What they came up with is a strange combination of gameplay types, grafted onto the framework of the Wii game. The basic shooting gameplay from their portable Call of Duty games is more or less intact, but like the Wii version GoldenEye DS spices up the same old CoD mechanics with an intangible 007 style. For some reason the shooting doesn’t feel as stiff or generic as in the DS CoD titles, but it might have something to do with the controls. GoldenEye offers the standard stylus control and while this is more precise, it has the same tendency to cause hand-cramps as every other stylus-based FPS on the handheld. Thankfully n-Space provides a purely button-oriented configuration, which maps a sort of digital “dual analog” scheme to the D-pad and face buttons while the triggers control aiming and shooting, and everything else is a few convenient touch screen taps away. I’m pretty bad at fat-fingering the touch screen and even I was able to swap weapons and reload effectively, so I appreciated the more conventional scheme.
GoldenEye DS has its own distinct level structure that follows the basic plot of the Wii game but mixes up how the levels play out. The dam is run-and-gun but has you on-foot mostly, omitting the stealth and truck segments while sticking with the DS’s strength for more conventional shooter gameplay. On the other hand the facility and some other levels are almost completely stealth-based, downplaying action to the point where stealth is really the only way to go. It’s a decent system that works for the first few levels but it gets a little uneven later on.
Jumping back and forth between the two gameplay styles is a bit disorienting. Thankfully most levels, like the surface, are mapped out well and let you know exactly how to proceed. It’s less dynamic than the Wii’s open-ended “stealth or action anytime” approach but it gets the job done. I just feel like it tries to follow the Wii game’s lead just a little too closely and loses a lot of its own initiative and drive.
GoldenEye is by far n-Space’s most ambitious DS game but I feel like it’s a bit too bold for its own good at times. Levels like the Severnaya bunker are a confusing mix of action and stealth, and push concepts like gas masks and huge open-room firefights that are just a little beyond what is comfortably possible on the DS. It all works to an extent but you get the impression that n-Space’s skill and ambition have pushed the DS past what works well on the hardware.
This is too bad because GoldenEye DS had the potential to be a more nostalgic take than its Wii counterpart. From the start you have the good old curved health and armor bars; I can’t describe how warm and familiar it felt seeing those again. There’s still recharging health but it’s displayed by those orange and blue segments, something I wish could be turned on all the time in the Wii game, not just in its incredibly challenging “007 Classic” difficulty.
Playing through the dam, I had an initial inkling that GoldenEye DS would skew closer to the N64 original. The run-n-gun action, mixed with destructible scenery, touch-screen minigames and other n-Space innovations, make it play like an enhanced version of the old game with modern FPS mechanics—an updated classic, like the Wii game but different in its own way. However as the game veers off in over-ambitious directions it loses a lot of its early steam. What could’ve been a tribute to the N64 game, using the similarly-powered DS tech to its advantage, ends up as an enjoyable but truncated mirror of the Wii game. If the story mode had stuck to a more basic, action-oriented focus it would’ve been stronger.
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