It's been more than three months since the Nintendo DS' debut in the states, and there have been very few titles released for the system that have truly justified the creation of a dual-screen, touch-screen system. Though Nintendo has touted the system as hardware that inspires new kinds of gaming, nearly every game for the handheld system so far have been titles that arguably could have been pulled off easily on other gaming systems, portable or console. The same, however, cannot be said for Yoshi Touch & Go
. Nintendo's latest addition to the Nintendo DS library is one of the most original and unique games created for the system so far, and it's truly a design that's unlike anything you've played before. Its use of the touch screen and system microphone as integral parts of the gameplay introduce a lot of creativity, and its excellent wireless two player mode just adds that much more enjoyment to an already one-of-a-kind gaming experience.
Yoshi Touch & Go began its life as "Balloon Trip," an E3 tech demo to demonstrate the idea of dual-screen and touch-screen elements in a simple game design. At the time of its debut, it was unclear how this title would be expanded into a contemporary gaming presentation. Even as the game progressed into development, it wasn't really clear how this idea could be expanded into a full-fledged platform package, at least something that would meet the expectations of players who've experienced past Yoshi games, such as Yoshi's Island and Yoshi Story.
The answer? It doesn't. Yoshi's Touch & Go is pretty cut-and-dry in its presentation, lacking a real meaty storyline or level progression, not really even offering a full-blown conclusion when the set task's complete. It is what it is, a story-less action game that's segmented into two distinct parts. And though there are gaming variations on the two main themes it never grows beyond a simple challenge. But even without a true conclusion or goal, Yoshi Touch & Go's gameplay stands on its own, and returns gaming to the old-school ways: playing for the highest score possible.
In this touch-screen design, players are challenged two-fold: guide a falling Baby Mario down through incredibly hazardous airspace by drawing a path of clouds that will alter his descent. Baby Mario will always be on the upper screen, and since only the lower screen is touch sensitive players must anticipate their cloud path ahead of time and ensure that it will keep the infant hero-in-training safe and out of harm's way. Paths can (and should) be drawn in such a fashion that will guide Mario into coins, which will award a score not just on the value of the coin itself, but also on stringing together coins to create a combo. Additional points are earned by players surrounding enemies in bubbles by drawing a circle around them, and then "flinging" the bubble up to Mario for him to collect the potential points. The score earned in this round determines the colored Yoshi dinosaur at the tail end of the first part of the game, and the dino's color definitely affects the second portion of the challenge.
After Baby Mario makes it safely to the ground, it's on to the second portion. In this challenge, players guide Yoshi through a side-scrolling environment by creating a path of clouds for Yoshi to walk upon. Players have indirect control over Yoshi as he's continuously marching towards the right. By tapping on Yoshi, players can cause him to jump, or flutterjump if the tap is when Yoshi's already in the middle of a leap. And by tapping anywhere else on the screen, Yoshi will throw an egg in that direction which will, potentially, plow into enemies and remove them from the path. Points are scored by hitting enemies and objects with eggs or collecting coins by walking into them; bonus points are earned by hitting multiple objects with a single egg.
The concept of Yoshi Touch & Go is completely original and something never before experienced on a gaming system before, and really speaks volumes of the potential of the Nintendo DS system as a videogame platform. Even the microphone is an integral part of the experience; by blowing onto the system, players can remove a screwed-up cloud pathway out of the way with an intuitive command. The design is incredibly tight with a deceptively addictive challenge, containing that ever important "just one more try!" element that keeps the experience going even after players see everything this game has to offer. And by keeping track of elements such as Yoshi color, the high score table subtly encourages players to best the highest score recorded.
Yoshi Touch & Go even has a fantastic, simple two-player mode that utilizes the wireless function of the Nintendo DS, and only one copy of the game is required for the two systems necessary for the network. Players compete against each other in a single-screen version of the Yoshi portion of the game design; it's a race to the finish line, and since Yoshi runs faster on clouds than on the actual ground, players are encouraged to keep Yoshi airborne. By knocking three or more objects with a single egg, players send hazardous spikes up to their opponent's screen, and because the opposing player is seen on the upper screen it's simple to keep tabs on his progress. This mode, like the entire Yoshi Touch & Go experience, is simple in concept but incredibly addictive, and because it only requires a single cartridge to play, it's a terrific addition to an already great design.
©2005, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved