As touch screen technology improves on mobile phones and computers, it must be hard for the makers of DS games to find original and novel ideas. Indeed, there were a slew of games at this year's E3 that made me think "Oh, that would be great on an iPhone!"
With this in mind, developers have to produce games new and exciting enough to convince dedicated gamers to carry around a mobile phone and portable gaming system on a day to day basis. I work a desk job, and to take both my mobile phone and my DS out of my desk for a 15 minute break is just a bit ridiculous. By the time I finish checking my email and answer a few texts, I've got just enough time to turn on my DS and turn it off. For me to ignore my phone's apps and games means the title must be truly addictive.
There have been a few along the way that have distracted me enough to fall under that category, but they tend to be sequels to a series of games I'm a fan of or really new ideas that simply blow my mind.
Enter Natsume and Gabrielle's Ghostly Groove on the DS.
Part dance and rhythm game, part customization, part adorable anime, this game is sugary-sweet with a bite of Lolita goth.
The premise of the game is simple: Gabrielle has had a miserable day and managed to sneeze her soul right out of her body. To retrieve it, she must travel to Monster Town and enlist the help of the resident ghoulies. According to Natsume, only by "busting out the ghostliest dance moves and thrilling and chilling people will she be able to scare up the power she needs to get herself back into her body!"
I've already lost some readers so the rest of you, please, bear with me.
The dancing is very similar to some of the moves executed in another musical DS title, Rhythm Heaven. Different colourful skulls will appear on the touch screen, and the user learns what move each one corresponds to. One might be a touch and flick, or a touch and drag, or even just a quick tap. The player learns these moves as the game progresses, with each of the game's unique characters teaching Gabrielle a new dance step.
These characters also have their own individual mini-games, often based on what makes that character special. Vlad the Vampire, for example, needs help finding bats to use as his bow ties. Frankie Frankenstein would like you to feed his birds. It's a world of easy-to-love 'horror' stereotypes that is very kid-friendly and endearing.
The player can customize Gabrielle's hair, makeup and outfits, purchasing them at the shop with 'screams' earned by dancing. There is also a friendly witch who will read your fortune with cards, with the goal being to collect all the individual cards.
As I mentioned before, the game is very cute. The colors are bright and the overall look is dark, as suits the storyline. But Gabrielle's Lolita goth stylings and the personalities of the secondary characters make the game irresistible to girls (and their brothers, who will play when the sisters aren't looking).
While the game was very dialogue heavy, I was told that it would be toned down before the release in the late fall/winter of this year, which will help make it more appealing to younger gamers.
The game will be available on the Nintendo DS.