Nintendo 2DS

At AU$149, the 2DS offers a huge array of compelling software and makes for a great entry-level gaming system to the uninitiated first-time gamer. Just be sure to buy a protective case along with it, too.

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When Nintendo has announced some of its recent products, the collective reaction on the Internet has often been, "Is this a joke?" Sometimes, Nintendo gets the last laugh. The name "Wii" was widely derided, but that console went on to become a smashing success. Other times, the result is more curious than funny: 3DS Circle Pad Pro, anyone?

The Nintendo 2DS was greeted with similar disbelieving howls when it was first announced in late August ("A 3DS without the 3D? Really?"), but now that I've actually spent some time with it, I can say it's not completely outrageous. Indeed, for younger gamers, especially those under seven who are warned off gaming in 3D on the cover of every 3DS game, this less expensive (AU$149) no-frills gaming handheld device may be just the ticket. Add in Nintendo's kid-friendly, decade-strong gaming library, dominated by Pokemon, Mario and Donkey Kong titles, and you've got an electronic babysitter that's cheaper and more durable than an iPod Touch or even a "real" 3DS.

In this review, I'll be looking at the target audience for the 2DS and its overall performance. For a detailed review of the previous 3DS models, check out my review of the AU$199 3DS or the big-screen AU$249 3DS XL, both of which are still available.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Look and feel

The first thing I thought when I picked up the 2DS was "this feels cheap". But I guess that's the point. It's not designed for an adult gamer. In fact, it's for the opposite demographic. The 2DS is crafted with the youngest gamer in mind, stripping away mostly every moving part in a move that's probably done to avoid breakage of any kind.

The 2DS' slate design looks a bit odd because it doesn't close like previous Nintendo clamshell devices. That said, its wedge shape certainly fits nicely in your hands. It's lightweight (about 260g) and retains most of the same button placements present in the other two concurrent 3DS models.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The major differences are the locations of the start/select buttons and the placement of one single speaker for audio playback, which now seems to be missing a punch. All the usual suspects are on-board and accounted for, plus Nintendo has upped the size of the included SD card to 4GB.

The screen sizes are the same as the original 3DS', but of course, the buttons are now flanked around the top screen as opposed to the lower touchscreen. This makes for a finagled adjustment period, especially if you're used to the old layout.

Aside from lacking the 3D effect on the top screen, there's nothing the 2DS can't do that the 3DS and XL can. (Yes, the 2DS can play all the 3DS games and most DS/DSi games.) The 2DS can even take 3D photos with its dual lenses around the back. It also has the same power connection interface as all the other 3DS models, although this version won't fit in any charging dock.

Since it can't be closed like the 3DS and XL, the screens can be put in standby mode by sliding a sleep switch on the bottom right of the 2DS.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

You know… for kids!

Since the 2DS is intended for younger gamers, it's only right that I let a few have a go. I handed it off to my cousins, a nine-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl, for a few hours.

I noticed they had some trouble really wrapping their hands around the device, as opposed to my gigantic paws that cradle it with ease. The big shoulder buttons seemed to work out well, and there was also no issue in regard to stylus play. The lightweight 2DS isn't a strain for young ones, whereas heavier portable devices may be more cumbersome.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The plastic encasing that holds the 2DS together doesn't seem like the strongest material ever constructed, but it should do the job surviving the occasional bumps and bruises that a child might expose it to. That said, a drop on to a hard surface from a few feet up might spell the end of your 2DS for good. Also, the plastic window that protects the top screen looks like it's just begging to be cracked.

As childproof as the 2DS might be, it's not impervious to the gunk and grime that children will almost certainly introduce to the system. To help ease the pain of a worried parent, Nintendo is selling a padded foam zipper case for the 2DS that also holds three game cards. I'd implore anyone to buy this along with the system no matter what age it's purchased for.

(Credit: Nintendo)

Battery performance

Like I stated earlier, the 2DS is a completely capable little machine missing only the ability to display 3D games. With that omission, I figured I'd notice an improvement in battery life, but unfortunately, that's not the case. In my few days of playing around with the 2DS, I couldn't discern any bump in battery life whatsoever. It's not any worse than the 3DS XL, though, so you'll still get around three to five hours of play time.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Final thoughts

I'll admit, I initially scoffed at the 2DS because I didn't realise who it was for. It's not for me, and it's probably not for the older gamer who still plays portable consoles. Instead, it's almost the perfect fit for a child's first gaming system (especially if you're tired of your kid bogarting your iPhone).

The 2DS' price is right, and the archive of available compatible software is more than enough for anyone, so there shouldn't be much deliberation in that department. A better battery life really would have benefited the 2DS considering its target audience, but it's tough to knock at just AU$149 (although a $99 price tag would've been even sweeter).


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