It's time to check in on the three cheapest video game systems - the Nintendo DS, the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation Portable. Interesting little things are happening with each.
Sony's PlayStation 2 just dropped in price to $99. That makes it the most affordable system on the market. The caveat for both the PlayStation 2 and Sony's handheld PSP ($170) is that there aren't enough games coming out for either. For the month of May, I count six new releases for PS 2, and five new games for PSP. It's possible to find enough good games to keep you happy. But come on, Sony. Bring the new!
On the other hand, the month of May welcomes 37 new titles for Nintendo's handheld DS Lite - but most DS titles are vapid or aimed at kids, like I Love Beauty: Hollywood Makeover. I don't need a Hollywood makeover from a video game system.
The DS Lite ($130) is the world's best-selling game system. Parents buy the DS Lite if they're worried about mature game content, because DS games are kid-friendly. And very casual gamers, oftentimes females, prefer cute little Mario adventures, foreign-language trainers and Tetris-like brainteasers that play easily on the little DS.
But suddenly, there are two different DS systems - the DS Lite and the new DSi ($170). Which one is best for casual gamers and kids?
Both the DS Lite and DSi let you can play any DS game, from Gardening Mama to Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and beyond. You can also play old Game Boy Advance titles on the DS Lite. But the new DSi does not let you play Game Boy Advance disks.
To make up for that deficiency, you could turn the DSi into your iTunes music player. The DSi comes with an SD card slot. However, you need to own or buy an SD card and equipment to upload AAC music files onto the SD card (since iTunes plays AAC files). That sounds like work and money to me. And be warned, the DSi does not play MP3s.
As for playing games on the DSi, its twin screens are a smidgen larger than the previous DS Lite screens - now 3.25 inches, not just 3 inches.
The DSi's other ta-dah moment: It comes with two built-in cameras that take photos on par with mobile phone cameras. One camera faces inward. The other camera faces outward. That way, you can look at images of yourself and, at the same time, a friend across from you. You can also warp the images. That's silly, but it's a selling point.
The PS 2 is still a very good machine, especially if you're broke.
The PSP is excellent, but you have to scrounge for great games.
And if you already own a DS, it hardly makes sense to spend $170 to upgrade to the DSi. But if you don't own a DS and want one, you might as well choose the DSi, since you'll get extras, including downloadable games.