This version of the popular music sim was never going to be popular with everyone, but were those people that dismissed the game at first sight right to do so?
For starters, this edition obviously doesn't play the same as the console versions (and is easier since there is no fifth button). The fact that you don't hold a "guitar" in your hands make this feel less like a part of the series, and the new characters and venues make this even more so. What's more, there's only 26 songs (five levels, each with five songs, and then an extra unlockable song available later) available to play. How are they going to make up for all this?
Well, the controls work very well as you play the correct coloured notes and strum along on the touch screen, and the sound and graphics are incomparable to many of the other games that the DS offers. Plus, local multiplayer is included for two players (although you both need the game and controller), and battling the CPU is no longer necessary to continue career mode either. Instead, an extra mode is available where you can play through all of the songs (no separate game save required) in battle mode with another of the characters on offer. Although still not perfect, the mode is improved from the Wii's battle system, with a different selection of DS-specific weapons available, as well as a get-the-highest-score objective, rather than trying to make your opponent fail before the end of the song, thus also making it easier this time round.
Also returning for the DS game is the Store function. Here you can use money that you earn at the end of songs to purchase extra outfits, guitars and guitar styles. Although there is nowhere near as big an array of unlockables as the console versions have (you can't buy extra characters or songs this time), it is still nice to have the feature included.
Plus, there are still in-game features such as hammer-ons (playing more than one note without strumming) and shaking longer notes, but the latter can be quite accident prone since you use the same technique as strumming, and so if you whammy a split-second longer than you should have then the game registers this as an extra strum.
Overall, this game is a nice addition to the catalog of DS games, and with the sequel (out later this year) they can hopefully improve further on the game's length and song choice (some of the songs are god-awful and have been featured in previous GH's anyway), which is what is really holding this game back.
When it comes to the Grip controller, you do get used to the controls after about half an hour and often begin to check that it isn't about to pop out of its slot after a few times of it happening, after which you do get used to it (despite the shrunken down button size and hand cramps every few songs). It really does start to work, and at £30-£40, it isn't a bad piece of kit - now it's just the game length that's letting the grip down.
As a final note, I should mention that the new DS model, the DSi, is not compatible with the Guitar Grip, so be aware of this before purchasing.