N Amer - 06/25/2007
No matter what developments occur, hardcore gamers will always be our industry’s most important consumer. We’re the most loyal, we’re the first to buy new games, and we bring in the most dollars. Still, with the growth of casual gaming (and the lure of turning casual gamers hardcore), it’d be foolish to ignore this multi-billion-dollar market.
TouchMaster is a casual game that sounds hardcore. Its contents are very quick and user-friendly, including the likes of checkers, solitaire, Mah Jonng Pairs, several number / picture-matching games, and others that can be played with ease by almost anyone. But that name – it sounds intimidating, like a game that that can only be played by the master of, well, touching. Fortunately our industry isn’t required to make game titles literal. If it were, Final Fantasy would have some explaining to do.
Game Contents – Target 21
I’m a sucker for Target 21, a cool variation of the casino card game. You have five slots, a couple dozen cards, and one simple-sounding objective: disperse the cards until each slot adds up to 21. This can be done by adding several cards or as few as two. The king, queen, jack and 10 cards are worth 10 points; aces can be worth either one or 11 points. Adding 21 to three slots is pretty easy. But the choices you make for those slots will influence everything that happens to the rest.
Theoretically there are just the right cards available (and likely a few extra) to get 21 in all five slots every single time. You won’t prove it either way. If two 9 cards appear, where should they be placed? What about two 5 cards? If they appear together, chances are you won’t know where they’ll be needed most until the end. I usually split them up, assuming that they shouldn’t be kept together. But that’s not necessarily what was intended for that particular hand.
Target 21 officially ends after three rounds. However, if you manage to score five 21s in one of the three rounds, the game will continue with bonus rounds, which seem to appear continuously until you fail one or more of the slots. Like so many card games, it’s a bit of a guessing game. In most cases this would turn me off, but I didn’t budge. Target 21 kept holding my attention. It’s the reason why I don’t think I should ever set foot in a real casino – win or lose, they might have a hard time getting me to leave.
I love this game, but as with all the others, it’s way too short. It’s like tic-tac-toe meets Othello meets…I’m not sure what else. There are several circular objects on the screen – the outer ones contain two slots, the inner objects have four, and there are also some that have three. Touch an object and one of its slots will start to glow.
When all of an object’s slots have been lighted, that object will explode and light any nearby objects. Every object you connect with directly (by touching the screen) or indirectly (through explosion) becomes your own. You have an AI opponent that will fight to conquer the territory. The goal is to swap objects until a player eliminates every opposing object on the board.
The easiest offering in the TouchMaster bunch, Go Wild is a game where you must match one of five play cards to any of the three discard sacks. It’s fun but not for long since there aren’t any challenging tasks involved. The cards can be matched by number or by suit, and there are several wild cards that allow anything to be placed on top. Assuming you use your wild cards sparingly, there will always be one there to pull you out of a jam, removing any fragment of challenge that could’ve been had with this game.
This one’s for those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia. Combine two or more cards to form the number 13, a goal that’s fun once, twice…maybe thrice. Not too exciting after that since no other challenge exists.
Just like Phoenix 13 but with one difference: you combine cards to form the number 11.
The title says it all. If you don’t know what this game is, go see the people at Geico and ABC. They’re making a show about cavemen in modern times and could probably use someone that’s been living under a rock.
Power Cell is Classic Solitaire with the addition of a hold function for up to four cards.
3 Peak Deluxe
Three sets of cards, six cards in each set, and three rounds to knock ‘em out. 3 Peak Deluxe is an easy game where the only requirement is to eliminate cards (from the sets, which are referred to as peaks) by finding the ones that are higher or lower than the card showing in your deck. Contrary to solitaire, the colors don’t matter – if you have a 3 of hearts in your deck and there is a 2 of hearts and 4 four of diamonds in one or more of the peaks, either the 2 or 4 may be used since they meet the requirement of being higher or lower than the base card.
While fun at first, this is not the first time a game like 3 Peak Deluxe has appeared on the DS. Expect each round to last no more than a couple of minutes. If you’re good, expect to finish them in less than 60 seconds.
The game tells you that the goal is to get four aces to the top level. That sort of makes sense, until you start to play and can’t figure out how that goal is achieved. I assumed that the aces had to be the first card in each of the four slots, but aces aren’t the first to appear. There is a hold slot (for storing cards that you aren’t ready to use, but it’s only moderately helpful. New cards are tacked onto each row every time the deal button is pressed, which pushes you further away from placing aces at the top.
