Gary Eng Walk
April 07, 2009 AT 08:56 PM EDT

After the rip-roaring success of the Wii and the steady dominance of the DS, Nintendo is more than likely going to be the last company to ask for a financial bailout package. The House That Mario built will, however, be asking gamers to open their wallets one more time for the new DSi, which came out last weekend.

Compared to the older DS, the DSi is a bit slimmer, has larger dual screens, and, at $170, costs $40 more. The DSi also sports a matte finish (the DS has a glossy finish that was prone to fingerprints and scratches), adds a SD card slot for storing media, and loses the DS’s ability to play legacy Game Boy Advance games. The DSi’s secret sauce — and the reason for the “i” — is the addition of two camera lenses, one facing outward and one inward.

The 0.3 mega-pixel lenses are primitive by today’s standards: Yourcell phone’s camera takes better pictures. But like the Wii, the DSi isall about maximizing the fun quotient, not state-of-the-art technology.To wit, the DSi can apply all sorts of zany effects to the pictures yousnap with it. You can use the touchscreen to stretch your face like itwas made of Silly Putty or create a trippy kaleidoscopic collage. Thecoolest effect is merge, which creates a hybrid image of two faces.

So far, Wario Ware: Snapped, which DSi owners can downloadonline through the new DSi Shop, is the only game that makes use of thecamera. It puts your image in a bunch of mini-games (e.g. shake yourhead to make a wet dog shake off beads of water) but like some of thephoto effect tools, it won’t work well unless you have ideal lightingand positioning within the frame.

Generally, I like the look and feel of the DSi and think the dualcameras have a ton of potential. Its low-tech features (in addition tothe low-resolution cameras, the DSi’s Wi-Fi specs are outdated) drag itdown, so I wouldn’t be able to give it more than a B-, though.

What’s your take on the DSi, Popwatchers? Are you tempted to upgrade or are you sticking with your trusty DS?

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