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Point Blank DS

For: DS

Is the stylus mightier than the lightgun?

Product: Point Blank | Developer: Namco Bandai Networks Europe | Publisher: Atari Inc. | Format: DS | Genre: Arcade, Casual | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
Point Blank DS, thumbnail 1
Here's a brilliant idea: replace guns with sticks. Those who feel the need to carry a weapon could still poke people aggressively, and gangsters could boast about the size of their branches. Sure, you might see drive-by 'twiggings', but no one would end up dead – although self-inflicted splinters could be a problem.

While it's not quite so reality-changing, the decision to replace the lightgun of the classic cute arcade sideshow shooter Point Blank with a stylus for its DS debut also proves a surprising success.

You can rest your itchy trigger finger here. Instead of the lightgun, most of the 40 mini-games on offer – few last more than 30 seconds – have you stabbing at the touchscreen with the stylus like a woodpecker on meth, whether you're shearing the wool off a flock of sheep or warding off a battalion of advancing tanks. Elsewhere more careful tapping is required as you aim to hit only the targets specified, a task made harder by their being interspersed with various images of innocence: avoid the skulls, shoot the pretty ducks.

Veterans of the arcade and PlayStation versions of the game will recognise many of the challenges – the game plays a bit like a Point Blank greatest hits, albeit with a touchscreen. Ninjas, terrorists and a wide variety of wildlife will succumb to your determined prodding, with strict time limits and restricted ammunition making things more taxing than they first appear.

There's even a Games Museum, which recreates the kind of 'whack-a-mole' mechanical games that populated pre-1970s arcades and epitomises the love that's clearly been lavished on this sweet little title.

Each mini-game has four difficulty settings, and while clutching a plastic stylus is never going to match the guilty pleasure of blasting away with a bright pink lightgun, the stylus does provide the necessary accuracy and immediacy to cope when the difficulty level reaches the self-explanatory Insane level.

But Point Blank DS isn't only about past glories – it has some nice new ideas of its own. There's a Brain Massage mode, which vaguely groups similar challenges into themes, while Stress Reliever places the emphasis on frantic blasting and Feel the Rhythm requires more thoughtful pacing and memory work. Your performance is rated in pseudo-cerebral terms, with a surreal job description tagged onto your rap sheet ('Mustard Evaluator', anyone?).

Initially, Brain Massage seems like a missed opportunity (we were expecting a twisted take on Brain Training, requiring you to shoot syllables in passages of Dickens), but if you're playing alone it will probably be where you spend most of your spare few minutes simply rat-a-tat tatting. The standard single player mode of Point Blank does pale after a while though, and while there's always the incentive to return and better your high score, this isn't a game you'll settle down with for any particularly long sessions.

Thankfully, however, you can also bash away with a DS-owning friend – only one copy of the game required – in a Versus mode that swings from concerted collaboration as you repel a fleet of invading UFOs, to bitter rivalry as you compete to deliver a headshot to a solitary buzzing fly. Each time a new challenge bursts onto the screen, you'll glance up knowingly at your fellow player, acknowledging that this time you're friends, but next time you could be foes. This multiplayer mode virtually justifies the admission price alone.

We all know how well the DS does cute and colourful, but even so, a shooter with a sense of humour is something to be cherished, and the irreverent fun on offer here will charm all but the most cynical. Point Blank can test the hardcore gamer at its toughest difficulty level yet be instantly graspable and entertaining for the most casual player.

The single-player game is undeniably limited, but with a friend (or enemy) on hand in multiplayer, Point Blank borders on the essential.

Point Blank DS is due for release in Europe on November 10th.
Point Blank DS
Reviewer photo
Paul Drury | 11 September 2006
Enjoyably distracting when played alone and hugely entertaining in company, Point Blank DS is ideal for five minutes of fun
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