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Platform: Nintendo DS
Given the huge success of the Guitar Hero series on every home console format known to man, I guess it was inevitable that it would eventually hit the handhelds. The only real question was how on earth Activision and Red Octane would get it to work. I first suspected the answer would just be a fairly simple game of carefully timed jabs at the touchscreen, much like the Pocket PC version of Guitar Hero III if you've seen it. Admirably, Activision and Red Octane clearly felt that was a compromise too far. Instead, Guitar Hero: On Tour comes with its own 'guitar grip' plug-in and - for better or worse - plays as true to the full Guitar Hero experience as you're likely to get on a handheld system.
The grip plugs into the GBA cartridge slot at the bottom of the DS Lite (and an adaptor is provided for those still saddled with a first-generation DS). Fold your hand around the grip and squeeze it through the adjustable strap, and you hold the DS like a book, using your left hand to press the four coloured keys while using your right to strum the strings of a virtual guitar on the touchscreen. In effect, you're doing exactly what you'd do in Guitar Hero III on the PS3 or 360, only without the extra button on the higher difficulty settings.
Up to a point, it's a great way to do things. Unfortunately, you'll reach that point within ten to twenty minutes of play. If you have small hands, you'll have a nightmarish time trying to get your little finger to curl over far enough to hit the blue button. If you have large hands, you'll struggle to fit your hand on the grip and manipulate all four buttons with your meaty sausage-like fingers. Helpfully, the manual and the in-game tips suggest trying different hand positions and varying them from time to time, but the simple fact is that, however you hold the DS, playing Guitar Hero: On Tour is a fairly uncomfortable business. First you find a good position, then you can't see the screen. Twist your hand to see the screen, and your wrist ends up at some bizarre angle that practically screams 'bring the pain!' Mark my words: there will be class action lawsuits over this one in the states.
For the record, I'd suggest playing the game sitting down with the hand holding the DS resting on your lap. You'll still be grimacing after twenty minutes, but give your hand a good shake and it soon wears off.
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