Deep down we're all a bunch of packrats, and games like Pokemon and Animal Crossing – designs that focus on the "collection" aspect as entertainment – pretty much confirm this aspect of human nature. Treasure World is a DS game that's far more of a collection experience than Pokemon and Animal Crossing could ever dream to be. The downside is that it puts way more emphasis on item collecting than actual gameplay, but even though there's not much to do within
the Treasure World universe this Aspyr developed Nintendo DS game is still a surprisingly addictive portable experience. And it's a unique way of getting the kids out of the house to go on a treasure hunt.
Treasure World's hook is its ability to sniff out Wi-Fi signals and translate the signal's unique signature into an in-game item. Every Wi-Fi signal – the ones that you use to connect laptops, PCs, iPhones, and other devices – including the Nintendo DS – can be picked up by the Nintendo handheld, and while the system might not be able to use every signal to link up to the internet, Treasure World can still bring value to those signals by rewarding players with objects and goodies when they're captured in the Treasure World universe. And there is an enormous amount of items to score within this game.
The story follows the Star Sweep, an old space-faring man who scours the universe for all sorts of goodies with the help of his robotic buddy the Wish Finder. After crash landing on Earth, he's tasked you to help him refuel his ship with stardust – quite handily, Wi-Fi signals on Earth feature the exact same properties as stardust, so all you have to do is roam the real world scooping up Wi-Fi signals to earn stardust that will refill his tank.
The designers do a lot to engage the user's collection affection. The whole "roam the world" aspect is surprisingly engaging. To earn stardust you simply set your system to scope out signals. Turn it on, close the DS, and drop the system in your bag and wander around. Wi-Fi is a standard part of our technological world, so unless you live on a farm in the middle of Kansas, you're probably going to score a few dozen hits in your first few minutes of Wi-Fi searching. The system will offer up a recognizable (and satisfying) beep when it's discovered a new signal, encouraging players to keep on walking. For my review I travelled all over the San Francisco Bay Area on my mountain bike and in my car, and many times I would deviate from my usual path so that I could investigate areas for Wi-Fi signals that I hadn't yet sniffed out. At the very least, Treasure World does a great job encouraging players to simply get out of the house and explore new areas of their neighborhood.
Items span the entire gamut of randomness. Your on-screen avatar can be customized with wigs, masks, shirts, pants, and belts, and you can earn items like giant robots, anime dolls, 8-bit sprites, teddy bears, and I'm sure I saw a kitchen sink in there somewhere. You can unlock songs and character animations too. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of things in Treasure World to collect, either by grabbing them from Wi-Fi signals or paying for them using collected stardust as money.
If you're musically inclined Treasure World has a pretty decent song constructor that uses all of the items you score in your hunt. Each object has an instrument or sound effect attached to it, and your plot of land is laid out as "sheet music." The location of your object is played as a note in your song, and while your song can only be a few dozen beats long, it allows for a good amount of musical freedom. What's more, the game's online focus opens up the Treasure World community. After you've set up your area you can hit the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and upload your profile to the Club Treasure World website
. Your entire DS profile will be copied over, and the website will mirror every aspect of your progress on the handheld. Your songs created on the DS can be seen and played in a web browser. Your avatar's appearance is displayed along with your stardust score and the amount of specific awards you've earned along the way. It's a well designed website that encourages frequent visits: treasures you earn will open up goodies on the site, with many treasures becoming available on specific days of the year.
Because the game's new and relatively unknown, the online community is pretty small. But there's promise for growth as the website incorporates Facebook-like "friending" other users and the ability to trade items between pals. The website will also soon open up a hotspot locator in a Google Maps engine where players can note the general location of where they found a particularly awesome item.
Treasure World is a tough beast to review because there's not much to the actual "game" portion. In titles like Animal Crossing and Pokemon collection is a big part of the experience, but it's not the only part – in Animal Crossing you build up your collection but then hop off to fish, catch bugs, chat with town folks, and in Pokemon your collection is used as your fighting partners. But Treasure World's focus is entirely on the collection aspect, and there's not much within the game to do beyond simply trying to acquire more stuff. Much of the fun of Treasure World comes from experiences outside of the Nintendo DS cartridge. If you find yourself collecting things simply because it gives you pleasure, then man, is this the game for you.
Treasure World is well designed with really sharp graphics and well established atmosphere. It's hard to ignore the clunkiness of the game's user interface, though. Initially it's a difficult menu system to navigate and understand because the designers use an icon-based system with images that aren't immediately recognizable. Once you figure out which button does what it's not hard to maneuver through the menus, but a game aimed at kids shouldn't overwhelm with so much clutter.
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