If you’re confused, join the club (I’m thinking about starting one called the “Confused by a Casual Game Within a Game Club for Gamers”). Then I did the unthinkable and grabbed the instruction booklet, which informed me that to eliminate the bulk cards, I must touch the lesser of an exposed suited card. Not too thrilling – or uplifting.
A game where you form as many pairs of cards as possible.
Pond Kings Checkers
It’s checkers with frogs. It’s checkers with frogs! You know, it doesn’t matter if I use an exclamation mark or not – the words still come out the same.
As a fan of checkers, I enjoyed playing this a couple of times. But I doubt I’ll return.
This one came out of nowhere. While the other TouchMaster games seem to have a card, board, or puzzle element, Hot Hoops is like a very generic arcade game where the only goal is to dunk baskets. You do that by tapping the five on-screen players, which makes them to throw two- and three-pointers. The net moves from side to side, but that’s the only challenge you’ll encounter.
Trivia fanatics aren’t likely to be enthused by questions like, “Who played Monica on Friends?”
5 Star Generals and Pick Up 6
Same game but with dice (5 Star General) or shapes (Pick Up 6). The objective: to meet the demands of the brown tiles. For example, if your tile says, “2x3 of a kind,” then you should look for a dice set that matches that objective. I’m indifferent about these two games – I don’t love or hate them, but could see where some players might be amused.
Drag the stylus across the screen to form words vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
It’s a Bust-a-Move made easy. Eliminate balls by linking up three of the same color or the same number. Could’ve been great, but it’s extremely short and shallow.
Don’t be fooled by the pool table exterior – this game is all pairs. Match the numbers of any two adjacent pool balls to make them disappear.
Mah Jonng Pairs
Another pairs game that has appeared online in multiple forms. Some people love it, but I’ve yet to be become addicted. Maybe next year.
Remove tiles from the board by tapping the screen. It’s like any puzzler where block clusters are wiped out, minus the depth of those games – including the ones you can play online for free.
The anti-bingo. The only problem is that actual bingo is more fun.
Wheel of Fortune is cloned in this brief word jumbler.
Touch two or more gems of the same color to make them disappear. When the appropriate gems are not connected, drag them together (with caution) – every gem that is moved causes other gems to appear. Decent game, but like the rest, it doesn’t have any depth.
Review Scoring Details for TouchMaster
TouchMaster’s responsive controls and generally clear game layout are of a higher quality than the average DS release. However, the gameplay is very shallow – as in “I just started playing and it’s over? What gives!?”
Though there are a couple of games within TouchMaster that can be played until you lose, most of them range from 30 seconds to three minutes. Even if this were the best 30 seconds you’ve ever had, it would still be too short. It isn’t hard to complete these games, thus, the replayability relies on your urge to top your own high score. Or a friend’s high score, if you can find a friend that wants to spend any length of time playing TouchMaster. You can also go online and upload your score, but most gamers aren’t likely to bother.
Card games, generic puzzlers and frog checkers can’t be expected to demonstrate the full force of the Nintendo DS’s power. But maybe they should be.
Like a headache that won’t go away, TouchMaster’s rundown elevator beats are rather painful.
There is some (albeit very slight) challenge in trying to beat your own high score. And if you’re really addicted to any of the included games, you might be compelled to play until you lose, just as I was glued to Target 21. But don’t have any kind of expectations going into TouchMaster. It’s a very low-key experience.
Nothing the world hasn’t seen before: card games, board games, and everything in between. Even those who don’t have a computer and have never played a video game will not be stunned by TouchMaster’s offerings.
You may like one or more of TouchMaster’s games, but it is highly unlikely that you will enjoy them all. It is even less likely that you will enjoy playing more than one or two with a friend, an occurrence which is entirely dependent on the purchase of two game cards – an expense that isn’t worth the money.
For casual gamers seeking virtual checkers, solitaire, and other simple board and Web games, this might be enough. But for the rest of us, TouchMaster isn’t worth touching.
For casual gamers seeking virtual checkers, solitaire, and other simple board and Web games, this might be enough. But for the rest of us, TouchMaster isn’t worth touching
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 07/09/2007