October is National Arts and Humanities Month, and Nintendo has marked the occasion with the release of two new titles that capitalize on the DS/3DS legacy of nontraditional gameplay. Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone!, the latest entry in the art training series that dates back to the early days of the DSiWare service, promises dozens of tutorials for creators of all skill levels. Once again in-game art instructor Vince provides step-by-step instructions and a little moral support as you learn the ins and outs of paints, pencils and pastels.
Beginning with a single subject still life and building into the subtle intricacies of portraiture, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! makes great use of the 3DS touchscreen, allowing for precision control during sketching or more loose, fluid movements as you blend paint. Manipulating this virtual canvas is nice, but the real strength is the control provided over the lessons themselves. You can pause and replay the individual (and often numerous) tutorial steps, and set up save points in the creation process for those times when a piece goes too far south to be properly salvaged.
A Free Paint mode and 3D camera support means that there’s never a bad time for inspiration to strike, and SpotPass features include both personal sharing options and the ability to download new custom lessons from fellow artists. Though it works fine on both configurations, this latest chapter in the Art Academy series truly benefits from the increased screen real estate of the new 3DS XL. After playing around with previous iterations on my old DSi, I can honestly say that the larger touch screen certainly gave greater control over detail work and the 3D top display provides for much more realistic depth with regard to the projects’ various subjects.
For those more interested in language than visual art, October 1st also saw the release of Crosswords Plus. The ultimate in airport time-wasters comes to the 3DS with 1,000 puzzles spread across four different difficulty levels. From simple square grids to its expansive Giant Crosswords, this game uses direction pad controls (used for things like selecting vertical or horizontal letter placement) and solid handwriting recognition to craft a truly enjoyable digital crossword experience.
Players are rated based on how quickly and accurately puzzles are completed, but an integrated hint system can do everything from clue you in to misplaced letters to fill in a particularly tricky word in its entirety. StreetPass enables gamers to share and receive crosswords, and additional puzzles are regularly available via SpotPass for broadband-enabled systems. And that’s not all that Nintendo’s done to enrich this updated take on the classic gaming experience.
The Word of the Day feature offers an easy way to supplement your vocabulary, while the Word Paths minigame – a freeform puzzle format that challenges players to chain together a series of words in connected puzzle boxes beginning with the Word of the Day – and periodic Word Quizzes help reinforce what you’ve learned. There are also additional word searches and anagram puzzles that further beef up an already impressive offering.
Both titles are available now for $29.99 in the standard cartridge-based format and as direct downloads from Nintendo’s eShop. As sacrificing your valuable 3DS game slot to such a casual title may be asking a bit much, a digital version is certainly the way to go. Having Crosswords Plus, my personal favorite of the two, readily available on my system has already proven advantageous when I need a quick break from my typical RPG/action fare, and Club Nintendo members have an even more compelling reason to pick these up as downloadables.
Purchase either through the Nintendo eShop before January 6th, 2013, and you’ll get a free download of Donkey Kong: Original Edition. (Arcade nerds will understand that this version includes the oft-neglected cement factory level.) I’m sure there’s some way to relate this exclusive release to the humanities as well, I’m just not clever enough to see it.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America