Game: Treasure World
Time spent: Approx. 3 hours
Aspyr Media's Treasure World has an irresistibly futuristic concept: it turns any ambient Wi-Fi signals it picks up into in-game items, making the boring world around you suddenly feel like a treasure hunt. Walking to the mailbox could award you a tree, and driving to a Starbucks could net you dozens of items as you briefly pass by both private and public networks. At the same time, you earn money ("Stardust," which is used as fuel for the rocket of the crash-landed space explorer who compels you to do all the treasure hunting), which can be used to buy more stuff.
What do you do with all this stuff? Well, some items (like clothing, facial features, or animations) can be used to personalize your avatar. Non-avatar items all make a different sound, and you can lay your items out to create musical "songscapes," changing pitches and duplicating items to compose the perfect song.
And that's about it. You walk or drive around with your DS on (it can be closed), collect signals from nearby networks (the game merely detects the presence of those signals to generate items, without requiring you to actually connect, so it works just fine with password-protected networks), discover what treasures you've found, buy more treasures, and arrange little tunes. The game can connect to a website, Club Treasure World, to allow players to trade items and Songscapes, and to show off their collections and avatars. It kind of seems like it's half of a really cool game. Like it's Animal Crossing, except all the other animals in town are Wi-Fi signals and the DS does all of the communicating for you. My own experience with the game did not include Club Treasure World; though I explored the website to understand how it worked and what services were offered. Technical issues prevented me from actually linking my own game to the site.
You can choose to look at it in one of two ways: either Treasure World is kind of a pointless amusement and there is no game, or there is a game, but it largely takes place outside of the DS cart, in the exploration of your world through different eyes, and the interaction with other treasure hunters on Club Treasure World. If you're expecting a fully-realized game in the cart, and you want something to sit on your couch and play, this is going to be boring and disappointing.
I personally love the idea of this kind of augmented reality -- overlaying game elements on non-game activities makes the game seem more real and makes real life seem more exciting. But I admit that this first step on the DS isn't quite there yet, simply because I don't feel like there is enough to do besides gathering stuff for its own sake. Even the Songscapes are too short to hold my creative interest for very long. It actually makes me a little sad to say this, because even now, even after I've been playing the game, I want so strongly to love it.