An enjoyable ride on Yoshi, or a painful encounter with the kidnapping Kamek?
Up until now, no game has relied as much on the unique hardware features of the DS as Yoshi Touch & Go. The game is specifically built around the touch screen and dual screens and proves that if used creatively, these features can really open up fresh and exciting gaming experiences. The game also proves that a game needs more than a smart, original concept and a great execution of that concept in order to become a true classic. Size matters too.
The game consists of two parts. One has Baby Mario falling from the sky. He’s on the top screen, while you draw clouds with the stylus on the lower screen in order to direct him out of harm’s way and hopefully, towards coins. Intuitively, blowing into the microphone will remove any clouds you’ve drawn. You can also dispose of enemies by drawing circles around them, which will capture them in bubbles and turn them into coins. The bubble can then be tossed at Baby Mario for a precious score increase.
The second part begins once Baby Mario’s descent comes to an end. On the ground, he gets a ride on Yoshi’s back. Parallel to the first part, you don’t have direct control over Yoshi, as he automatically and constantly walks forward. Drawing lines and circles are still among the most important actions here, but some new control options become available. Eggs – acquired by eating fruit - can be fired in any direction, and bonus points are gained when hitting multiple targets with the same shot. What’s more, Yoshi can leap or carry out his famous flutter jump if you tap him.
In this way, the touch screen serves many different functions, and they all seem natural and logical enough that any player, regardless of skill level, can understand the game right from the get-go. That doesn’t mean that the game is easy, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The gameplay quickly becomes a very frantic affair where a player’s quick mind and quick reactions are what constitute his lifeline. Remembering level layout and conserving egg/ammo supplies help too.
The four modes offered all revolve around beating high-scores. That’s the objective. In Score Attack, your success is measured in how many points you can achieve in 2000 yards. In Time Attack, you must reach and defeat the evil Toadies, who have kidnapped Baby Luigi, as quickly as possible. Marathon is endless in theory, as it doesn’t stop until you get hit. Here, the game records the number of yards traveled. That is also the case in Challenge, but here you’re up against a time limit that increases as you score points. (For a more in-depth description of these modes have a look at Dan’s import review).
The problem with this game structure is that you will probably have seen almost everything the game has to offer within an hour. Some puzzle games like Tetris can handle this structure due to their pure addictiveness. However, Yoshi isn’t quite as addictive. A big part of what makes this game so enjoyable happens when reaching unvisited areas with unknown dangers. Granted, some of the modes throw randomly generated sections at you, however, these don’t feel all that different from each other. Their basic structure is the same, the enemies faced are completely similar, and there’s also little variation visually in the environments you come across. It’s unbelievable that Nintendo didn’t include an “Adventure Mode” with dozens of levels set in different-looking worlds with different enemies. Some crazy boss battles could have been thrown in for good measure, each requiring some unique techniques to overcome. This would have significantly prolonged the game’s life.
Fortunately, they put in a fine two-player vs. mode, accessed via the DS’s Download Play option. Here, your own Yoshi is displayed on the touch screen, whereas your opponent is on the top. You’re basically competing in a race to the finishing line. Hitting multiple targets with one egg makes more enemies appear on the opponent’s screen. This makes the mode very skill-based, but as long as you’re on an equal skill level, it’s a lot of fun.
All in all, Yoshi Touch & Go deserves immense credit for its originality. The whole concept of an “on-rails 2D platformer”, in which the player affects level layout, is simply a stroke of genius. The genre is heavily unexplored with only the original Lemmings springing in mind. And even that game is very different from the action-oriented Yoshi Touch & Go. This game – while not technically outstanding - is artistically pretty, and its control mechanics work almost flawlessly. Still, the game isn’t quite as addictive as the best puzzlers, and that is why Nintendo should have included 50 more levels!