Release Date: March 20, 2007
Though significantly less powerful than that other handheld, the Nintendo DS has done a much better job of establishing itself as a unique, must-own system. While the PSP has largely played host to console-style gaming experiences, the two screens of the DS have allowed developers to create entirely new genres, or create games that just wouldn't play very well on a single screen. Nintendo's own Brain Age is the obvious success story, having spawned an entire genre of "brain training" games on the handheld. Another is Namco Bandai's Point Blank DS, which brought a surprisingly playable light gun-style shooter to the dual-screened wonder.
QuickSpot, also from Namco Bandai, continues that trend of genre creation, though you may have played something like this before – with a pen and paper. Considering its concept, the title is extremely literal; how quickly can you spot the differences between two nearly identical images? With two screens, the concept plays out extremely well on the DS hardware, and pointing out the differences is as simple as drawing a circle with the stylus. It may not be rocket science, but the charming blend of simplistic gameplay and amusing images works very well.
Rapid Play is the main gameplay mode in QuickSpot, as it tasks players to finish a certain number of image pairs in two minutes or less. Each stage contains up to 18 image pairs, though "boss fights" may toss an additional five sets your way at the end (without additional time). Each boss fight reveals a new type of play that will then be integrated within the standard difference-seeking gameplay. For example, you may need to "clean" the bottom screen with the stylus before you can spot the differences, or perhaps blow into the microphone to remove digital leaves that have blocked the touch-screen.
Things escalate a bit in later stages, where you may have to decide which removed puzzle piece doesn't fit or which piece of a robot or bicycle doesn't belong. Regardless of the variation, each image shown must be solved within 10 seconds; otherwise, you will lose precious time and still have to solve an alternate one. Most gamers will blaze through QuickSpot's 50 initial stages in just a couple of hours, though many more are unlocked upon completion, including special animated stages and increasingly difficult boss challenges.
For a less hectic experience, consider Focus Play. Instead of giving you 10 (or more) image pairs with one difference each, Focus Play displays just one pair of images – with 10 total differences between them. This seems shockingly easy at first, but there were some that I could not figure out after several minutes of careful consideration. The third single-player mode is Today's Fortune, which is about as silly as you might expect. After quickly solving five image pairs, you will be given a generic fortune in one of four categories: Health, Work, Romance, and Money. Despite my relative quickness in finding the differences, I was rarely given a very positive outlook in any category. The future looks bleak!
Like Point Blank DS, the Brain Age effect has crept into QuickSpot, as the "Increase Your Brain Activity!" logo on the cover will attest. As you complete stages, the game judges you in five categories: Intuition, Concentration, Recognition, Stability, and Judgment. Excelling in any of these categories seems to have no real effect on the gameplay, and may just be a last-minute marketing idea intended to capitalize on the "brain training" craze. Whatever it is, it doesn't really help or hurt, or even lend any atmosphere to the game.
All three single-player modes seem to draw from the same pool of images, which is not especially extensive. However, each image holds several possible differences, so memorization is not as automatic as initially anticipated. Namco fans in particular should be pleased with the frequent cameos by familiar icons, such as Klonoa, Pac Man, Mr. Driller, and the Prince from Katamari Damacy. QuickSpot is not completely dependent on the ghosts of Namco past, though; other images use anime-style characters and still photos to get the job done. The trickiest images are the ones that use a significant amount of one color with little variation, as well as the ones that simply pack the screen with characters and items.
While the much-desired Nintendo Wi-Fi Support is nowhere to be found, QuickSpot does feature a couple of wireless multiplayer modes for up to four players. Time Bomb mode is like a digital game of hot potato, in which a single DS system is passed around while players attempt to find a single difference in an image pair before a bomb explodes. Scramble, which can be played via single- or multi-card play, challenges gamers to find all the differences in a picture, while a special meter allows for the ability to modify another player's image or cover it with a slew of hopping frogs. QuickSpot is undeniably a bit quirky, but that is in no way a bad thing.
QuickSpot is charming, short, simple, and – best of all – affordable. At $20, expectations are just a bit lower, which is not a bad attitude to have going into the game. While not the most thrilling experience, QuickSpot is sure to ensnare the casual crowd, while giving more active gamers something to play between extended sessions of Final Fantasy III and Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Sure, it may be a game that can be largely supplanted by a newspaper and Highlights for Children magazine, but why go physical when you can stay digital?