PictoChat (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 10.03.2005

Review for PictoChat on Nintendo DS

As a wise male-female duo once sang, 'The best things in life are free,' and it would seem that Mr Vandross and Ms Jackson's sentiments are shared by none other than Nintendo, since it is bundling a nice little treat with each and every Nintendo DS due to hit the European market in a matter of hours. But is the chat programme, Pictochat, an art-form in its own right, or simply drawing blanks?

The whole idea of a free gift with something you have just bought is hardly a new concept, as stores, food outlets and various companies have been using such techniques to help drive sales of items that might not sell quite as high as they would without any added incentive(s). In recent years, though, that idea was thrown out of the window in the gaming Industry. Whilst the Game Boy launched with a copy of Russian genius Alexey Pajitnov's puzzle effort Tetris, future systems lacked a true 'free game' when initially launched, with even the mighty PlayStation 2 only including a disc full of little playing game demonstrations and simple video clips. Thankfully, however, all that has just changed with the advent of the Nintendo DS! Time to get those creative juices flowing, because Nintendo has a wonderful treat in store for you lucky gamers!

Loading up your Nintendo DS system takes you to a screen where you will normally choose whether to play on media card that is inserted into the portable or a GBA cartridge that has been slotted into the bottom. However, in this case, you overlook both of those and head for the other logo that will always be there no matter what, 'Pictochat'. Suddenly you are launched into a plain-looking screen that has the logo at the bottom of the upper screen, complete with a little smiley face in the 'O' and the main choice menu on the lower screen. It is down here where you can choose which room to jump into to commence your communication thrills. But you must be a little patient first and wait to see if anyone else is currently 'online'.

You see, there are four rooms to choose from, labelled 'A' through to 'D', each one being able to house up to sixteen Pictochatters. In order to see which room is the ideal one to select, though, you must sit and wait on this screen as the little green light on the bottom-right of the DS itself flickers on and off, searching the air-waves for other DS signals. Once a sufficient enough number has appeared in a room, then pick up your stylus and tap your way to the new communication highway. Thankfully this is the longest you have to wait on the interactive programme, as once in with your friends (or complete strangers for the matter), everything becomes instantaneous. No delays at all...

This can be played in any situation or locale with the greatest of ease – be it a dark, underground room full of thick separating walls, a fast moving train, from a hotel room in a foreign country or just in a wide open conference arena (three guesses where I have played Pictochat the most!). Stick several people together and the messaging fun can go on, completely unhindered until either one of two things happen; the battery dies after about twelve hours or your friends get bored and switch off to play one of the other addictive games available for the system (Polarium, yes please!).

The in-built feature proves to be a wonderful change from text- and picture-messaging on mobile phones, with the input being quicker and more illustrative as you are actually using the stylus pen to write down your messages or draw your images and then transmit them in real time to whoever is in the room with you. It is extremely similar to a web-based chat module, with the addition of images. But just what is available to you for the aid of interaction?

Well, on the top screen you have a little signal strength icon in the top-left, which lets you know if you are in an area where interference is likely. Here you are also shown which room letter you are in, how many messages there are roughly (the scroll bar on the left), as well as the last few messages sent (all depending on how much of the message box each one takes up

Screenshot for PictoChat on Nintendo DS

But that is not all, for as mentioned many times now, you can draw images using the stylus pen, your fingers or the thumb-strap (if you really want). This proves to be highly intuitive, although the standard stylus takes a little getting used to and does not work wonderfully with some people's normal writing style. But, once you have adapted to the ideal way of using the stylus, you are away! Anything can be written or illustrated, meaning that messages can be conveyed in the clearest possible way, negating any chance of confusion...unless you are terrible at drawing, of course!

There are two settings of line to choose from, the standard thick one, or a thinner line that allows more to be drawn / written on the touch-screen. Then there is the technique of choosing the thick line, covering the whole screen in black by quickly rubbing the stylus or thumb-strap over the screen and then changing the setting to 'erase' and writing that way. This proves the best way to write neatly at times, especially for beginners, as the rubber ('eraser' for Americans...to avoid serious confusion!) seems to be a little more accurate than the pen line. But whichever method you adopt, your can have endless fun with something free. Who else could do that, but Nintendo?

Screenshot for PictoChat on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

So there you have it

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Other

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (10 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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