Chokkan Hitofude Hands-On

We go a few rounds with the new DS puzzle game whose name literally means "Intuitive Stroke."

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A new handheld gaming machine is never complete unless it comes with some budget puzzle games to kill time, which is essentially what Nintendo's Chokkan Hitofude (best translated to English as Intuitive Stroke) for the DS is. We checked out the import to see how this game has shaped up in its final version.

Chokkan Hitofude's graphics are pretty simplistic; the game, which is played on the lower touch-sensitive screen, consists of only a square board that's completely filled with patterns of black-and-white blocks. The game's rules are simple to understand as well: You use your stylus to draw a stroke through the board, and when you finish drawing it, all the blocks lying on the stroke's paths will invert their colors. White blocks will flip to black blocks, and vice versa. Your line can bend and it can be as long as you want it to be, but you can't go diagonally or cross the line over itself. Your objective in the game is to make a horizontal row of blocks into the same color by strategically inverting whatever seems to be out of place, which allows you to erase them off of the screen.

The first time you play Chokkan Hitofude, you get to go through a tutorial that teaches you the basic controls of the game, although it shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to draw a stroke or poke at the menu controls. Of course, if Chokkan Hitofude is the first game that you play on the DS (as unlikely as that may be), it would be a good chance to get used to the stylus, since Chokkan Hitofude is one of those games that plays using only the touch-sensitive screen. The tutorial also teaches you some of the vital tactics in the game, like how you should draw your line through the outer rim of the puzzle board (which doesn't have any blocks) if you want to flip a block in a far corner of the board without flipping anything else to get there.

There are three modes in Chokkan Hitofude: challenge mode, checkmate mode, and versus mode, which is the only one that we haven't been able to try yet. The challenge mode and checkmate mode play very differently from each other despite the basic rules being the same.

Challenge mode lets you play Chokkan Hitofude as one of those action-style puzzle games where there's constantly new pieces falling from the top of the screen, pressuring you to erase your blocks quickly but accurately. You can see the next blocks that will appear, since they start off falling from the upper screen of the DS. If you can't erase enough blocks on the lower screen of the handheld in time, the blocks start to accumulate on the upper screen until they eventually fill up, leading to a game over.

Checkmate mode allows you to play Chokkan Hitofude as more of a classic type of puzzle game that doesn't have a time limit but requires you to really think. Your intellect will be challenged by 100 puzzle stages. In each of the stages, you'll to have to erase all the blocks with only a single stroke. While the first 30 or so stages are pretty easy to solve by simple intuition, the later stages become increasingly difficult, and you'll need to ponder them in order to solve them. You can also create your own stages in checkmate mode and send them to another person who has the game, either through the wireless connection or by the old-fashioned method of writing down a 30-character password and handing it to them.

One of the nifty features of Chokkan Hitofude is that the game allows its owner to send a trial edition with 10 fully playable checkmate-mode stages to anyone else that owns a DS (via its wireless connection). So if you're thinking of buying Chokkan Hitofude, but you're not sure about it, see if you can get someone else who already has the demo to zap it over to you.

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