Deal or No Deal DS Review

Noel Edmonds scares me. Whether it’s the beard, the crappy jumpers or maybe it’s the zombie-esque way he returned from the dead to stand at the helm of Channel 4’s game show Deal or No Deal. Aside from showing every single day of the week in the UK, the seemingly unstoppable format has been syndicated across the globe, though reports that Noel Edmonds was cloned to host them all remain unproven (and entirely made up by me).

The really interesting thing about Deal or No Deal, however, is that it requires absolutely no skill whatsoever to play. Despite what the contestants appear to think, the game is entirely at the mercy of random causality. Like Schrodinger’s cat, there is no way of knowing what’s in the box until the bearded wonder pops the lid and looks inside (incidentally, wouldn’t the format be very much improved if Noel had to open boxes containing real live wild cats with numbers tattooed on their sides? Ratings and beard fragments would soar). Either way, creating a DS game on the concept is baffling. If I wanted to play with randomly generated numbers, I’d buy some dice, not a twenty quid software title.

So it was with some qualms that I put Deal or No Deal into my scared and battle-hardened DS Lite. Do you want to know how Mindscape, the company tasked with creating this technological diversion, managed to build in added challenge and replayability? Well, so would I, as Deal or No Deal appears to be akin more to a bleak featureless void than a genuine attempt to create a playable, enjoyable recreation of the Deal or No Deal experience for fans of the TV show. Almost every feature of the game is shoddy, and does nothing to build on the essentially bland format of the actual game.

For instance, the sole reason that the TV show is so popular is the rapport and banter between the contestants and the host. Noel builds up a friendly relationship, acting both as a congratulator and commiserator depending on how the game goes. His role as foil to the pantomime “banker” also cannot be understated, as it provides genuine moments of levity and helps fabricate the fiction of the game requiring actual skill to succeed. Obviously, every copy of the game cannot come with a free appearance from Noel, so it’s up to the designers to attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the show, both through varied and witty in-game dialogue and simulated tension. Clearly, as we aren’t risking real money, the game has to grab us in a different way.

Unfortunately, the in-game dialogue is poorly written, pathetically un-funny tripe, delivered only when the awfully drawn Noel speaks to the banker at the end of each turn. The limited number of such exchanges means that they repeat often, usually more than once in the span of a single game. There is no communication with the other contestants whatsoever, and not even a hint of an audience. The graphics are terrible – entirely 2D, blocky and pixelated. I certainly hope that Noel Edmonds never gets to see his depiction in this game, as he’ll be straight on to his lawyers to sue for defamation of character. The other contestants range from ugly to mutant, with a disturbing number of the “sexy” female characters looking like men with make-up. Furthermore, you’ll have to get used to them, as exactly the same characters are in every game you play. No variation, no interesting quirky people.

The music and sound-effects are similarly awful. The “tension” noise that plays when you choose your next boxes to open is enough to set your teeth on edge, and the theme tune is laughably bad, more akin to a midi file interpretation on the NES rather than a modern console. About the best sound in-game is the banker’s telephone, and that’s just because it didn’t make me want to tear out the cartridge and snap it in half.

So far, so bad. Aside from the usual Deal or No Deal game, there are also two other modes. One has you playing as the banker, while the computer plays as the contestant. This is as boring as it sounds, as you have to watch the full game, as if it were being played by a real person. Occasionally getting to plug numbers into a calculator is as exciting as this game mode gets, and once played will never be touched again.

The final game mode is something of an attempt to get to the family fun market. The game is essentially the same, but instead of having money up for grabs, forfeits are the aim of the game. By forfeits, the game refers to such menial tasks as cooking, washing up and going out to buy a better DS game. There are unlockable modes with forfeits for friends, for family and for couples, as well as a custom forfeit mode, in which you make up your own menial tasks to be completed by the loser. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that far, as unlocking each mode requires you to win a set amount of money in the normal game. Given how deary a task this would have proven to be, you’ll have to forgive me for giving up.

In summary, Mindscape have succeeded in turning a mildly compulsive TV game show into the most mind-numbing cash-in title I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. If you’ve got a close friend or relative who loves the show, and you don’t particularly like them much, buy them Deal or No Deal for their DS, and bask in their resentful animosity for the rest of your days.

Now, I really must be getting on. These angry wild cats aren’t going to post themselves to Noel on their own. Where’d I put that masking tape?