Assassin's Creed II: Discovery
Assassin's Creed goes 2-D in this short yet superb DS adventure.
Ubisoft's sleek assassin already made a killing (literally) on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with Assassin's Creed II, and as you could see from our recent review, he hit the PSP with Bloodlines. Now we have Assassin's Creed II: Discovery on DS, a game that's a monumental improvement over the previously released Altair's Chronicles.
Rather than go with another botched 3-D engine, Griptonite Games made Discovery a wonderful 2-D-style platformer. You'll guide Ezio, the anti-hero from Assassin's Creed II, through city streets, striking fear into the hearts of his Templar enemies.
Most of the game has you performing acrobatics. He'll run along steep surfaces and make death-defying jumps to buildings and hang onto ledges as guards patrol the area, unaware of his presence (unless you make them aware). Sneaking is a huge part of the game, as you'll take down guards from behind and hide in haystacks. A helpful mini-map appears on the bottom of the screen, showing you enemy locations so you don't jump too far ahead. Sadly, there's no pointer to show you where your next objective is. You'll have to locate that on your own.
Rather than try its luck with touch-screen gimmickry (like last year's Prince of Persia: The Fallen King), Griptonite went with a traditional d-pad/button control scheme for Assassin's Creed. It pays off for the most part, although there are times you'll still make errors, such as mistiming a jump (and falling to your death) or ending up in unnecessary combat with a guard because you didn't sneak properly. It's all part of the learning process, so don't get discouraged.
For a Nintendo DS game, Assassin's Creed II: Discovery looks slick. The graphic presentation may not be as highly detailed as other Assassin's games, but for a 2-D effort, it's good. The city looks like an actual locale, rather than plastered-on wallpaper. Villagers will look on as you take out guards and perform feats usually reserved for circus performers. We also like the way the camera goes close-up for stealth kills, even though the game lacks bloody carnage. (It's rated T for Teen, just so you know.)
The sound is also quite effective. All the characters in the game speak, and while none of them sound quite as good as Ezio, they get the job done. In addition, the occasional music and brutal sound effects are fun to listen to.
If Assassin's Creed comes up short in any category, it's value. You'll beat the game in a matter of hours, with no real reason to play through it again unless you missed a guard or two on your first run. Even worse, there's no payoff. The game just...ends.
Still, it's the journey, not the destination. The fact that Assassin's Creed II: Discovery works this well is reason for celebration. There's no clunkiness like there was in Altair's Chronicles, only great 2-D platforming and a cool presentation. This is a pleasant Discovery indeed.
What's Hot: Excellent 2-D platforming that uses traditional DS controls, you kill guards in a number of exciting ways, terrific graphics and music.
What's Not: Story is much shorter than other games and doesn't have a great payoff, not a heavy amount of blood or carnage (it's Teen rated).