Last year when Sony and Nintendo brought our new handhelds I plumped for the PSP. The system had games I wanted to play (Wipeout Pure, Ridge Racer and in the future Pro Evo and GTA), looked to have great multimedia potential and the hardware looked great. In particular the hardware design in comparison to the DS was night and day. The DS was like a relic from the 90’s – clumsy, flip screen and the touch screen concept just didn’t click with me. No media playing ability either – just games.

Last week I picked up a DS Lite. I had an itch to play something fresh and new, Shakeel was raving about it and at just £99 it sounded a bargain. After a week of use I can only say I wish I had bought a DS sooner although in retrospect the Lite is such a better design/platform it’s a blessing in disguise that I only got one now.

DS Lite

I picked up a white one as I was warned the black one was a grease and fingerprint magnet. Even with the white you can still see the marks. However it looks great – very Apple esque and smaller/neater than the original. More importantly the screen brightness has been much improved and is as good if not better than the PSP. However this was bought for one reason – the games. It also shows that Nintendo still understand the games market better than anyone else.

Mario Kart DS is sublime on the DS. So many tracks that are known and loved with some originals thrown in as well. It’s also the best Mario Kart I’ve played since the SNES original – a real credit to the developers. The online mode is amazing – select from continental, worldwide or friends list to play online with up to three others. Every game so far has been lag free and when you think of who you may be playing with round the world on such a small hand held…fantastic achievement by Nintendo.

Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training highlights the unique nature of DS games. Using the touch pad or your voice you play a series of small mind games daily that help stimulate and work the brain. I’m loving this right now and while the actual science behind it maybe questionable it’s so enjoyable that I want to play it each day. This games also highlights one other aspect – how Nintendo get people to play that aren’t your typical gamers. My mother is loving this more than me – I’ve created a game addict. I may have to purchase another DS so I can get a shot.

There are plenty of others games available but these two alone have shown what a great platform this is. In some ways it’s a shame that Nintendo didn’t launch with the DS Lite against the PSP. They would have captured even more sales although it is trouncing the PSP at the moment so it’s not that big a deal. I do wonder about Nintendo designers though. Compare American SNES with Japanese/Euro SNES. There has been so many other bad examples through their history although the Wii doesn’t look like being one of them.

Back to the DS Lite – it’s great fun…and that’s really what games should be about, no? Highly recommended to everyone, not just hardcore gamers.