'GTA' shocks, rocks its way onto Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS, long viewed as a family-friendly video game platform with games such as Nintendogs,New Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon, is getting some new attitude.

The bad boy of video games has made its Nintendo DS debut. Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a Mature-rated gang-banging adventure now available for the portable player, challenging you to take control of the criminal underground in the fictitious Liberty City.

Now that we've established Chinatown Wars isn't for kids, the good news is this over-the-top mobster playground is packed with many hours of exhilarating missions for adult players.

You play as Huang Lee, a wise-cracking character out to avenge the murder of his mob boss father and retain control of the Hong Kong Triad. After narrowly escaping an assassination attempt upon arriving on U.S. soil, Huang inches toward his goal by taking on seedy missions for colorful characters, including taking out rival gangs (with more than 20 kinds of weapons), driving goods quickly from one point in the city to another, evading the cops, and attempting to retrieve a stolen family heirloom, a sword, for his uncle Kenny.

Savvy players are looking at about 10 hours to complete the main objectives (as outlined on your in-game PDA) as well as optional nonlinear side missions. Plus, this is the first game in the series to allow you to replay a completed mission to get a better score or faster time.

Much like in the original Grand Theft Auto titles dating back to 1997, the action is seen from a top-down perspective on the Nintendo DS screens, so the vehicles look like Matchbox cars and on-foot fighting scenes aren't too graphic because of the cartoon visuals. Minigames that require you to use a stylus on the lower touch-screen, however, offer a close-up perspective of your task, be it hot-wiring a car, tattooing new Triad recruits or setting the timer on a bomb.

Chinatown Wars also offers wireless multiplayer options that let you and a friend roam the streets in co-op and head-to-head modes. An example of a cooperative mode is "Defend the Base," in which two players work together to protect targets under attack. A competitive mode like "Stash Dash" has one player racing across the map to take control over a delivery van and drive it to a safehouse while the second player must stop the first in any way possible (such as shooting weapons or ramming his vehicle in the opponent's).

As long as you're old enough to recognize this game as a piece of adult entertainment, there's no denying Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is fun, easy to control and packed with plenty of well-crafted game play.

Contact Saltzman at gnstech@gannett.com.