Fancy A Brew?
21/03/2007 at 10:11
As the range and quality of DS homebrew devices continues to grow and improve, Nintendo's dual screen console is fast becoming the bedroom coder's machine of choice. And as programmers get to grips with the intricacies of coding for the DS' touchscreen and dual screens, they're fast producing lots of inventive and unique content.
And so I decided to check out some of the more popular and legal homebrew games and applications available for the suitably kitted out DS. Of course these devices can also be used for more nefarious purposes but increasingly, programmers are finding really intriguing and curious uses for the DS, which I'll hopefully be highlghting the best of below.
As there is such a wide range of homebrew devices available, it would be impossible for me to outline the compatibility of these applications with each type of device, however most of the websites below do show compatability tables which should indicate your relative chances of success.
DS Doom was the first homebrew title I played in my research for this article and was, surprisingly enough, very easy to actually get working. It has to be said that it's an excellent true to the original port, is well worth a download and feels particularly at home on the DS as the smaller sized screen doesn't render the graphics into as brown and ugly a mess as a large TV does.
It's also possible to setup multiplayer games using wifi and a extra application prboom_server which can be downloaded from the site.
Sadly the game does not yet feature touchscreen controls or the famous Doom sound track but both are features that will hopefully be added in the not too distant future. Incidentally there's also a working port of the similar but lesser known PC FPS classic Hexen which can also be downloaded from here
Screenshots and video:
SCUMMVM was originally developed for the PC in order to run LucasArts adventure games. The newly converted DS version however, supports full touchscreen controls and what is fast becoming the home of the text adventure after the successes of the Phoenix Wright titles and Hotel Dusk, is now playing host to a lot of forgotten classics such as Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit The Road, Beneath a Steel Sky and the Simon the Sorcerer games.
The DS versions obviously lack the CD Audio speech of the originals and while MP3 playback of the voice files is supported, it's far from working perfectly. However, sound issues aside, the games remain very much playable and addictive, and as tough as old nails.Though it's also worth mentioning that while the SCUMMVM DS application is free to download and perfectly legal to use, acquiring the actual games to play on the other hand, is yet another grey area in the whole ROM and abandoware debate.
Comic Book DS (CBDS)
Comic Book DS as the name suggests, allows you to view Comic Book files on your DS, much like you'd view PDF files in Adobe Acrobat. Featuring full touch-screen support for scrolling around the comics and for zooming in and out of images, the application makes the DS even more of a handy companion for long journeys or commutes. And while it's obvious that the application is hardly revolutionary, the fact that NBC have been releasing CBDS compatible comics alongside the hugely popular series Heroes (comics which further flesh out the story of each episode) means there's a very real and essential use for the application.
CBDS files can be downloaded from here
. Or alternatively any document or scan can be converted into the CBDS format meaning the application is not limited simply to comics.
Screenshots and video:
DSPEC is a homebrew Sinclair Spectrum Emulator which features a perfect 1:1 pixel ratio that essentially means that Spectrum games are visually at least, emulated and translated perfectly onto the DS' top screen. With the usual touch-screen support and a full Spectrum Keyboard displayed on the lower screen, this useful application allows you to experience the games from days gone by in those 8 garish colours all over again.
Okiwi is quite simply a free alternative to Nintendo and Opera's DS internet Browser. In Alpha stage at present and far from being complete, it is hoped that Okiwi will eventually perform pretty much all of Opera's functions or at least the bare minimums you'd expect from a browser and is another fine example of just how dedicated and skilled, home coders can be.
Nitrotracker is a "Fast Tracker II Style Tracker" which apparently means it's a piece of software used for sequencing music and for arranging samples along a timeline across several monophonic channels. Using the onscreen keyboard (of the musical variety) it's possible to compose your own melodies. It's also possible to record your own samples using the DS' microphone. And rather impressively Nitro Tracker also now supports the controlling of a midi keyboard on your PC over wifi.
Screenshots and Video:
So in conclusion then, DS Pass Me kits and flash cards are not all about pirating commerical DS games and there is in fact an enthusiastic and creative scene of programmers and developers all interested in creating unique and fun DS content. And as development costs and requirements continue to spiral out of reach of the lone coder or smaller team, perhaps the DS is the perfect tool for creating those compact but fun Indie titles that seem to be so prevalent in the current videogame zeitgeist. On the above evidence that's certainly the case.