Dream Trigger 3D review: Here's the first thing that you should know about Dream Trigger 3D: you will die. It's not that it's a particularly tough game. It's just that its unique split-screen shooter set-up is like being asked to rub your tummy while patting your head - that is, with no arms, your stomach in a completely different room and only a fleeting understanding of what the word 'head' is actually supposed to mean.
You use the Circle Pad to move your avatar left, right, up and down the top screen, dodging bullets, annihilating enemies and grabbing power-ups as they drift lazily up the 3D plane.
Hold down the left shoulder button and you become temporarily invulnerable, everything you hit obliterating in an explosion of colour until your bullets runs out. There's a problem, though. All of your enemies are invulnerable too - although no less prone to filling the screen with bullets - until you reveal them by prodding their corresponding space on the touchscreen with your stylus.
You see, the touchscreen houses your sonar, incoming enemies appearing as tiny blips as they swoop into view. A simple tap places a 'sonar ping' on the grid, ready for detonation. There's a rhythm element involved here - as the music and visuals pulse in time, a line slowly moves across the lower screen.
You can place a limited number of sonar pings with the stylus and when the line touches one, it bursts outward, uncloaking all the enemies within the blast radius back up top and restoring some of your bullets in the process as well.
If you want to see something other than the Game Over screen, you'll need to pre-empt enemy formations, placing pings in the path of oncoming foes. All that while avoiding the constant hail of bullets from above, snagging power-ups and chasing enemies about the place. Like we said, you're going to die.
At first, at least. Once everything clicks into place, though, it's surprisingly entertaining busywork. There's huge satisfaction in successfully performing those near-superhuman feats of dexterity and it's also incredibly hypnotic, thanks to the mesmerising visuals and genre-hopping soundtrack.
Dream Trigger features a pretty diverse set of themes for its levels, each offering a new look for your ship, a different backdrop, alternate enemies and a unique musical score that slowly builds as your shooting prowess improves. One minute you'll be flying over clouds against a moonlit sky, the next you're weaving through trees or tumbling through the innards of some electronic monstrosity - all given glorious depth courtesy of the 3DS's magical upper screen.
If there's one significant problem with Dream Trigger 3D's unique shooting set-up, it's that once you've scaled that initial difficulty hump, the game never actually develops its clever idea or ups the challenge, so it quickly becomes a bit of a brainless light and sound show.
It's really a shame, because there's a fair amount on offer here. Like the inventive World Map mode, for example, which sees you progressing through 50 stages of shooting, mini-bosses and some genuinely creative big boss battles.
Ping It On
There's also an enormous selection of clever Achievement-style challenges to tackle, as well as Free Play mode, a Time Attack mode that ditches bosses and bullets and asks you to bring down enemies as fast as possible, and a local Versus mode over Wi-Fi.