Explore your inner wizard on your Nintendo DS

Harry Potter wannabes need not wait until the June release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for spell-casting in their video gaming. Konami's foray into wizard-in-training gaming, Magician's Quest Mysterious Times for the Nintendo DS, is on retail shelves now.

Magician's Quest Mysterious Times is a life simulation game in which you design a female or male character and then enroll in Magic School. As a wizard-in-training, you attend classes, talk with fellow students, shop in the town and explore the lands surrounding the school while perfecting your magical abilities.

This game plays differently than most because it is tied to real time and is designed to be played slowly over a year. For example, you can only take one class in each subject per 24-hour period. Also, the game has 52 mysterious events, with only one appearing per week. The real time aspect also shows up in the details of the game. If you are playing at night, for instance, it will be dark in the game. You will notice that the weather varies, as do the seasons.

Although the game unfolds slowly, there is always plenty to do because there are many different aspects of game play to explore. There is always collecting to be done in terms of finding mushrooms, seedlings and flowers that can be exchanged for money at the Emporium store. And you can always go fishing or catch bugs by changing your magic wand into either a fishing pole or a bug net.

Another avenue of play is performing magic. The game teaches you how to do magic and incantation in your classes. You transform into a wizard by spinning around, using your stylus; and once changed, you can choose special symbols to cast magical spells. By casting the Treasure Hunt Magic trick, you can see buried treasure on the screen and then dig it up. Various incantations can be used on characters to change the way they feel about you or to do silly things, like make mushrooms grow in their dorm room.

Talking to others is another constant form of game play. Each character has its own artificial intelligence. By talking to the others, you might develop a friend, and in the right circumstance, a youthful romance might blossom. The giving of gifts and sending of telegrams helps to cement these relationships. But if you are snarky in your responses or standoffish, you might find that the others start gossiping about you.

The 52 weekly mysterious events vary greatly, but all involve the arrival of a new character. In one, you will help a dragon with a broken wing, and in another you will persuade Death not to take the soul of a character who works in the post office.

The game has charming, colorful 3-D graphics that span both of the DS screens. And each location has pleasing music, some of which you can "learn" and then whistle or play later using a musical instrument that you buy. You can also design your own clothing.

Friends who also own the game and exchange "friend codes" can play cooperatively via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection or over the Internet.

Magician's Quest Mysterious Times is a delightful world to explore if you like gentle, casual games. While there is broom-flying, this game isn't a good fit for kids looking for a game that is fast-paced with a lot of action. There is a lot of wandering around to see what happens. And the edgiest this game gets is that some of the magic is performed in a bathroom stall, and one spell can force others to pass gas.

Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine. Contact her at gnstech@gannett.com.

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