Handheld editions of classic board games are typically not anticipated with much excitement, in part because there's a certain coldness about playing them against a computer. Not all are completely contingent upon human interaction, but beating a faceless opponent is distinctly less satisfying than defeating, say, your know-it-all, snot-faced cousin who thinks he's better than you.
So why do we still download chess, checkers and the like to every handheld device we buy? Because some games' core mechanics lend themselves rather well to pick-up-and-play handheld experiences, because some games will always hold a special place in our hearts, and because some games are so much fun that it just doesn't matter.
This is one of those games. Absolute Reversi doesn't offer anything particularly new or innovative, but its simple yet strategic gameplay is a perfect fit for a DSiWare download, and the inclusion of local multiplayer means that you can still get that face-to-face interaction that makes board games so much fun in the first place.
Reversi (also known as Othello) is a game that excels because of its simplicity. Played by two opponents on an eight by eight chequered board, the object is to have the most pieces in your possession by the end. Each player has a set of circles of customisable colour, and the goal is to capture your opponent's by trapping them between two or more of your own, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. Once a piece is captured, it becomes yours and switches to your set's hue. The game ends when either each space on the board has been filled or neither player can make any legal moves.
The controls and presentation are as simple and accessible as the gameplay itself. The top screen shows the score, while the bottom displays the board. A simple tap of the stylus places your piece, or you can use the D-pad and A button. One particularly nice feature for newcomers is the “assistance” button; pressing X will show the player all of his or her possible moves for that turn, but not which is the best.
The game's AI is fairly good — not adaptive-difficulty good, but good enough to keep you challenged and entertained. Jumping from a beginner to advanced setting, the difference is immediately obvious: in the latter, computer players have much more defined, ruthless strategies, so you'll really have to rethink your game.
If playing a regular round of Reversi in the curiously named Free-Play Mode gets tiresome, there's a somewhat decent selection of challenges to choose from in the more appropriately named Challenge Mode. While these mostly consist of beating your opponent by a certain amount of points, they provide a somewhat interesting diversion for veteran players looking for something else that's a bit more difficult.
There is one genuine problem with the gameplay. The computer players often take their turns rather quickly — so quickly, in fact, that it's often difficult to tell exactly where they placed their piece. This can make it tough to follow the action at times, especially for novices. Learning from one's mistakes is essential in a game like this, and while Absolute Reversi certainly doesn't render it impossible, it does make it much more difficult than it probably should be. How can players learn from their errors if they can't tell what went wrong in the first place?
Still, Reversi is a great fit for a handheld. One could conceivably play through an entire game in five minutes, giving it a great pick-up-and-play appeal, while a match between two strategically-minded players could potentially last an hour.
As with Absolute Chess, there's a strange assortment of pointless anime characters to choose from, and the game is best played with the volume in the off position. There is one thing about the Absolute series, however, that we at Nintendo Life applaud as loudly and with as much vigour as humanly possible: the consistent inclusion of Download Play.
This is something that many DSiWare developers seem to foolishly ignore in favour of multi-card play or, more often than not, including no multiplayer options whatsoever. The first is severely limiting as it whittles down the player's possible opponents to those who happen to own a DSi and have purchased the same game. With Download Play included, any owner of Absolute Reversi can face off in a two-player game with anyone that has any version of the DS — yes, even the portly original.
Absolute Reversi doesn't do anything new or revolutionary, but it clearly doesn't set out to do so. Its inherently enticing gameplay and relatively short nature gives it great pick-up-and-play appeal, and while single player mode likely won't keep you enthralled for hours on end, its multiplayer very well might. The inclusion of these strange anime characters is still pointless and confusing, and computer opponents take their turns so swiftly that it's sometimes difficult to keep up with the action, but interested players are encouraged to take the 200 point plunge.