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DS Fanboy review: Thylus

Now that we've had plenty of time to play around with the package from Thylus we received Friday, we're prepared to write up a full review. The product has its quirks and it takes a bit getting used to, but once we spent enough time with it and got comfortable, we were generally having a fun time.

Fitting the product to our thumb just right also took a couple of tries, but once it fit, it didn't move around or become undone, offering us a nice fit and ease of use. Of course, all the comfort in the world is useless if the product can't perform, right? The key question is: why would anyone spend money on this when they have a stylus built-in to the DS (and the improved stylus that is included with the DS Lite)?

In order to test this thing out and answer that question, we decided to grab four of our most stylus-dependent games. We chose Meteos, Trauma Center: Under the Knife, Super Mario 64 DS and Metroid Prime Hunters. But, before we could leap into the games and make a decision on which is better, we had to take some time to get used to the Thylus. But first, we had to figure out just how one puts this thing together ...

After scratching our head for a couple minutes, looking at the rubber bead strand and two plastic pieces, along with carrying case for the assembled product, we headed to the Thylus website for the exact directions of assembly. No dice, as the site does not offer a step-by-step guide to put the thing together. Heading back to the table with the pieces, we found the directions to be on the back of the package and eventually figured out how to bring the pieces all together into the final product (it was pretty simple, actually).

Now that we had it together, we were ready to start using it. Placing it on our thumb, we found the fit to be snug and comfortable. The thing really doesn't feel intrusive or get in the way much, allowing one to switch to stylus control and still use their thumb to press buttons or use the d-pad (depending on whether you're left or right handed). After fitting it just the way we wanted it, we headed into Pictochat to do our first precision test against the DS Lite's included stylus.

Our complete inability to take a proper picture aside, initially the stylus won out and gave us a smoother, more clean performance. Chalk that one up to years of using pencils to be sure, so we spent some more time in Pictochat, getting comfortable with the Thylus. After about an hour of using it there, the stylus still won out in terms of cleaner lines. No problem though, who uses Pictochat that often, anyway? It's time to see how it performed with our four games:

Super Mario 64 DS:
The Thylus worked well in this game, allowing us to move Mario around with ease. Also, with nothing really too useful to the player going on in the bottom screen, our gigantic thumb blocking most of its contents to our eyes was no big deal and didn't get in the way of the experience. Using the stylus provided similar ease of control, however considering the fact that we are right handed, really got in the way of the buttons. We tried to switch it to our left hand, but then Mario moved around more like he was drunk than anything else.

DS Fanboy says: Thylus wins!

Trauma Center: Under the Knife:
With so much needing to be seen by the player on the bottom screen of this game, we knew the Thylus was going to give us trouble. And, it did. Compared to the stylus, our surgery success rate was a lot lower and our stitches were incredibly sloppy. Some things were fine with the Thylus, however, such as pulling glass and spreading the antibacterial gel, but more complex things such as making incisions really weren't possible. There was no doubt in our minds that the player just has to use the stylus here.

DS Fanboy says: Stylus wins!

Again, with so much information necessary to the player going on in the bottom screen, and with the blocks being so tiny, we knew going in that the Thylus wouldn't give us much help here. Our predictions came true, as making horizontal and vertical lines to shoot the blocks off into the air was too difficult. With the stylus we can actually see what we are doing and be more precise in our selection of which blocks to move, whereas the Thylus offers no such aid.

DS Fanboy says: Stylus wins!

Metroid Prime Hunters:

With this game, we knew that, like Super Mario 64 DS, the bottom screen doesn't hold much information necessary to the player. So, with that in mind, we felt confident that the Thylus would work well, perhaps better than the stylus. It turns out the Thylus exceeded our expectations as using it provided no hand cramps the likes of which we'd experienced in the past using the stylus. Precision was better for us with the Thylus too as we killed enemies more effectively.

DS Fanboy says: Thylus wins!

So, there's what we had to say in playing some games with the Thylus and stylus, comparing the two. Does the Thylus invalidate the included stylus? No, it really doesn't, but the experience we had using it taught us that the gaming experience is changed greatly with it when compared to the stylus. As you can see above, the experience is changed for the better, but sometimes the Thylus is more of a burden than it is helpful.

Really, it all depends on the game you're playing. If you're one who loves Metroid Prime Hunters or Super Mario 64 DS but just can't have much fun playing because you hate the stylus and don't want to use the d-pad, then yes the Thylus is for you. Most of us, however, will be just fine using Nintendo's included stylus.

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