Assassin's Creed review

Ubisoft's ambitious Assassin's Creed recently wowed gamers and critics alike with its breathtaking open-world presentation and stealth-driven gameplay. While many PS3 and 360 owners are still tackling this holiday hit, Ubisoft is quietly readying to unleash their pocket-picking protagonist in an all-new game.

Ubisoft's ambitious Assassin's Creed recently wowed gamers and critics alike with its breathtaking open-world presentation and stealth-driven gameplay. While many PS3 and 360 owners are still tackling this holiday hit, Ubisoft is quietly readying to unleash their pocket-picking protagonist in an all-new game.

To be fair, Assassin's Creed: Altair's Chronicles is not another horsepower-hogging next-gen title or even a true sequel; it's actually a slick little Nintendo DS entry that serves as a prequel to its console cousin.

It seems too good to be true that we could already be donning the white robes of Altair again so soon. But make no mistake, he's back, he's badass and now he's portable. Obviously, a game created for the DS won't be packing the polygon punch of Altair's previous outing, but based on what we've seen (check out the screens) he still makes quite an impression on the portable; despite the more modest presentation there's no mistaking who's under that white hood. Altair's Chronicles delivers some of the best DS visuals we've seen, and the gameplay looks equally impressive.

Two of the series' staple mechanics make the jump to the dual-screened hand-held: pick-pocketing and, of course, assassinating. The former is represented by a cool little challenge on the DS's lower screen; upon approaching your prey you'll see a close-up of the pocket's interior, where you must fish out the item with your stylus through a timed maze-like minigame. The latter promises a surprisingly--for the DS--robust battle system incorporating heavy and light attacks, blocks, kicks, combos and counters. Beyond stealing and ass-kicking, Altair enjoys platforming, and this new portable venue allows plenty of room for him to stretch his limbs; expect Altair to rope-swing, run, climb and jump through streets and atop roofs in his latest acrobatic outing.

Altair's Chronicles trades the open-world environments of its predecessor for a more linear, level-based approach. The top screen will play host to most of the action, while the lower display will present the player with a handy mission map, complete with objectives and other points of interest. As with the pocket-picking minigame, other touch-sensitive play--an interrogation game is also driven by the stylus--reverts to the bottom screen when cued. This mix of mini touch-screen challenges, platforming play and blade battling come together for a powerful portable experience that should please Altair's faithful following when it hits later this month.