TouchMaster Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Mastering the Touch

If you think you’re a master of games like MahJonng and Solitaire, you should prove it by playing TouchMaster. Midway put together a group of old favorites from the TouchMaster arcade, making it easy for us, gamers, to play on-the-go. What else could we ask for?

TouchMaster screenshot

The truth is many of you, like me, might have been addicted to a few of these games for years and years, and the fact that you can play them all in a handheld on your next trip just sounds too good to be true. But no disappointments here, you get what you get: 23 very well designed and fully functional pick-up-and-play games you won’t be able to resist! Sure, you could just go ahead and ignore them, but only if they’re just not your kind of game.

I bought this game exclusively because of MahJonng. MahJonng is a very intuitive game that keeps you active while at the same time causes a strange relaxing effect. I’ve played it on the computer forever and the idea of making it portable sounded great. Not knowing much about the other games, I thought I’d only be playing one or two from the whole cartridge. However, TouchMaster surprised me with a good compilation, and now it’s almost tough to choose what I’m going to play next.

The games are grouped in three categories: skill, cards, and puzzle. Word games were placed in the skill category, along with a couple of arcade-like minigames and a game of dice. The cards category contains nine good games that are not even that similar to each other, which is great. And the puzzle category has my personal favorite, MahJonng, and other clones of games that certainly look familiar. However, there’s not a Tetris clone this time, and that makes me happy. After so many attempts, developers might have finally realized that there’s no reason to redesign the game all over again.

With this great variety of games, and most of them being really good, TouchMaster has become one of the best options for portable entertainment: the kind where you can start playing at anytime and quit at anytime without feeling remorse. Little have I touched other puzzle games since I got TouchMaster, even if this game is not dazzling by any means. In fact, the graphics are a little dated; they’re on the simple side, which is okay, despite the fact that they left us hoping for more. The game should be more colorful, flashy, and energizing. Instead, it’s mostly bland and boring-looking, although if you play it you’ll realize it’s all justified with fantastic gameplay. Dark backgrounds define the whole game; there are no unlockable features and, needless to say, the popular interchangeable game backgrounds that we usually find in newer puzzle games were forgotten in this one. It wouldn’t have been bad to add a bit of customization to the game, so we can each add our own taste.

TouchMaster screenshot

The music is so plain that it’s not “like music-to-your-ears.” You’ll mostly hear the kind of outdated tunes that you’d only find in an arcade; and I’m talking about older arcades. Without much taste and lacking some rhythm, the tunes are not the strongest part of TouchMaster. However, the sound effects do their job and they’ve been chosen quite well, as none of them seem particularly annoying, which is important in games with repetitive gameplay.

Like I said before, the gameplay is the aspect of the game that really shines. When you’re totally submerged into a game of solitaire or trying to find words in a puzzle as quickly as you can, you probably won’t even notice the background, the music, or the look of the tiles, cards, or whatever it may be. The touch screen and stylus combination is the most appropriate for all these games. Nothing feels awkward or slowed down, but the opposite; gameplay is smooth and fast-paced. For me, other than the mouse on the computer, nothing compares to this kind of controls for puzzle games.

TouchMaster screenshot

If cards are your thing, there are quite a few games that will keep you happy. Phoenix 13 was one of my favorites. Cards will be piled up in a pyramid shape, and another group of cards will scroll at the bottom, allowing you to partner one of those with one or more cards from the top, trying to reach the number 13. Of course it helps if you’re not superstitious, as the number 13 is all you’ll think about while you play it. In Double Take, you’ll try to match suits or pairs to score points, and in Triple Eleven you’ll have to try and clear the board by combining cards that equal 11. All these card games are interesting enough to play them frequently; some of them are more addictive than others.

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