Adapting a light-gun game to the DS is a clever idea, and Point Blank DS does it quite well, but there's just not enough variety to keep it going.
- Capably translates light-gun controls into stylus controls
- 40 minigames are some of the best from Point Blank's past
- Solid two-player single-cart play
- Dr Dan and Dr Don are back.
- Minigames boil down to long stretches of ceaseless screen tapping
- Many minigames are functionally identical
- "Classic" coin-op games are incredibly dull
- Little incentive to keep coming back.
It's been more than five years since Dr. Dan and Dr. Don last appeared in Point Blank 3, and in the time since, light-gun games have become about as dead as the Latin language. Considering that Point Blank never really rose above its niche appeal, it seemed unlikely that there would ever be another entry in this quirky and enthusiastic series, which is part of what makes Point Blank DS such a pleasant surprise. In an undeniably clever design move, Point Blank DS emulates the usual light-gun controls using the DS touch screen and stylus, and it works surprisingly well. The whole package does a rather fantastic job of capturing the spirit and energy of the Point Blank series, but the action doesn't change much, and because it doesn't give you any strong incentives to come back, Point Blank DS runs out of steam a little too quickly.
To a certain extent, the WarioWare games owe a measure of their cross-cultural charm and kinetic pacing to Point Blank. Rather than having you hunting down terrorists or shooting the limbs off shambling zombies like in so many other arcade light-gun games, Point Blank was just a collection of incredibly fast-paced minigames. Though presented mostly with 2D sprites, there was an undeniably dizzy charm to the minigames, which would challenge you to clear out rooms full of cardboard cutout gangsters, cowboys, and ninjas; protect Dr. Dan and Dr. Don from hungry piranhas, out-of-control barrels, angry music fans, and falling satellites; shoot loads and loads of circular bull's-eye targets; and much more.
Point Blank DS cherry-picks 40 different minigames from throughout the franchise, so there's a pretty good cross section of minigames to put your different faculties through their paces. There are tests of accuracy, judgment, reaction, attention, and precision, and they're usually over in 20 seconds or so. The minigames are packaged in a few different ways here. There's a mode that emulates the structure of the arcade games, putting you through a randomly selected series of minigames, and it includes a practice mode and three difficulty settings. You can also play any of the included minigames one at a time in the freeplay mode or go into the game's museum mode to play digitized versions of four classic Namco coin-op games, the latter of which isn't quite as novel as it sounds. The wireless versus mode is a nice touch, giving you access to a good number of the included minigames while requiring only one copy of Point Blank DS.
Taking a cue from Nintendo's own popular Brain games, Point Blank DS includes a brain-massage mode, where you'll play through a series of four similarly themed minigames, and then the game will present you with a title and a score based on how you performed. While Brain Age and Big Brain Academy operate under the notion that they're somehow educational, Point Blank DS doesn't take the brain-massage mode so seriously, which becomes apparent once it starts awarding you with titles such as "sock washing authority" and "famous popcornist."
While it's a fairly attractive package, with weird, colorful visuals, a manic soundtrack that remixes music from the classic Point Blank games, and an endearingly off-kilter sense of humor, there's just not enough real variety to the gameplay. Many of the 40 minigames included are often just the same minigames with different graphics swapped in, and though there's a good range of focus, all of the minigames eventually just boil down to tap, tap, tapping on the screen. The game also doesn't offer much in the way of unlockables to draw you back, making it easy to play for a few hours, then put down and never touch again.
On some level, Point Blank DS is an interesting experiment on Namco's behalf, but frankly, Point Blank was more interesting when it was a light-gun game. The control offered by a light gun isn't nearly as flexible as control with a touch screen and stylus, so to see light guns used in such an unconventional way was really refreshing. On the DS, though, there are other games that have already explored the fast-paced minigame space more thoroughly, stealing some of the appeal that Point Blank DS might have had.