Read signs in Japan, even if you don’t know Japanese – International travel tip

Afraid to visit Japan because you can’t read the signs? Are you intimidated by all the Kanji? Don’t worry! First, buy a Nintendo DS, and then, buy a Japanese/English dictionary cartridge called: Kanji Sonomama Rakubiki Jiten.

No matter how bad your Kanji stroke order is, and no matter how sloppy your handwriting, this dictionary helps you read Kanji in a light and compact way. After you write the character, it will show you the various English translations.

It also breaks down the Kanji into hiragana and katakana for a simple read for those with limited Japanese language training.

Product review – Professor Layton and the Curious Village (for Nintendo DS)

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I take the scope of “travel gadgets” pretty liberally.

In the past, I’ve looked at an inkjet printer, and various Bluetooth headphones.

My product review for today is another of those things that may not appear to be directly travel related, but I’ll try my best to explain why I think you could benefit from it on the road.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village is a game designed for the Nintendo DS and DSi portable gaming console. The game revolves around the adventures of Professor Layton in search of “the Golden Apple”.

Now, there are literally thousands of video games out there, so why did I feel this one was worthy of its own review here on Gadling, and why didn’t I just leave the game reviews to our friends at Joystiq?

Well, there are several reasons. The most important is of course that the game is just good clean fun. There is no shooting, no ripping the heads off zombies, and no complicated combination of keys to punch your opponents in the face.

Instead, the game is built around loads of puzzles and brain teasers. Some of them should be no problem for us travelers, as they involve following directions and reading maps.

The game pace is nice and calm, making it perfect for killing some time at the airport or on a flight, and since the Nintendo DS can be put to “sleep” just by closing it, you won’t be slaughtered by aliens when you need to get up and use the bathroom, you can simply put it aside, and continue where you left off. Battery life is also great for travel, at around 19 hours non stop fun.

As I said – the puzzles are a ton of fun, some will take you a couple of seconds to figure out, others will drive you insane while you try and figure them out.

I am by no means a gamer, and most games annoy me since I usually die in the first 3 minutes, but Professor Layton and the Curious Village has me hooked, and I’m finding myself bringing the Nintendo DS everywhere I go, and playing some more when I can.

The combination of a challenging game with a very travel friendly game console is fantastic, and I am already dreading the moment when I finish this game, because it means I’ll have to find more games to play! In addition to games, the Nintendo DS can also be used as a language coach when you add one of the 5 language games to it.

The game is available from all video game retailers, and costs $29.95. If you don’t yet own a Nintendo DS, you can pick one up for $129.99, or the new Nintendo DSi with a larger screen and a camera for $169.99. If you’d like to take the game for a spin, check out the Professor Layton web site, where you can play a demo.

“Hero on the Hudson”: Play it on Gadling!

Maybe it’s too soon for this, but there’s already a popular online game inspired by the recent emergency landing on the Hudson River. “Hero on the Hudson” isn’t terribly sophisticated, but it gets the point across. You are in the left seat, acting as US Airways Flight 1549 pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Your plane is headed toward the Hudson River, and you need to take action.

This free game was put together by Orb Games Ltd. The company, which is based in Kiev, Ukraine, has been around since 2006 and is responsible for such popular (and viral) titles as “Duke Nukem Endangered Species,” “Star Wars Galaxies” and “Vivisector: Beast Inside.” Orb also developed games for Nintendo DS and Sony’s Playstation and PSP consoles.

According to company CEO Andriy Sharanevych, the “Hero on the Hudson” was created around a week and a half ago, only days after Sully brought his bird down west of Manhattan. Sharanevych claims that the miracle of the event is what prompted the game’s development: “We just wanted people to understand and not to forget that this is not for granted, so we tried to make a game that would remind everyone about this miraculous event.”

I know I’m a cynic, and I do wonder if this is just convenient admiration to mask just a bit of opportunism (which I really don’t fault anyway). Apparently, I’m not alone.

Find out what users think after the jump, and take your own shot at the landing!Sharanevych has received mixed feedback from users, many of whom have considered the game “heartless.” But, the CEO defends himself with the scripted monologue, “[W]e deliberately made it very simple to make a successful landing in the game, as this is the game about the miracle and not a tragedy. You can play a role of a pilot, who will save hundreds of lives behind him and bring joy, happiness and hope to millions of people.”

Stunt or salute, it’s definitely brought home results. “Hero on the Hudson was played more than 1.5 million times in the first week it was available. And, more traffic is expected.

Read the entire interview with Sharanevych here.

View our ongoing coverage of Flight 1549.

Ready to play? Click and hold with your mouse, then move it around to try to swing the plane into a safer landing position.

Play Games at AddictingGames

Daily deal – Nintendo DS Lite – Pink ribbon edition for $99.95

UPDATE: Sorry, the deal is already over.

My daily deal for today is for the Nintendo DS Lite (Limited Edition Pink Ribbon edition). This portable gaming console usually retails for $129, but if you select the limited edition version at, you can pick one up for just $99.95.

I’ve carried a Nintendo DS Lite for for quite some time when I travel, and it is the perfect way to kill a couple of hours in the air (or on the ground if you are unlucky). I’ve always found that the battery life of the DS Lite is more than enough for several hours of non stop gaming, and the standard headphone jack means you can plug in your (noise canceling) headphones and play in peace and quiet.

Of course, the unit does not come with any games, so expect to invest some more to pick up games. When you click the link to Amazon, be sure to select the “Limited Edition Pink Ribbon” version, or you will not see the low price.