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Top 10 DS games of 2009 so far

What to look out for in the bargain bins
Product: Top 10 DS charts | Format: DS, DSi
We're well into the second third of the year so it must be time to look back with joy and pluck out the ten best experiences to be had on DS and DSi to-date.

And guess what: there have been some real crackers. In fact, there's a good argument that some of the best DS games ever have been released in this period.

And there was us thinking the DS in 2009 was going to be all rabbitz, horsez and fashion design.

Still we hoped that there would have been a better showing from the DSi and its download-only section. Maybe we need to be patient for the remainder of the year for that to shine.

Also, don't forget to let us know if we've missed out any gems in the comments section.

The ten best DS games of 2009 (so far)

Retro Game Challenge
Developer: indies zero
Publisher: Namco Bandai

Not released in Europe, Retro Game Challenge is based around a Japanese TV show about a man playing old computer games badly.

It's much better than it sounds, however, with Retro Game Challenge offering you 'versions' of old 8-bit games to play - all within the context of the challenges that are set on the TV show.

Much lampooning of the video game culture of the 1980s occurs. Still, probably one for the committed hardcore gaming fan than fans of Nintendogs.

Developer: Renegade Kid
Publisher: Mastiff

While technically speaking developers such as Renegade Kid have proved you can make solid first-person shooters even on the DS, the sales jury remains unconvinced that the DS audience wants to play them. None has been a massive seller.

Still, Moon, which sees you fighting your way through a lunar base via bite-sized missions - including on a rover vehicle - and into alien spacecraft, and big boss encounters, is a highly satisfying and coherent shooter. If you're into DS action, this is well worth checking out.

Art Style: CODE
Developer: Skip
Publisher: Nintendo

We've often complained Nintendo hasn't supported the DSiWare download channel enthusiastically. To be fair, however, there has been a number of the Art Style games from developer Skip.

Many have been average, but Art Style: CODE - one of the earliest releases - was impressive in terms of its number-based gameplay and general addictiveness.

As with many iPhone games, what you have to do is add chains of the numbers on the grid up to 10, but you can also move them around, reflecting them in the process. It really gets you thinking.

ANNO: Create a New World

Developer: Keen Games
Publisher: Ubisoft

Continuing the DS offshot of the popular PC strategy series, ANNO: Create a New World is focused on establishing a settlement, making it self-sufficient and then improving it until it becomes as profitable and productive as possible.

The game is all about resource management with the likes of stone, wood and gold vital to collect, as are the lumberjacks and stonemasons who will use them to create your buildings and advance your civilisation.

Significantly, there's also less combat in this game compared to previous DS versions, making it ideal for the whole family to enjoy.

Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - The Director's Cut

Developer: Revolution Games
Publisher: Ubisoft

One of the best point-and-click adventures of yesteryear, the director's cut of Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars brings the game up-to-date on the DS with a new control method, new animated sequences, and an interactive help system.

There's also an additional mission that ties in neatly with the plot of the original game without breaking its continuity.

The classic story of George Stobbart and Nico Collard's attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding the Knights Templar remains firmly in place.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Nintendo

There seems to be no limits in terms of where Square Enix can take its Final Fantasy brand. From DS-remakes to console MMOGs, in turn, the Crystal Chronicles offshoot brings a freshness both graphically and in its real-time action.

Typical RPG quest and character customisation and levelling up provide the bulk of the activity, however. Multiplayer mode also features strongly, with DS and DS and Wii options available if you have the right combination of consoles and games.

But whichever way you decide to experience it, Echoes of Time is charming and fun.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA

Platformers and match-three games. You wouldn't think they have much in common but that's where Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure proves you wrong.

It's like the lovechild of Super Mario Bros. and Bejeweled. As you guide Harry through each 2D platform level on one screen, the other displays a match-three puzzle area. Defeating enemies up top with some sword-swishing transports them down to the puzzle screen, transforming them into coloured blocks you can remove entirely.

It's a great idea, and combined with the character of Henry himself, makes for a surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Disgaea DS

Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Square Enix

One of the best kept secrets of the hardcore RPG crowd, the Disgaea series is renowned for the tactical flexibility it hands to players.

The myriad possible strategies open to you in Disgaea DS - effectively a port of PlayStation 2 title Disgaea: Hour of Darkness - is almost stupefying. Pick up and play this ain't.

Of course, this is a barrier to less experienced players, but that's part of the deal with Disgaea. If you don't like it, don't play. But if you like your RPGs deep, then you should dive right into this.

Dragon Quest: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

Developer: Artepiazza
Publisher: Square Enix

Traditionally overshadowed by Final Fantasy, the merger of Square and Enix is finally allowing the Dragon Quest series to find success outside of Japan.

Hand of the Heavenly Bride - technically a remake of the 17-year old Dragon Quest V - provides you with a whole life to play through.

It starts with the birth of The Hero, who you control through years of exploration and combat. Neatly, you can recruit the monsters you fight to your team, providing almost limitless customisation, while the beautiful graphics and immaculate storytelling mark this out as a top notch role-playing game.

GTA: Chinatown Wars

Developer: Rockstar Leeds
Publisher: Rockstar

Okay, so it's an 18-rated DS game. More importantly for those of us over the age of majority, it's about as good as it gets when it comes to DS gaming. Set in a tiny clockwork version of GTA's Liberty City - the graphics are cartoony and topdown - but the attention to detail is amazing.

Doors swing open during handbrake turns, boxes crumple and smash, ramps are positioned for stunts, plus there are loads of extra missions such as taxi missions and hijacking. But perhaps even more impressive is the way the DS is used with touchscreen mini-games - hot-wiring, using blow-torches, attaching bombs to engines, operating cranes... the list goes on.

The bottom line is Chinatown Wars not only represents an extraordinary technical achievement, but it also provides one of the funniest and most entertaining experiences on any gaming platform.

Check out our latest and greatest DS top 10 charts.


Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan 4 August 2009
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