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Kid Icarus Uprising review: Daring reinvention is 3DS's most exciting game yet

3DS's biggest and prettiest blockbuster to date...

Love hurts. No pain no gain. Can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. Why so many ways of saying 'take the bad with the good'? Probably because of the vast number of good things with bad bits. Sustaining third-degree burns from a delicious McDonald's apple pie. Laughing at the Muppets Movie while feeling sexually confused about Miss Piggy. Lining Rupert Murdoch's pockets as you enjoy Game Of Thrones on Sky Atlantic. Now we can add Kid Icarus to the list.

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There's no avoiding it: Uprising hates you. It hates your hands, and it hates your gaming preconceptions. The hand bit is easier to grasp. Or not. You see, Pit's circle pad and stylus controls place the system's entire weight on the left hand (or right, if you're a lefty playing with the Circle Pad Pro). Similar controls in DS's Metroid Prime Hunters gave us cramps, but 3DS has a bonus dimension weighing it down. Needless to say, you needn't fly close to the sun to feel the burn.

Nintendo acknowledge the issue by packaging a plastic stand with the game. Annoyingly, our review handheld was stand-less. However, recreating the effect by crossing our legs and wedging the 3DS into the crook of the knee did prevent the pain. On the downside, the 3DS now smells of inner knee. Sorry about that, Nintendo PR person. Either way: not the most portable of experiences. Wedging hardware into body folds is frowned upon on most bus services.

Pain game

Survive the hand cramps and brain cramps follow. Uprising asks us to do what few games dare: to learn a genuinely new control scheme. The game's ground battles - more on them later - use the touch screen as a makeshift trackball. Dragging the stylus aims Pit's reticule, while flicking the screen causes the camera to spin. Tap during a spin and the view locks in place. As the game neatly surmises, it's "like stopping a spinning globe with your finger". Only to begin with it's closer to stopping a lawnmower blade with your finger: messy and full of swears.

Our first few hours are spent running into walls, overshooting turns and failing to hit enemies. It's an instinctual set-up, and these instincts take time to settle in. Get a feel for simple right-angle turns and you soon grow comfortable with smaller increments. After two hours, you're circle strafing like a pro. It's arguably faster than a second analogue stick, as long as you can unlearn second analogue sticks.

Front-loading a review with misery is kind of a bummer. That said, front- loading a game with misery is kind of a bummer, too. Know about the problems going in and you stand a better chance of overcoming them. And you need to overcome them, because Kid Icarus: Uprising is the freshest Nintendo game in years.

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For a 26-year-old hero, Pit feels fresh as a daisy. Game director Masahiro 'Smash Bros' Sakurai isn't interested in excavating and preserving a forgotten hero. He's syringed the Kid Icarus DNA from a NES cart trapped in amber and spliced it with the potent arcade fun that powered his multi-mascot thumpathon. A Jurassic Lark, if you will.

Perhaps Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a better analogy. Mad professor Sakurai drags a battered 8-bit chassis into his workshop and emerges three years later with the Swiss Army knife of action games. It flies! It fights!
It occasionally lounges in a hot spring! In true Chitty fashion, Uprising even features a (mercifully short) musical number. Phantasmagorical just doesn't do it justice.

Fight or flight

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