Release Date: July 30, 2007
Talk about dialing one in. Drake and Josh: Talent Showdown on the Nintendo DS is an incredibly lackluster licensed title based on a kids' show. Even in the video game world where that tends to be the rule rather than the exception, it's a boring affair filled with bland designs, ugly character models, boring text and equally boring gameplay. There's little redeemable value in the entire game aside from one music mini-game that occasionally gets tossed into the mix. Even if you're a hardcore fan of the show, I can't see any reason for you to pick up this title.
For those of you not too familiar with the source material (as I wasn't), I'll break it down to the best of my ability. Drake and Josh are stepbrothers who are basically opposites, with Drake being more of an extroverted troublemaker and Josh being more of an introverted, deep-thinking kind of kid. I'm not sure if they're both supposed to be popular, semi-popular, or nerds, but the game puts them up against a group of jocks as the only real enemy. They try to retrieve a series of missing instruments that have been stolen by a competing school in an attempt to ruin an upcoming talent competition.
Drake and Josh: Talent Showdown takes on an overhead 3-D view, and the player can switch between controlling Drake or Josh with the press of the L or R shoulder button. Unlike most games that have some type of co-op mechanic, though, Drake and Josh aren't required to do any puzzle-solving. Most of the game revolves around locating people within the school to talk to and find "clues" while you collect randomly scattered keys that allow you to unlock doors to more areas of the school. There's no real difficulty involved, as Josh comes equipped with a radar that not only homes in on the keys, but also the doors and other things you need to find. It sucks any possible challenge out of the game and makes it really easy to finish. At the same time, the environments are bland and tend to repeat themselves often, so it's probably a blessing in disguise that they don't make you navigate the school more than you need to.
Drake is the more offensive of the two, keeping in line with his personality, and he's the only one capable of taking on the jock enemies you'll encounter around the school. Once a jock sees you, he'll chase after you, but the only damage he causes is grabbing a hold of you and giving you a bear hug or something; it's actually kind of difficult to tell what he's trying to do to you. To escape, you rub the stylus back and forth on the touch-screen, with a little bit of life taken away from your life bar. Dying is pretty hard to do, and even if you're absolutely horrible at the game, you have little to fear if your life bar runs out.
I found Josh to be far more useful than Drake, and I hated to switch back and forth since Drake didn't have Josh's radar capability. Josh doesn't have any real fighting abilities, but he has an ability that lets you be ignored by enemies for a short amount of time. It was almost always enough time to get from one section to the next, and I hardly ever had to interact with the enemies in any way. It's not necessarily fun, but trying to shoot jocks with Drake's water gun wasn't all that great to begin with.
The core of Drake and Josh: Talent Showdown is exploration, but since the school grounds are so repetivive, it's hardly a selling point, and players will have trouble staying interested in the game beyond the first hour. There are two mini-games you can play, and they'll crop up in the main game from time to time, though they can also be accessed outside of the single-player game through the menu. One involves a magic thing that seems awfully devoid of magic. In this mini-game, you'll trace patterns on the screen, and that's about it. It's simply a line-tracing mini-game, and it's about as fun as that sounds. The second is far better and should have been fleshed out more. It involves playing a virtual guitar along with songs that I assume are taken from the show in some capacity. On the touch-screen, you'll have a six-string layout, with small circular "notes" that signify directions on the d-pad. You're required to tap the screen with the stylus and hold down these directions at the same time, getting the right rhythm to score high and move on to higher difficulties. With a better track listing and the rest of the single-player experience taken away, this could have been a decent game all by itself. To me, it's the only redeemable aspect of the entire game.
The visuals are pretty bad, with character models that are supposed to depict Drake and Josh but instead come of as entirely generic. The jock enemies all look the same, with no variation that I could notice. There's other characters in the game that you have to interact with, but the 3D work is so ugly that there's no way to discern who they are or how they're different from each other outside of their names and occasional color changes. The halls of the high school all blend together after a while, and there's tons of assets that get repeated over and over again, so there's absolutely nothing going on environment wise that makes the game interesting to look at.
Drake and Josh: Talent Showdown is a huge waste of time and not worth trying even if you're a fan of the show. I imagine there are parents who will pick this up for the kids, which is probably what THQ is banking on. The musical mini-game is a decent idea, but it's not even worth the budget asking price.