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Zenses Ocean

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: The Game Factory
Developer: Shin'en
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Simulation/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

My sister and I were relaxing the other day (she was reading a magazine and I was playing World of Warcraft), when she threw her magazine at me and commanded me to look at the advertisement. A full page ad for a Nintendo DS game was staring back up at me, and it looked pretty neat. The page showed a DS game that was overflowing from the actual DS and onto the page. It was Zenses: Ocean, and I knew I totally wanted it. So, a day later when the game came up for review, I got way too excited.

Zenses: Ocean is advertised as a relaxing and soothing game that will take you out of your environment (you know, the stressful one that is killing you slowly) and introduce a bit of calm into your life. For once, I have to agree with the advertising. The music, and ocean-themed graphics in Zenses: Ocean make me crave summer and the beach! I say the music is relaxing, because I never register it is thrumming away peacefully in the background. Do you have any idea how hard that is to achieve for a game? Normally, the music begins to get repetitive and it like having nails slowly driven into your eyes... you don't realize you are blind until it is too late!

There graphics are great. They isn't really much to the game if you get down to it, but staring at the little games for hours did not give me a headache, make me wonder what I was looking at, or impede upon the game in any way whatsoever. The ocean was pretty, the pearls where shiny, and there was hardly a wayward pixel to be found (I had to search for the few that did pop up).


Gameplay:

Zenses: Ocean is actually six little "mini games" that will take up way too much of your time, distract you from work, and basically become an unhealthy addiction. Score. The games are labeled: Zen-Stone, Pearl Diver, Turtle Turn, Hot Spot (sounds wrong, doesn't it?), Shell Twirl, and Wave Breaker. Zen-Stone is my favorite, and I've wasted so much time on it. The object is to touch on two identical stones that are touching horizontally, vertically, or diagonally in order to get them to disappear. The game is over when you cannot make any more matches. There are added bonuses if you make them disappear in the order they appear on the top half of the DS. It is so addictive! With each level, they add new stones with different designs on them until you think there is no way in heaven or hell you could possibly touch them all in an order that will make them all disappear.

Pearl Diver was my sister's favorite, but that was only because I could not beat her stupid high score! She was a machine on that game. The point is to clear the screen of floating (they do not move on the screen, but they do bob up and down) pearls of different colors by connecting the pearls of the same color. You can select single pearls, two pearls, or form a triangle of the same color shiny dots. You cannot connect the lines, however, if there is another pearl in the way. You can get an extra turn if you capture a pearl in the middle of a triangle. I run out of turns fairly quickly because I suck, but there is a fun memorization-based bonus round that earns you extra turns.

Turtle Turn is the hardest one for me. I have no strategy whatsoever, and the game ate my face. You must match the alignment of colors on the top screen by touching turtle shells on the bottom screen. However, the shells turn over and will flip over every shell that touches it as well. You can't just touch the screen until the desired shape accidentally happens either, because it has a limited amount of turns. Turtle Turn has a bonus round that allows for more turns as well. I did better on this that I did the real game!

Hot Spot was fun, and totally weird. It gives you a picture of a pretty, see-through organism at the top screen, and you must piece it back together (while the parts are spinning) on the bottom screen. This one is timed and has a bonus round for more time. Then we have Shell Twirl. This game got my heart rate up instead of relaxing me! And, because I am a bonehead and didn't read the directions, it took me a round to understand what was going on. There is a whirlpool on your screen with funny shell shapes in each ring. On either upper corner of the screen, there is a shell dispenser; you must pull the shells down and match them to their shape in the whirlpool to win the level. It seems really fast-paced because of the spinning rings and because it is timed. The bonus round took me way too long to understand as well. You take the shells out of the rings and drop it in the middle of the whirlpool while the shell corresponds to the shape in the center.

Finally, we have Wave Breaker. It is purely memorization, and reminds me a lot of card games where you have to remember what position they were laying in. The shells are laying in the sand and you have time to look and memorize their position. Then a wave comes and breaks over the sand and hides the shells. Your job is to hunt out the desired shell (shown on the top screen) before your tries run out.


Difficulty:

Zenses: Ocean has a very nice difficulty slide at the beginning of each game. I would recommend setting it at the lowest setting before each game so the learning curve doesn't eat your face off. I noticed on some of the games I could slide the difficulty up to the top and still do well (Zen-stones for example), but some of them I couldn't get past a difficulty rating of two! Turtle Turn and Pearl Diver were so hard for me, even when I had the setting down lower. I know I am missing something: my sister did well on those. Granted, she sucked at Zen-Stones, so maybe it is a right brain/left brain thing. She is a little genius, so maybe she failed at the obvious ones, while I couldn't compete with her on the ridiculous connect-the-dots ones. Bitter? Nah.

Zenses: Ocean offers a nice challenge if you are looking for one, but still starts out easy enough that anyone will be able to play. I noticed that everyone had their favorites, and always returned to playing those if they got frustrated. Some of the games start out harder than the rest. Shell Twirl and Turtle Turn were more difficult than having to memorize shell patterns or connecting pearl dots.

Basically, Zenses: Ocean is great for any age level (if you can keep a kid interested in a game with no explosions for long enough). The difficulty slide was smart! For more of a challenge past that, the game has built-in challenges that you can check off at the Start Menu. You get silly trophies (like three rocks stacked on top of each other is a trophy?) for completing the tasks - such as reaching a score of 20,000.


Game Mechanics:

Zenses: Ocean doesn't take full advantage of the DS's abilities, but it still uses the stylus pretty much to the exclusion of all else. The only time you use a button is to press Start. This allows you to exit the game, set a challenge, or see high scores. You use the stylus to poke stones, pearls, and shells in Zen-Stones, Pearl Diver, Turtle Turn, and Wave Breaker. The fun little pokey stick is also used to drag and drop glow fish parts, and shells in Shell Twirl and Hot Spot. I had a few problems with Pearl Diver control-wise. Sometimes it would connect two pearls without my permission, when I was only trying to look for a triangle to make. With Hot Spot and Shell Twirl, it was occasionally annoying to get the parts to match up or the shells to go to their respective slots. Overall, the controls were very accurate, I just had the occasional annoyances with those specific games.

Zenses: Ocean pretty much saved my sanity. I have been doing Visual Fields at my father's office for the last few weeks, and I was running out of books to read while I waited on blind people to take an hour-long test. I flipped the volume down (which made me sad) and played the game until I had - almost - beat every score my sister had told me not to beat. I still can't smash her Pearl Diver score. The kid is a freak.

I think this game is a good one to have around. It would be great for long flights, vacations with family members that you don't really care for, and pretty much killing time anywhere and everywhere that you happen to need some time assassinated. Buy it and add it to your collection of brain expanders for the DS.


-Phate Kills, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Field

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