Reviewed: July 17, 2007
Released: June 25, 2007
Now here’s a title that appeared out of nowhere, completely blindsiding me and my entire family, and has been holding us as its own willing hostages ever since. Funny thing, because if I never would have never given TouchMaster – and its collection of casual touch-based games – so much as a second glance. Working for GameChronicles sure has its perks.
I have to admit, when I tossed the TouchMaster cartridge in my DS for the first time I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. I knew it was supposed to be a puzzle game of some sort, but had not yet taken the time to so much as read the box, much less do any background investigation. But then, as if magic, once the initial menu loaded and I knew absolutely, positively, 100% what was in store – because I had seen this game so many times before, sitting at the corner of my local bar.
Yes, TouchMaster is indeed a port of the touch screeen gaming machines taking up valuable bar top real estate at local watering holes and drinking establishments worldwide. And while the DS version of TouchMaster never really ventures any deeper than the simple tap-based gameplay of its countertop cousin, the sheer number of games included makes this one of the best collections of casual gaming this side of the internet.
In all, TouchMaster features 23 casual games, including an assortment of Solitaire card games, tile-based matching puzzles, one-touch action games, and even a couple variations on Checkers and Yahtzee.
Most of the games are simple to understand, fun to play, and hard to master. There are a couple that are downright confusing – in particular the games Artifact, which is a bit like Minesweeper in a clock movement, or Times Square, which I still don’t understand – but for the most part, the games are short, sweet and easy to pick up and play.
My personal favorites in the collection are Up Lift (a variation on the Aces High), 5 Star General (a Yahtzee knockoff), and Go Wild (a rapid-fire card matching game), and the highly addictive Hot Hoops (a carnival-style basketball shooting title). My wife was especially happy about the word-nerd games like Trivia and Word Search (self explanatory), and Wordz (a knockoff on Wheel of Fortune).
TouchMaster does include online functionality in the form of leaderboards and online tournaments, but gameplay is not head-to-head. Still, it is nice to see how you measure up with the thousands of other TouchMaster gamers worldwide.
TouchMaster’s visuals are on par with the outdated bar top cabinets from which it is ported, yet still seem to look right at home on the DS. Since most of the games are tile or card-based, there is no need for highly detailed rendering, but the developers have done a nice job of contouring and shading, giving buttons and tiles a bit of dimension.
The only real place where the visuals are hindered is with the card-stacking games like Power Cell and Solitaire, where the DS’s screen proves a bit too small to render the distinguishing details between spades and clubs within the stacks of cards. While this does not pose too much of a problem with simple alternating color games, it does make things a bit hard in the suit-based matching games.
I must admit that TouchMaster’s sound quality is surprisingly good – at least as good as a handheld port of a collection of casual games can be. Most games have a one or more background music tracks and sound effects, and most of it is a bit more palatable than the midi-friendly fare that often accompanies web-based Flash games.
Considering the fact that I have personally seen certain barflies drop quarter after quarter in the TouchMaster game at their local watering hole, a mere $30 to have the 23 of the highly addictive games at your disposal is very little to ask.
The problem comes in with the fact that most of the 23 games are very much geared toward adult casual gamers – which is not the audience that the Nintendo DS is geared for. So, for a majority of the DS-owning households, TouchMaster would have to be purchased by parents to play on their children’s DS.
Brain Age and Big Brain Academy were successful at bringing adults into the gaming fray, but I am not so sure that TouchMaster is going to have that same draw. And it’s a shame, because gamers will be playing TouchMaster’s games long after they have given up on the repetitious brain straining mini-assignments.
TouchMaster might not be the deepest or the most rewarding game to ever hit the DS, but it is a lot of fun. The kids might find the tap-based gameplay to be a bit slow, but adults are sure to be hooked on the addictive gameplay.