It's never easy having a big brother, someone older and beefier who seems to get all the attention. For an FPS title, siblings don't come any larger than Call of Duty: Black Ops - this year's Moby Dick of the Three S's: Shooting, Stabbing, and Shouting. On the evidence of this DS game, however, developer n-Space doesn't seem too bothered by the pressure. The Florida-based studio has clearly done its best to interpret as much of the core experience as possible, and while the end results don't exactly match the impact of Treyarch's juggernaut, they're not too bad either. As younger brothers go, this is a bit like Danny DeVito in Twins - stumpy and somewhat antagonistic, but still more effective than expected.
Rather than trying to directly copy the plot structure of Full Fat Black Ops (well, the hyperactive mess that was supposed to be a story), BLOPSDS cuts its own swathe through the grubby Cold War history of the Sixties, occasionally flirting with the path taken by the long-suffering Alex Mason. Your first assignment is actually a mission to rescue him from captivity in Cuba, but as veterans of the home console game will already know, this doesn't quite go to plan. After this the campaign decides to start hopping about a bit, flitting between locations, time periods and character perspectives. You'll visit Afghanistan, The Soviet Union and, naturally enough, Vietnam, and every once in a while you'll get to pilot a vehicle or two - including a helicopter and a devastating prototype jet.
BLOPSDS (yes, I'm sticking with the acronym) presents the player with a choice of two control schemes. The first will be immediately familiar to anyone who's sampled a previous stab at FPS gaming on the DS: the D-pad is used to move, your triggers are mapped to the shoulder buttons, and the touch screen is used to aim. It's a rough translation of the classic keyboard 'n' mouse setup, and in theory it offers a very quick way to flit your reticule from target to target.
The alternative setup effectively turns the four face buttons into a makeshift second D-pad, effectively giving you bodged dual-stick controls. As you'd expect, this arrangement is a bit slower and less precise than using the touchscreen to aim, but it's also more immediately intuitive. Under this setting, L is used for aiming down the sights (the other configuration requires you to tap an icon, which is ludicrously impractical) while R pulls the trigger. It's not a perfect translation of the classic setup, but it's not a million miles away either – much in the way that Justin Bieber would still be recognisable if you grafted a gherkin onto his stupid fat forehead.
Unfortunately for all concerned, both arrangements are likely to leave you with a severe case of wanker's cramp after anything more than 10 minutes play. It's a genuinely tragic shortcoming, because in all other respects n-Space has worked wonders. The game is pretty decent looking for what it is, with varied and sizeable environments, and the audio is top notch. These days it's still not uncommon to see console developers skimping on voiceover, here's a humble handheld title where almost everyone has a working gob. Your chatty NPC squadmates offer solid vocal work, and even when the enemy samples get a bit repetitive they tend to be endearingly funny: the Cuban troops occasionally shout something that sounds like, "Hola, Fraggle!"