i’m in the middle of a long game, so i spent a few hours this week plowing through the end of a game that i was glad to see finished off, a kappa’s trail, for DSiware. the game was highly recommended by nintendo power, so i thought i would try it out. it was developed by brownie brown, most known for the japan-only magical vacation and its DS follow-up magical starsign. the game’s warm, hand-drawn aesthetic is also highly reminiscent of the layton series, which the company also contributed to (namely, the fourth installment).
to me the game feels like a classic case of the early DS days, a time when less thoughtful developers assumed they could make a game worth playing by merely replacing button controls with clumsy touchscreen actions. the game came out more than 5 years after the DS debuted, though, which really gives it little excuse for how boring the gameplay is. in the game you draw out the main character’s path (a cute koopa who is trying to reach the human world). this in and of itself isn’t too bad, but since you have no control over how fast he goes it gets to be supremely annoying when you’re trying to maneuver blindly over series of moving platforms that move exactly as fast as he can walk, leaving you no room for error and a lot of stupid deaths. similarly, because changing the view and attacking objects and enemies are also controlled by the touchscreen instead of buttons, all too often you end up unintentionally sending the hero careening into a pit or other hazard. even worse are the cases where you have to draw a path for the character, move the screen to another area to perform an action such as lighting a lightbulb, and then immediately try to move the screen back. all of these complaints could be countered by arguing that they’re part of what makes the game challenging, but the majority of the time i felt i was struggling with the game’s controls and decidedly not enjoying the game itself.
in addition to the touchscreen actions, following behind the protagonist is the “devil hand” which tries to catch up with and capture our little kappa. this has potential for being an interesting mechanic but just feels annoying, as you end up having to trace circuitous routes to avoid it. again, an unenjoyable game mechanic that superficially adds to the game’s difficulty.
continuing my diatribe, the game also has hidden mini-kappas to find, some of which are optional, but finding them is a matter of literally completely covering every possible patch of every stage’s ground. completely pointless and boring. adding to my annoyance is the fact that you have to exit the stage to buy continues and to unlock the game’s three mini-games you have to find a special item within the stages, without any guide as to where they are. the first mini-game (the only one i found) is also extremely poorly thought out. it’s a puzzle game somewhat like the far more enjoyable polarium and others like it where you have to trace a line for the kappa to follow that touches particular tiles in a certain order. in a “what the heck where they thinking?” move, the developers have put a time limit on each level, consisting of four stages. what’s the point of being able to quickly solve the puzzle? invariably you’ll get stuck on the last one and will have to replay the first three again and again to finish the set.
clearly my annoyance with this game makes it rank low on my master list. although the hand-drawn presentation gives the game a nice feel, the experience throughout is marred by host upon host of irritating design decisions. i’m fairly astounded that anyone would have enjoyed this game, but maybe there are people with $5 to burn who have much more patience and tolerance for finicky controls and tired mechanics than i.
stay on these a kappa’s trail links:
- official site
- entry at nintendo.wikia.com with info on the cameos, including one by captain rainbow
- entry at wikipedia
- in case you’re wondering why your kappa is so fat from eating fish in the hub stage here’s the tip on how to gain new sea creatures to your hub