That action-movie wannabe Viewtiful Joe is back again in Viewtiful Joe Double Trouble, a game that marks the time-bending hero's first appearance on the Nintendo DS. We got a chance to play a near-final version of the game over the past few days, and we have come away impressed with the game's charming comic-book look and DS-specific controls, which serve to set it apart from its console cousins. Slap on your red spandex and don your dorky V helmet, because it's time to go save the world!
One thing's obvious from the start: The developers at Clover Studio have made a concerted effort to fashion Double Trouble to look and feel like a game specifically designed for Nintendo's handheld. Sure, the same comics-inspired look to the characters and gameworld are in full effect in Double Trouble; but the game's innovative use of the dual-screen controls are the real attraction here. Joe still has his standard kick, punch, and jump controls, which are tied to the X, A, and B buttons, respectively--in addition to his standard VFX powers that give him the ability to slow down time to Matrix-like proportions by holding down the left trigger button. But that's not nearly the extent of Joe's abilities here.
Mixing in the DS's lower touch screen gives Joe an entirely new set of VFX powers, some of which are pretty inventive. Our favorite so far is "split," which lets you literally divide the screen in half horizontally and move the upper half to the left or right by dragging the stylus across the screen. If it sounds a bit too abstract to be a superpower, trust us--it's useful. In our time with the game, we've used the split power to drop heavy items on bad guys, move fire hydrants under flaming buildings to douse the flames, and solve puzzles galore by shifting the top screen to a more useful position. Another power, known as "scratch," lets you shake the screen by scribbling on the touch screen with your finger or the stylus, causing random objects to rain down on any stunned baddies who surround you. Handy text clues sometimes appear onscreen to let you know when a particular power might help you out in a pinch.
Joe's other reality-bending powers on the DS include the "slide," which lets you switch the upper screen with the lower screen instantly, disorienting your foes and giving you time to apply a well-deserved beatdown on them, and the "touch," in which you interact with objects and enemies by touching them with the stylus. Combining Joe's special VFX powers gives you even more options for thwacking foes and solving puzzles; Joe's "slow" power boosts both his normal attacks and his "scratch" power, for example. You'll want to use your VFX powers judiciously; you only have so much time before your VFC meter runs out, causing you to transform back into your regular-Joe alter ego and leaving you open to enemy attacks. As you progress through levels, you'll also rack up points that you can use to purchase new power-ups, or hamburgers, which Joe downs to regain his health.
Everyone knows that Joe is obsessed with movies--sort of a Harry Knowles-type, with a much better physique--so, in what type of Hollywood-style hijinks will he find himself in Double Trouble? The plot revolves around Joe, his sister Jasmine (an aspiring actress), fellow hero and current film director Blue, and of course, Joe's girlfriend, Silvia. While filming a movie in the Movieland theme park, a group of nefarious robots known as the Madow steal the film from under the casts' noses. As Viewtiful Joe, you'll head off into the recesses of Movieland, solving puzzles and heroically bashing your way through wave after wave of Madow chumps. But how can Joe use his special V-powers in the real world? Enter the handy V-Cam, which is turned over to the lovely Silvia early in the game; as long as Joe's being filmed with this special camera, he will have access to his full slate of powers.
If there's any con we've seen in Double Play's gameplay so far, it's that things tend to follow the same pattern for every level we've played: Beat up a bunch of enemies, then take your time solving the puzzles and collecting items in the level after it's cleared out. Granted, this isn't much different of a formula than previous VJ games; and perhaps things liven up later on in the game, which would definitely be a plus. Still, the game's hyperactive charm, coupled with some inventive DS-specific twists on the VJ formula, make Double Trouble a game to keep your eye on. Stay tuned, true believers, for our full review of the game when it ships in mid-November.