Touchmaster Review

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Publisher: Midway
Developer: Midway

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

Play an assortment of 23 games that made their way from the coin operated Touchmaster machines to this Touchmaster card for the DS. Many have multiplayer options and all allow players to post public high scores or participate in tournaments over the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection.

Kyle Ackerman

Anyone who's ever been into a bar or theme restaurant has probably seen a Touchmaster machine. Most are countertop units – a coin-operated machine with simple games played on a touch screen. And if you've ever been a computer-game playing geek in a bar, you've probably considered grabbing your pint, strolling over to the nicotine-encrusted unit, dropping in your coins and settling down to a little game, instead of socializing with the other patrons. Perhaps if you're more social, you've been part of a laughing group racing through the Touchmaster's assortment of fast-paced games.

Those Touchmaster bar units came from Midway, and now you can play those very same games on your DS. Not only can kids now enjoy the game, antisocial misfits don't even have to venture into a bar for a drink and a quick game of Mahki. Given the touch-screen interface of the DS, the Touchmaster games were just itching to port to the handheld platform. You can even replicate the multiplayer bar fun by passing the DS back and forth, connecting to another DS wirelessly, or joining tournaments over the DS Wi-Fi connection.

Touchmaster is a collection of 23 different, short games. Midway groups them into card, skill and puzzle games. Card games include simplified versions of familiar solitaire games and games like Target 21, based on familiar casino games. Skill games include basic games like checkers and trivia as well as variations on Yahtzee. The puzzle category ranges from straightforward symbol matching games to a “Wheel of Fortune"-like word puzzle.

Some of the Touchmaster games are decidedly banal, like the word hunt (find words in a big grid of letters), but others are quite sophisticated and bring you back for session after session. Mahki is the classic Touchmaster game, in which you try to eliminate all the blocks in a field, and it requires a surprising level of forethought. While games like Artifact combine logic and strategy to create captivating competitions.

All the games are designed to be short and sweet – remember their coin-op origin. But they follow an open-ended bonus round pattern, in which if you do badly, the game is very short. Perform well in a single short round and you'll unlock a bonus round. Do well in the bonus round and you can unlock more bonus rounds, leading to skyrocketing scores and longer play.

Not all of the games are nail-biters, but there's more than enough variety to please everyone with a DS. Besides, much of the appeal of Touchmaster is the ability to play in multiplayer matches or compare high scores with the rest of the world. Touchmaster uses the DS Wi-Fi connection to post high scores publicly. There are even tournaments, with Mahki competitions every Monday and other game tournaments on Thursdays. (Midway has posted a full schedule of Touchmaster tournaments.)

The whole process of connecting to the servers is a little irritating. Presumably, the decision was made to minimize connection time and save battery power, but that means you connect to upload a score, disconnect and then reconnect to look at the global high scores (and then disconnect yet again before playing on). Or connect to download a tournament, disconnect, play and then reconnect (and disconnect) to upload your results.

But aside from the delays that occur when using the DS Wi-Fi connection, everything is dandy. Admittedly, most of these games can be found, often for free, for your PC. But unless you plan on taking a laptop everywhere you go, Touchmaster is easily portable and offers a few game variants you won't find anywhere else. And honestly, Touchmaster would be easier to recommend at a bargain price, but there's still fun to be had.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 8, 2007 8:40 AM.

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