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Digital: Nintendo points the way out of the circle of hell

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Nintendo 3DS XL with Circle Pad Pro

In the age of the svelte smartphone, handheld games consoles unwittingly challenge the notion of portability. Sony's PS Vita and Nintendo's 3DS XL both prove a stretch on the pocket, literally.

At least Sony managed to fit a crucial second joystick into its elegant design, whereas Nintendo has resorted to a clumsy add-on to bolster its controls.

The new Circle Pad Pro adds a sizeable chunk of plastic to the already chubby form of the 3DS XL – but, for certain games, its extra control nub makes it well worth the €20 price of admission.

Certainly, it's an ugly beast that would have made Steve Jobs weep. The plastic chassis is all lumps and cutouts to retain access to switches and ports, yet you can't even change games without removing it.

But, crucially, it adds a perfectly placed second circle pad controller on the right of the screen while fitting the 3DS XL snugly into your two palms.

The difference when playing titles such as Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Kid Icarus Uprising or Resident Evil Revelations is enormous. It spells the end of cramped hands and imparts a new level of control.

But the list of compatible games is brutally short and, really, Nintendo should just redesign the entire console rather than persist with this ungainly solution.

www.nintendo.co.uk

SOME people love their phones so much they take them to bed with them. If you're never parted from your mobile, perhaps the Irish-designed CozyDock may take your fancy. Built like a mini beanbag, the dock will cradle many smartphones in its soft embrace, propped up at an angle of your choosing and with slits to allow connections in and audio out.

However, because it's designed to accommodate many smartphone sizes, the fit isn't always snug and larger-screen mobiles such as the Samsung Galaxy S3/S4 are completely excluded.

www.cozydock.com

 

GAMES

Star Trek

X360/PS3/PC

**

JJ Abrams admits to being slightly embarrassed that his second Star Trek reboot cost $185m to make, warning that movie budgets were becoming "preposterous".

By the standards of the accompanying video game, that was nonetheless money wisely spent. Clearly, the cash was lavished on this tie-in, but it seems to have run out by the time it came to gameplay and quality control.

The lion's share of the budget presumably ended up in the pockets of the movie cast (who at least supply decent voice performances) and the writer (who penned an agreeable script if not a gripping storyline).

But judging by the evidence, there wasn't much left for interesting enemy design or coherent gameplay (the often-stodgy shooting sections are broken up by a disparate grab-bag of platforming, turret target practice and hacking).

Any burgeoning sense of fun is regularly snuffed out by copious bugs. Set phasers to meh, you might say.

Badland

iOS

***

Melding the visual aesthetic of arty, atmospheric puzzlers such as Limbo with the instant-gratification appeal of endless scrollers such as Jetpack Joyride, Badland is a curious beast.

You guide a blob through a gorgeously silhouetted world with no more than a tap of a finger, navigating obstacles and channels with power-ups that enlarge, shrink or clone you.

It's intriguing for a while but you frequently sense a lack of control, putting you at the mercy of the game's physics rather than your own skill.

Still, worth a gander for its pretty landscapes and moody soundtrack.

Dead Island: Riptide

X360/PS3/PC

***

The original did good business at the tills despite a critical pasting and a glaring absence of technical polish. Hence this barely warmed over sequel, which makes little effort to address problems or even rewrite the script.

So once again a loose band of survivors fight off a zombie onslaught on a tropical island. Online co-op renders the combat vaguely interesting but mostly it's an uninspired slog through hordes of the undead.

 

Irish Independent