn't just some clumsy programming.
With the radar switched off there are shrieks of laughter when we actually discover each other, both diving into our defensive altered states of Lockjaw for Sylux - a jumping, hovering ball thing, and Triskelion for Trace - a weird spiky insect. My little boy developed somewhat of a tactical eye in the absence of a radar; mostly consisting of peeking at my DS screen to work out where I am. Metroid on the DS is really fun and it's not long before my daughter comes to investigate all the noise. With a bit of slight of hand she's now holding my DS and is aptly defending herself against her big brother with a few accurately placed missiles, promptly followed by falling off the arena into the blackness of space; instinctively tapping the fire button while she waits to respawn.
The more I play the more I realise that this setup is actually a stroke of genius.
Navigating around the various game types reveals a massive variation in this multiplayer experience. From survival to capture the flag, it all works robustly and kept us busy way past tea time - and on a school night. It's wonderful to find a solid game experience that is accessible to the whole family; I think this is going to become one of our favourites.
The evening after, I think to myself what a strong experience this is and can't wait to tell friends with a couple of DS's to sample these multiplayer pleasures. The most surprising part though is how well the controls (and the wider game) is at accommodating a range of players. They are both simple and nuanced, keeping the bar low for new players while retaining some finer points and tricks for expert players. This is without a doubt the most robust multiplayer game I've found on the DS.
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