Since December, 2006, I have played more than 225 DS homebrew games [or tried to at least] and more than 75 DS homebrew apps. While this probably represents more than half of the homebrew out there for the DS, there is still a lot that I haven’t tried. I guess it’s time to answer the question ‘is DS homebrew worthwhile?’But I’m not going to just give my opinion: I’m going to let readers participate via a poll. I’m going to answer this question in multiple posts:
- Part 1 – Set the general criteria and list the best homebrew games
- Part 2 – List the best, most likely used homebrew apps
- Part 3 – Conclusion and poll
One may say, well, of course you’re going to say it’s worthwhile because you’ve invested so much time into it. A valid point. I’m pretty sure that I can be objective nonetheless because I’m well aware that I have a high threshold for some things in the name of experimenting and learning. I’m willing to admit that I have niche interests. But I’ll set some criteria to ensure fairplay.
- The cost of the cheapest DS homebrew is probably the R4 or M3 simply, which is around US$69 including a 1GB of name brand transflash memory. This is the cost of 2 new DS games [at US$34.99 each]. If we try to compare it to the best of DS games, we probably won’t justify the homebrew costs. But let’s say the content is comparable to games that would be graded at C or 75. In metacritic terms, these would be ‘green’ games, like Etrian Odyssey, Bomberman, DK Jungle Climber, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Games with flaws but which are still worth playing.
- Typically game reviewers look at several criteria to evaluate games: gameplay, graphics, sound, controls, story, and/or lasting appeal. We can look at homebrew games in the way same. While we can grade them individually, we should consider them as a whole, as well.
- gameplay: How is challenging is the game? Is the game play well designed, and does it meet or innovate genre expectations?
- graphics: How well designed are interface, game images, and animations? Are they consistent and appropriate to the game’s theme?
- sound: How well are music and sound effects used, as well as their quality?
- mechanics: How well are the game controls implemented, especially for ease of use?Is there good use of the DS’s features, such as the stylus, dual screen, and microphone?
- lasting appeal: How deep and engaging is the game? Does it have replay value?
- Professional: Do the games have a professional or commercial feel and presentation?
DS homebrew has another cost: time and effort to install them and even get them working. There are many different homebrew hardware options available, so I’m going to assume one of the easiest to use, the slot 1 cart, like the R4 and M3 DS simply. These options include automatic patching, which makes playing easier, but they also reduce the games and apps that we can use because of compatibility requirements. To this end, I’m going to package homebrew in a single downloadable file that I think represents the best of DS homebrew. If you’re playing at home, you’re free to download your favorites, too. To download and copy these files requires an estimated 30 minutes, but I’ll double the time to be generous.
I’m listing the best in several different game categories along with extras that are other standouts in these genres. I tried to avoid ports of commercial games. The glaring exception is QuakeDS. Two things about this: 1] There are few fps homebrews, none of which I thought were worth playing, and 2] the Quake port is pretty impressive and shows both what the DS and homebrew developers can do. With all the ports, it seems difficult and little incentive for homebrew fps.
- RPG: powder, Tales of Dagur
- Adventure: myth [one of many; see papafuji's site for instructions], lemmings ds
- shoot ‘em up: geo wars, meteora, super mario galaxies,
- first-person shooter: quake ds [there are many ports of shareware titles, such as DSdoom, Rise of the Triad, Wolfenstein, Hexen, Herectic, Descent, Duke Nukem but Quake is probably the best looking and functionality of them.]
- platformer: everlasting love, johnny platform’s biscuit romp, perilous wheels, megaETK, monky
- strategy: a touch of war, dice wars, DS tower defense
- puzzle: puzzlemaniak, maouss ds, plop invaders, Setsuzoku no Puzzle, Sudoku
- sim: drug wars
- board: OmokDS, omalone, dschess,
- racing: ds light bikes, whee!ds,
- misc: ka-boom [mine clone], explosive gas [bomberman], pocket physics, world of sand
I’ve created a single zip file that has all of the above games except for Quake DS. Because Quake DS requires the pak files from the shareware or full version, I cannot redistribute a working version. Get the Quake DS files and read the installation instructions.
I’ll post part 2 with a similar zip file within the coming days. For now, download and try these games for yourselves.