If, when you scamper out to buy your 3DS for somewhere between £220 and £240 on March 25, you find yourself unable to scrape together the extra cash to buy an actual game for it, don’t worry – there’s some pre-installed software on the system that you can play with in the meantime. And in typical Nintendo fashion, it’s all pretty inspired.
Face Raiders, aside from having the best name of any game ever except possibly WARFACE, is a quirky, surreal and hilarious minigame in which you use the 3DS camera to shoot at 3D images of your own winking, laughing face before they get close enough to give you a smooch. Mii Maker uses a photo of you to (almost) instantly recreate you as a Nintendified avatar. There are six different alternate-reality games, played with six different patterned cards. And the bundled 3D photo software is pretty cool, too.
I messed around with all of these bits and bobs at Nintendo’s event on Wednesday – find out what they are and what they’re like below.
Face Raiders has the distinction of first game to make me spontaneously shout “NOOOO DON’T KISS ME!” in a crowded room since kiss tag in primary school. It’s a delightfully silly mini-game based around the camera. You start by taking a picture of your face – or indeed anyone’s face. It then morphs it into a 3D image, contorting your expression into a grin, wink, smirk, frown or maniacal laugh with clever image-morphing and animation.
From then on, you’re playing a fun, simplistic shooter with the 3DS camera, where your OWN FACE is the enemy. In the centre of the screen is a cursor, and you tilt the 3DS around and aim the camera to shoot. On the screen, rips appear in reality, and flying heads speed forth from within, cackling crazily and trying to either smack into you or plant a big kiss on the screen.
This can get rather surreal and hallucinatory when you’re playing in a crowded room and your own face comes flying at you in 3D from a vortex in someone’s chest. It reminds me a bit of a night in 2004 I’d rather not remember.
After a while there’s a huge gurning boss face which, once defeated, explodes, sprouting a massive smoking afro. You can collect the faces of friends and enemies and stick them into a gallery – there are scoreboards, and the intensity of the crazy face onslaught increases with each successful round.
I think Face Raiders is brilliant. It’s funny, beautifully strange, concise and free – exactly the sort of one-shot genius you’d normally find nestled deep inside a WarioWare compilation.
The Mii Maker also abuses pictures of your face for laughs. After taking a mug shot, you choose your eye colour and hairstyle and it approximates your facial features, giving you six options to choose from if the first is too hideous. A warning: if you wear glasses, it makes your Mii’s eyes disturbingly tiny.
The Mii Plaza if familiar from the Wii – except, of course, that it’s now in 3D, and you can pan around and zoom in on cheery, cutely-animated individuals with the circle pad. Using StreetPass – the 3DS’ always-on connectivity option – you can set your Miis to mingle freely, developing a collection of cartoony altar-egos from passers by.
The camera itself is an astonishing piece of hardware. Using the slider in the same way as you do during gameplay, you can take photos in normal 2D or mind-fucking 3D. Take a photo of someone standing with their arm outstretched, and their hand reaches right out of the screen. To compound the trippy effect, it has some really disturbing filters – Hipstamatic-esque blurring and darkening at the edges, a deeply surreal face-merging tool that melds the image of you and a friend, and an intriguing ‘MYSTERY’ option that does something entirely random every time you use it.
You can still doodle and stamp on your photos, but now the sparkles and hearts and whatever else you decorate the photos with stand out at the front of the image. It’s wonderful. I’m not sure how many people will use it more than four or five times, but it’s got real wow factor. I don’t understand how it can take a 3D image without two side-by-side cameras. It’s like magic.
The last thing I tried out was one of the alternate reality games, also playable with the camera. These work in the same way as similar games on the PS3 or PSP EyeToy, like Invizimals and EyePet: you put a card with a specific design in front of the camera, and imaginary things magically appear on the screen. The 3DS will come with six of these cards in the box, and they’ll be downloadable from Nintendo’s website if you lose one down the side of the sofa.
The card on show has a yellow ‘?’ block on it. Once I’d lined up the camera at the right 35cm distance, the box came to life, toddling about on sprouted legs. Shooting it made it topple over. Next, a little island popped up, and I had to walk around the table shooting at targets all over it. A new target popped up and the table surface warped like a trampoline, catapulting it skywards. Finally, a was a fire-spitting golden dragon emerged out of a pit, sporting glowing red weak spots to shoot at.
The whole thing was over in about five minutes, but it packed a punch. The only problem was the interference in the crammed demo environment – with people walking around the table and other cards in such close proximity, the camera had trouble finding its target from time to time,
This bundled software serves its function with panache: it introduces people to the capabilities of the 3DS in entertaining and cute ways. Nintendo is keen to sell this thing as more than just a games console, but fun is still at the heart of this company’s design philosophy.