DLC MC: Beware DSiWare
When Nintendo's DSi handheld was first released last April 5, the third iteration of the DS came with a $10 coupon for downloadable games. How cool, how hip, I thought. Cool as a Mario in Doc Martens. I immediately downloaded two games. Man, was I wrong.
Every time I tried to begin the picture-taking game, WarioWare: Snapped!, a message would say, "Recognition failed. Player's skin tone and background color are too similar." It said this when I was in front of a white background, an orange background and a black background. As frustration built, I got this weird feeling that I wasn't human anymore, that I was a ghost that couldn't be seen -- not just by the DSi, but by anyone. Screw you, Wario. I am human and alive and therefore fail to recognize your crappy DSi game.
I moved on to something called Aquia, Art Style Series. On the first screen, the name changed to Art Style: Aquia. Whatever; it's like Tetris. You clear blocks with the help of an underwater diver. But there is a lot of instruction. That's not like Tetris. Tetris is easy to understand. With Tetris, you don't really need language.
If Wario won't recognize my face, do I even have a face?
Aquia has all these inane, semi-inscrutable instructions. Some of them I could read by tapping the touch-screen. Some of them made me hit a button. Once, when I moved to a previous page, the instructions changed to Spanish. Screw you, Aquia and that 4-bit-looking diver. Screw you for making me feel dumb. Screw you for all of my problems.
I shut the DSi off. I didn't pick up the DSi to look at downloadable content for months. When I returned, I went to the Nintendo DSi Shop. You get that pseudo-'70s game show music when you go, similar to the music you get on the Wii. It's snappy, but somehow depressing, like elevator music at Macy's.
It wouldn't let me proceed. I had to install a system update. The DSi beeped a lot when it was downloading the new software. It sounded like that beeping sound down the hatch in "Lost"; you know, the one that had Desmond trapped and ever-vigilant at the computer screen because something bad would happen if he left his watch.
Beep. Beep. Beep. This is not good, I kept thinking. Something is going to blow up. Little green dots flickered as the three-minute download entered the DSi system. This all sounded and looked so menacing. Couldn't they have had Mario running from Bowser or Mr. Miyamoto doing a jig or something?
I restarted the thing. This time, I turned the volume down as I browsed. There was this red message that said, "Important." Whenever I see something in red like that, I think someone is out to get me for a bill I haven't paid. But I paid all my bills. Maybe Nintendo wanted to charge me for WarioWare and Aquia after all.
With trepidation, I tapped on the word "Important." Actually, it was a press release for DSiWare games for the week of 9/21/2009. For 500 points ($5), I could purchase a version of Clubhouse Games that included Backgammon. But I already have Clubhouse Games. And there was nothing new about these casual offerings. I could get versions for free on the Web.
The other title was MySims Camera for 200 points. "You can take photos and overlay 3D MySims characters to bring them into the real world." Bringing Sims into the real world scared me. It made me think I'd have to understand that Simlish language. Or Spanish. Or Spanish Simlish.
I started browsing again. There was this orange frog there on the page. I like frogs. I actually saw a real orange frog at the Museum of Natural History once. Maybe the frog would be my friend and turn into a beautiful princess. I tapped its amphibian cuteness and waited. Unlike Aquia, there was no description at all at the next screen, except the words "Flipnote Studio: Animation Tool: Free." If it's free, it's for me and I'll take three. So far, so good: It didn't want to make the Sims real or anything.
Flipnote Studio came wrapped with a bow-in-a-box icon. I tapped it with the stylus and it greeted me warmly with orange letters, "Welcome to Flipnote Studio, your own handy tool for making memorable notes and animated flip books!" Well, wait. If the notes I make are already memorable, why would I need to put them down and save them in the DSi? Oh, those game copywriters! Don't get me started.
Flipnote Studio started a tutorial and asked me for my birth date. You don't want my social, too, do you? I must have tapped the wrong thing, because I was suddenly out of the tutorial. I think that in the future, it will say my birthday is in 2000. I'm so young now. Let's go play with frogs and put one down Margie's dress!
Back in the tutorial, the little frog told me to draw something. So I started drawing a companion frog, because every frog needs a pal. But the frog interrupted me with more instructions, saying there are all sorts of different tools to work with in Flipnote Studio. "Test them to see how they work."
"Dude, I just want to finish drawing my frog. Is that all right with YOU?"
Think Tetris with inscrutable instructions.
The frog let me draw one more line. Then, it interrupted, "If you want to get back to the toolbox, you can tap on me at any time."
"Screw you, frog, for not letting me finish my art. You could have had a nice, friendly Zen pal to calm you down. To be your good friend. But no. You had run your mouth, getting all interruptive and stuff. Screw you, frog." (No one backs Harold into a corner.)
Anyway, Momma always told me there's always some kind of string attached to something that's free. But did I ever listen? I still don't.
I went back to the Shop. That infernal elevator music is gonna make me throw this DSi into the East River. I wanted to see what they had beyond the screen that gave me four Recommended Offerings. But the shop seemed to have this invisible shopkeeper that wouldn't allow me to see the complete offerings unless I added points to my DSi. Damn troll of a gatekeeper. So I added 2,000 points and continued my so-called adventure.
Will I ever find anything of use in DSiWare? Will the Sims speak in Hebrew-lish to me?
Will that Macy's music haunt my dreams? Will the orange frog ever be my friend? Come back next month to find out.