Nintendo DS Review: Populous DS

Can Populous be fun 20 years later on the DS? Not exactly.

Based on the original PC classic, Populous DS brings a re-imagination of the classic game which pioneered the God simulation genre. Featuring touch-screen controls that utilise the dual-screens, players manipulate five elementally-imbued Gods, each with their own unique miracles, within an extensive single-player campaign. In the multiplayer wireless mode, up to four players can unleash earthquakes, tidal waves and raging volcanoes onto rival players’ lands.
Control new gods and miracles – five selectable elementally imbued gods, each with their own unique miracles and demon counterpart

Wield awesome powers with the stylus on the touch-screen while the devastating results of each action are shown on the upper screen

50 challenging single-player missions plus Free Play mode, or connect up to four players to wreak havoc on opponent’s lands

Play the most popular classic maps plus all-new areas

I must admit my only experience with Populous was years ago with a Mega Drive version. At the time it was the first game of its kind that I had played and after years of nothing but side-scrollers and platformers, I just didn’t get it. It’s 2009 and the game that I never quite understood as a kid hits the DS. Will I enjoy it or feel the same confusion from all those years ago?
It’s a bit of both to be honest. I finally get what the game is about, but I’m still confused as to what makes it enjoyable. It seems a tad dull to me, even with the DS controls. It’s disappointing that after 20 years, the game is just as boring as it ever was. I’m not saying it doesn’t have its moments, because it does. There are times where it can be intriguing to play, but in short bursts. If you try and play it constantly then you will arrive at the earlier opinion that I had.

Populous was one of the first games to make you play God, but since then we’ve had much better games like Black and White which took the concept to a higher level. Populous has sadly become stagnant and far too similar, why it hasn’t changed with the times is questionable. I understand that they want it to appeal to old fans, but even they would want something different after 2 decades. Sadly, just adding new maps and touch-screen controls isn’t enough.
Maybe it would have worked better with online instead of local multi-card play. It’s a shame and if included it might have given my final score an extra point overall. I want to like Populous, I really do…it just seemed to be dull back then and it still isn’t exciting after all this time. I would have hoped for something to spruce it up a bit, something unexpected.

The visuals aren’t great either; they hardly push the DS to its limits. It seems they played it safe, which is another disappointment. Audio is also a letdown with forgettable tunes and not much else.

The Verdict

Populous DS is a disappointing game. It lacks innovation and originality; instead it becomes just another version of the dull game. Fans will ultimately enjoy it at first, but may find themselves frustrated that they took no risks in this version. Once again, it’s one for the true fans but the rest will wonder just what the fuss is all about.