"Touching is good!" That's what Nintendo has been telling us in an extensive ad campaign since their much-hyped Nintendo DS was released, but up until now, what proof have we had?
A bunch of early DS releases, such as Super Mario 64 DS, were just rehashed Game Boy Advance titles that didn't take full advantage of the new gadget's touch screen. So how could Nintendo be so sure that touching is good if they haven't given us anything good to touch?
But now that the newness of the DS has worn off, it's finally time for Nintendo to get down to business and offer up some games that take advantage of the portable system's complete capabilities. And with that weighing on the large, sophisticated brains of the Nintendo team, two recent releases look to prove just how good touching can be.
Yoshi Touch & Go and Pokemon Dash both render the control pad and buttons worthless -- it's just you and your PDA-like stylus pen against the video game baddies. In Yoshi Touch & Go, you control the path that lovable Yoshi takes as he carries Baby Mario on his backside. Touching is ... personal. Very, very personal.
Yoshi Touch and Go is refreshingly simple in an age of big budget, true-to-life video game epics. There are only two levels -- the first is vertical-scrolling and Yoshi and Mario are falling, and the second is side-scrolling and Yoshi and Mario are walking. In both, the best buds are in constant motion -- they're unstoppable! -- and your goal is merely to guide them to safety from enemies and obstacles by drawing a pathway of clouds on the touch screen to guide them, picking up coins along the way.
Touching a spot on the screen with the pen makes Yoshi hurl a shell in that direction, and drawing a circle of clouds around an enemy or coin traps it in a bubble and enables you to float it in whichever direction you choose. Blowing into the DS's microphone erases all the clouds, and if an enemy so much as grazes you once -- it's all over, pal.
The game's simplicity is also one of its drawbacks, however. There aren't many gameplay options: try to collect tons of coins in the score attack mode, or try to cover as much distance as possible in the marathon mode. Either way the game's over before you know it, and the only thing separating victory from defeat is whether or not you were able to log a high score. The game leaves you wanting more, and it would probably be better as a level or mini-game within a more complete Mario title.
Which is actually the same complaint I have with Pokemon Dash. It too seems like it would be better off as part of a larger Pokemon game.
As the electric rodent Pikachu, you race through deserts, swamps, forests and other scenery using, again, the touch of the pen on the DS's bottom screen. You have to keep moving the stylus back and forth (as if you're scratching out an ex's face in a photo) in Pikachu's path to make him run, and pretty soon you feel like you've just penned a sequel to "The Brothers Karamazov" but have no manuscript to show for it.
Pokemon Dash is fun for about 15 minutes, which happens to be the exact amount of time you can play before you need to seek out some black market Vioxx for your arthritic wrists.
Both of these games hint at the promise of original, more complete Nintendo DS titles to come, but for now the final judgment appears to be: Touching is ... so-so.
By Joey Arak