In Depth Review: Yoshi's Touch and Go [NDS]
Remember Donkey Kong? No, I'm not talking about Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Donkey Kong 64? Think again. Forget about anything you remember from Rare. I'm talking about Donkey Kong in the arcades and on the NES. I'm talking about this:
This is going somewhere, I promise, and has everything to do with Nintendo's touch-screen only title, Yoshi's Touch and Go. Donkey Kong was a game that befitted the classic gaming era: four levels that repeated themselves for as long as you could stay alive, a simple mechanic that was applied around a difficult framework, and motivation to continue gameplay provided by your own will as a true gamer.
For better or for worse, Yoshi's Touch and Go is the Donkey Kong of the DS. And if you ask this reviewer, it's for way, way better.
Yoshi's Touch and Go is deceptively simple. Everything is handled via the touch screen and stylus. You don't even control your protagonists, Mario and Yoshi. You simply draw clouds on the touch screen to guide them on their journey.
Your interaction with the touch screen isn't limited to that. You can also circle enemies with clouds to entrap them in bubbles, turning them into coins. These bubbled coins can then be "flicked" in any direction you please. You can tap on a spot on the touch screen to launch an egg in that direction. And you can make Yoshi jump by tapping on him directly, tapping on him again while airborne to make him flail his feet and "flutter" in the air. Finally, during Yoshi's stages, you also need to guide him to fruits to replenish his egg "ammunition".
So what kind of framework is built around these mechanics? If you were expecting something like Yoshi's Island for the Super Nintendo and Gameboy Advance, you'll find no such thing here. Yoshi's Touch and Go is definitely not a side-scrolling platform-action game. The action is centered around guiding your characters around obstacles similar to Lemmings, testing your aim and perception of angles, and overloading your screen with more hazards than you know what to do with.
Each of the game modes begins with Baby Mario falling through the sky. He remains on the top screen, all the while floating downards praying that you've drawn your clouds to help him avoid floating spiny enemies. Floating Shyguys and Kameks come after him, though you can snare them within bubbles. And of course, in true Mario tradition, there are bundles of coins for you to collect either by guiding Mario towards them or snaring them in bubbles and flicking them towards him.
The second game mode, where Yoshi is carrying Mario from left to right, plays almost identically, though horizontally rather than vertically. There are also plenty of coins and enemies to hit with your eggs that float on the top screen, and require a good sense of angular aim to catch. Couple these goals for the greedy with the various bottomless pits, enemies and fruit, and you've got an intensely frantic experience that's best described as a combination of Lemmings, Missile Command (Google it) and a smattering of Yoshi's Island (for the graphics and the egg-play) built around the ideals of Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong again? It's time I explain the parallel. Like Donkey Kong, Yoshi's Touch and Go one "fault" is the lack of a cohesive "wholeness". You don't travel from World 1 to World 2, and so on. You don't work towards an ultimate goal, and you're not motivated by story. Instead, you simply keep playing randomly generated, somewhat repetitive and endless levels. You only get a single life; when you get hit, you have to start from the beginning of your game-type (either the Mario mode or the Yoshi mode). This makes your motivation to replay the game driven by trying to beat your high score and proving your gaming prowess - like Donkey Kong.
The frantic nature of the game when enemies crowd the screen is what keeps this game lively and entertaining. The totally fresh way of playing a video game by flicking, circling, tapping and drawing on the screen feels natural after only a moment's learning curve. The feeling is like nothing I've ever played before, and yet it still brings back the classic gaming "zen" moments when you're on a roll and you feel like nothing can stop you.
They say games are becoming art, what with drawn out epic stories, Oscar-worthy voice acting, and spiffy graphics. I say that the artistry of a videogame is determined by how well it can ellicit a joyous experience by manually interacting with a piece of software - before the glitz and glamor are added in. Yoshi's Touch and Go is a shining example of this art. But like some art, it's easy to not appreciate what this game is trying to do. If you must have conventional running, jumping, shooting and killing, or you need a story and levels with a beginning and an end, perhaps you're not ready to experience the merging of old and new that Yoshi's Touch and Go has to offer.
But if you're looking for a game that brings the DS' fresh capabilities to an old school, arcade-game skill-based motif, or you just want something differently fresh and fun, this is your game. Highly recommended.