This week's Microsoft media blitz might lead you to believe that Halo 3 rules the gaming world, but let's not forget the 47 million Nintendo DS owners across the globe. While portable gamers didn't quite get their Halo-sized hit in September, here are the past month's DS games that came closest.
Sonic Rush Adventure (dev. Sega): My complaints about Sonic the Hedgehog games come off like a bitter wife in a Lifetime movie: Remember when things were simple, Sonic? Thankfully, Sega wised up in 2005 with Sonic Rush, a side-scrolling return to the series' roots. And Sonic Rush Adventure is actually an improvement—old-school run-and-jump speed, smart levels, and subtle tweaks to the controls. Though the sequel adds a hokey plot and lame watercraft minigames, the stumbles are redeemed by the series' first online mode. Nice surprises like that are the key to a long relationship.
Worms: Open Warfare 2 (dev. Team17): Worms games have deftly combined turn-based warfare with cute, squealing invertebrates for over a decade. Take control of worm teams as they blast each other with grenades, bazookas and, er, savage attack sheep in battles that strike a golden balance between simplicity, humor, and depth. The previous DS Worms game was a badly designed dud, but this go-round ranks among the series' best yet, thanks in large part to a robust online arena that simplifies the matchmaking process. There's plenty to do solo, particularly in the puzzle modes, but human opponents are the meat of this game. For the most part, you win by either pulling off lucky grenade tosses or catching your foe in a big screwup; either way, the resulting satisfaction (and smack talk) is usually off the charts.
Namco Museum DS (dev. Namco): It's bad enough that this arcade collection is missing biggies like Ms. Pac-Man and Pole Position. Worse, the titles that remain, like Galaga and Pac-Man, look blurry and squished, as they were meant for a vertical screen. You can fix this by switching a few options to play the DS on its side, but resulting hand cramps from the weird position don't help.
What saves this buggy collection is a special minigame: Pac-Man Vs., a little-known multiplayer title that Nintendo released a few years ago for the GameCube. One person plays as Pac-Man, the rest play as ghosts—with limited vision, mind you—hunting the yellow hero down. It's a solid 3-D twist on the classic, and if you have three friends with DSs, consider the minigame enough to warrant a Museum purchase.