November 18, 2009 - I'll bet if someone told you that Assassin's Creed II on the Nintendo DS was a lot like Sonic the Hedgehog, you'd probably have a hard time believing them. That's exactly what happened to me: David Clayman, hot off his trip from Italy and his hands-on play with an early revision of the Nintendo DS version of Assassin's Creed, tried to explain to me just how weird and wonderful the sequel was on the handheld, describing it as a game that feels an awful lot like Sonic the Hedgehog. Always the skeptic, I dismissed his description, but after finally playing through this game I can see exactly what he means. In fact, I'd go one step further: Assassin's Creed II: Discovery is what you'd get if you crossbred SEGA's mascot with UbiSoft's own Prince of Persia. Believe it.

The original Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles, released two years ago on the Nintendo DS, was created by mobile developer Gameloft. That design was a very straightforward, solid-but-glitchy side-scrolling rendition of what Ubi's console team pulled off in the original Assassin's Creed. For Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, Ubisoft recruited the help of Griptonite – the team's 2D/3D hybrid engine used in games like last year's impressive Spiderman: Web of Shadows DS title is being utilized in this title to surprisingly good effect – the game feels a lot like a fast-paced Prince of Persia and plays with similar flair and fluidity of the console version of Assassin's Creed II.

The DS game follows a separate chapter from the console Assassin's Creed II, but you're still Italian assassin Ezio running through missions of both stealth and combat. Or rather, you're playing as a guy named Desmond who's virtually plugged into the past revisiting his ancestor's life into something called the Animus. The game really doesn't do a very good job explaining this "virtual" aspect in the same way that the console game does – in fact, unless you read the manual or have played the console games the whole "Holodeck" element will probably be lost on you because the game doesn't really walk players through the "present day". But where it falters in its explanation, it makes up for it in a unique action experience.

Click here to watch Ezio in action.

Ezio is fast and agile. Crazy fast and agile, in fact. He can run really fast and climb pretty much any ledge he can grab onto. The developers had a great time adding to Ezio's skillset – when this guy ramps up his momentum running across the land or rooftops, he'll be able to leap longer distances or climb up much higher walls without awkward pauses. It's fun exploring all the various locations, finding the best areas to scale and leap from, and when you run through a specific level you'll immediately find yourself lunging through the same area in the opposite direction in a separate escape attempt. Assassin's Creed II: Discovery encourages replay and speedruns because your score's based on time, how many enemies you defeated, and how much damage you took getting to the end. The score you earn can be turned into unlockables – and there are various other challenges to earn by snagging hidden icons – so you'll definitely want to return to levels again and again to improve your time.

The biggest problem, however, is the game's dependence on trial and error design. It's a side-scrolling game, but you can only see a short distance around your character. You'll blindly leap chasms in hopes there's a ledge to grab onto, or fall down in hopes that the ground is just a short drop away. The lower screen displays a radar that shows where off-screen enemies are and their locations, but the game offers no map of the environment so you're on your own when it comes to learning the different city layouts. It's a bit unfair and just a bit frustrating.

That's pretty much my only large complaint about Assassin's Creed: Discovery, though. The game looks great and has some fantastic character animation. It's got a wonderful attention to story – yes, the developers really don't let people in on the whole "21st Century Animus" aspect, but the dialogue is fully spoken by professional voice actors. And the fast-paced gameplay is a rush once you learn the lay of the land.

Closing Comments
I was one of the few reviewers that legitimately enjoyed the first Assassin’s Creed on the Nintendo DS – it had its problems but it was a solid Gameloft effort that captured the console gameplay in a more limiting handheld experience. The sequel, helmed by Griptonite, is a much more ambitious design but in a more restrictive 2D environment. The result is a much more fulfilling and fun DS experience that runs parallel to the far more elaborate console production, and while I had problems with the blind jumps and trial-and-error, mapless gameplay, I had a great time with Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery.

IGN Ratings for Assassin's Creed II: Discovery (DS)
Rating Description See Our Glorious Home Theater Setup!
out of 10 click here for ratings guideGet Ratings Information
7.5 Presentation
Good story, great acting. The game surrounds itself in the virtual Animus, but unless you're up on the console version you won't understand why things glitch away or sparkle.
8.0 Graphics
The 3D engine is very detailed and offers some great character animation. Close up kills are pretty spectacular.
9.0 Sound
Love the epic soundtrack and the voice work.
8.0 Gameplay
It's very fun and a hell of a ride, but you'll have to deal with the trial and error gameplay with annoying blind jumps.
8.0 Lasting Appeal
Even when you blow through the main adventure in a few hours, you still should return to the levels for better times and all the unlockable extras.
8.0
Impressive
OVERALL
(out of 10 / not an average)