A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a 'M"-rated Grand Theft Auto game. It might look cartoon-like and it's available on a platform embraced by young children, but this game is NOT FOR KIDS. The game is about organized crime, which includes gang violence, assassinations, selling drugs, and prostitution. Players can kill the police or pedestrians and have sex with prostitutes. They will use the DS touch screen to make weapons, including a Molotov cocktail or assembling a gun before assassinating an enemy with it. And the game is laden with foul language.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
To many parents, the Nintendo DS is a "safe" video game platform for kids, with its many "E" (for "Everyone")-rated games including Nintendogs, New Super Mario Bros., and Pokemon titles. This is a good thing as the game system is portable, allowing kids to take the games in the backseat, a bedroom, and other places where parents aren't necessarily looking over their shoulder to check the content. Hold that thought, because the bad boy of video games has made its Nintendo DS debut.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: CHINATOWN WARS is a fast-paced gang-banging adventure set in Liberty City, the same fictitious town as seen in last year's Grand Theft Auto IV as well as past GTA titles. You play as Huang Lee, a wise-cracking hoodlum out to avenge his father's murder and retain control of the Hong Kong Triad, but things don't go as smoothly as planned. Much like the original games in this series (going back a decade), the action is seen from a top-down perspective on the Nintendo DS, but that doesn't mean it's without controversial run-and-gun (and drive-and-survive) missions for seedy characters in the criminal underworld – as well as foul language, sex, and drugs. This open-world "sandbox" game is just as brutal as other GTA titles, so be sure not to ignore the "Mature" rating just because it's on the Nintendo DS and looks like a cartoon.
Is it any good?
Yes, the game is quite good, in fact, thanks to its fully realized world, dozens of challenging missions, optional side-quests (which add to the game's replayability), addictive mini-games (including a "Simon Says-"like exercise to set a timer for a bomb) and wireless multiplayer options that lets you and a friend roam the streets of Liberty City in co-op and head-to-head modes. So long as you're old enough to recognize this game as a piece of adult entertainment – an interactive episode of The Sopranos, if you will – there's no denying the game is fun, easy to control, and packed with plenty of well-crafted game-play.
Because the game is on the Nintendo DS, the touch-screen is used often by the player, usually during mini games that require some sort of environmental manipulation. For example, at the start of the game, Huang is locked in a car right before it is tossed into water, so you need to use the DS stylus to crack the rear window and escape to safety. Later on, you'll use the touch screen for weapons, be it making a Molotov cocktail or assembling a gun before assassinating an enemy with it. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown lives up to the hype – and the celebrated series – but only for players age 17 and older. Let's hope game retailers understand this.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Nintendo made the right decision to allow Rockstar Games create a Grand Theft Auto adventure for a platform synonymous with children? Sure, there have been "M"-rated Nintendo DS games in the past, but nothing as high-profile as this. Is it a good idea to expand the appeal of the Nintendo DS or a bad move that can taint Nintendo's (usually) squeaky clean image?
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.