A game based on an obscure Nickelodeon TV show that's halfway decent? And they said it couldn't be done!
I’m as shocked as you are.
Drake & Josh is apparently a Nickelodeon show in which two wise-cracking high school chums who have high school…adventures. And if the game is any guide, they’re constantly losing things. Also, Drake is a guitarist while Josh prefers pulling rabbits out of hats. After reading fellow editor Jonathan Metts's review of the GBA version of this "series," I understandably expected the worst. Timed sneaking missions? Puzzle-solving? I was petrified. But it turns out that Jonathan just got the wrong game—Drake & Josh: Talent Showdown is a surprisingly fun romp, and it's nothing like the GBA version.
In this DS adventure, the boys are competing in the "Teen American Talent." In order to win that competition, though, they must go through rigorous and lengthy fetch-quests, practice their guitar solos, entertain people with magic tricks, and escape the evil clutches of bullies. About 90% of the gameplay involves you controlling Drake and Josh, switching between them with a tap of the L or R button. The boys have individual talents with which to deal with high school trappings. Drake has a water gun, a fire extinguisher, and running shoes. Josh has flash powder (how’d he manage to get that?), his magic bunny hat, and the ability to make bullies ignore him. The basic premise of the game is to run around finding people to give you keys and items while avoiding the omnipresent threat of bullies and jocks, who enjoy stealing your…is that supposed to be lunch money? And shoving you on the floor. Bullies are dealt with via Drake’s weapons or Josh’s flash powder. While trying to find people, the boys collect trophies to increase their energy bars and guitar picks to increase the bonus during guitar mini-games.
Basically, the game is one giant fetch quest. Find person A, get key B, make your way to door C, etc. And the game would suffer were it not for two lifesavers: Josh’s compass and the witty dialogue. Like that of the Grand Theft Auto games, Josh’s compass does not necessarily point North, or even Magnetic North, but instead toward your next destination. Were it not for this handy feature, wandering the halls of Belleview High would be an exercise in utter futility and frustration. Also, whenever you begin a new level or talk to somebody, the lower screen displays the conversation between the boys and/or the NPC. I often smiled or chuckled during these brief interludes. The writing has a "Penny Arcade" quality to it, minus the rampant swearing. After several levels of fetch-questing, you’ll be treated to a fairly entertaining guitar jam session. The interface is strikingly Guitar Hero-like: notes scroll across the screen from left to right, but instead of different frets, you press different directions on the D-pad (or, for you left-handers, the ABXY buttons), then tap or strum the notes with your stylus as they pass over a target area. While even the "Hard" challenges are by no means difficult, the thought put into this mini-game is appreciated. Likewise, doing a magic trick with Josh is not a simple matter of pressing B. Instead, you must navigate a simplistic maze with your stylus without going outside the lines in order to successfully pull off the trick.
The graphics are quite good—the core gameplay features a top-down perspective, in which polygonal characters run around a polygonal environment. Everything is colorful, and the different main environments (high school, hotel, talent show) are distinct and have unique character models. There is occasional slowdown when you’re running through a jammed environment with two bullies on your tail, and upon close inspection, the polygonal characters don’t really have faces outside of smilies, but it’s a good effort. The same can’t be said for the music. There are only two or three level themes, and they bleed together after awhile. Yeah, they’re spunky tunes, but I expected more.
When not involved in the main quest, which is surprisingly long, you can practice your magic tricks and guitar riffs from the main menu. Overall, Drake & Josh: Talent Showdown is a surprisingly robust game. While it probably won’t interest hardcore DS owners who are awaiting more 1st party efforts, casual gamers and kid gamers can really get into it. It might not be the deepest game in my DS library, but it’s fun nonetheless, and isn’t that what really matters?