I picked up Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass to play on the train, but it quickly crossed the threshold from pleasant commuting distraction to weekend-draining obsession. Why does this game grab me in a way that, say, Twilight Princess completely failed to do?

  1. It’s a direct sequel to Wind Waker in both story and art style, which means more cel-shaded giant heads and wide-open seas.
  2. The sailing feels great: sketch out a route on the map, and the boat handles navigation on its own, giving you time to lounge on the deck, fire your cannon, or just watch the islands on the horizon float by.
  3. If drawing out the route for the boat feels good, drawing it out for the boomerang feels downright sublime. The first time you draw out a path that takes out two monsters, flips a switch, breaks a jar and carries its contents back to you — all in a single stroke — is one of those “this is what the DS was made for” moments.
  4. Digging with the shovel reminds me of playing Animal Crossing, but without any of the residual guilt that comes if I put the game down for a day.
  5. Not only does the game demand that you yell into the mic, it then turns around and makes fun of you for potentially embarrassing yourself in public.
  6. The solution to one puzzle requires you to make an impression of an image onto your map. The solution? Snap your DS shut and then open it back up. I never even imagined using that as a game mechanic.
  7. If I had to play one more Picross puzzle, I would have gone completely insane. I really needed a new game.