For many years now, I have been a puzzle game freak. In the 90's (and before the internet was what it is now), I browsed through used video game stores and video game magazines looking for anything for my Super Nintendo and Game Boy that might be non-violent, non-childish, non-stressful and non-sports. I would find the occasional puzzle game that I liked (Bust A Move, Tetris, Dr. Mario, WildSnake), with a few "fun even if they aren't of the puzzle variety" side-scrolling platform games thrown in (Donkey Kong Country was my favorite). So when the Nintendo DS came out (of course we bought it immediately) and I started to see a major explosion of puzzle games and other games that grown women (like myself) and grown men (like my boyfriend) could enjoy, I was in heaven. I have been a video game addict since 1977 - and there is no end to my addiction in sight. Enter into the picture TouchMaster for Nintendo DS.
Recommend this product?
Despite its strange name (TouchMaster? Who thought that one up?) and its strange packaging graphics (mini touch screens with full-size styli touching them? Again..who that one up?), TouchMaster has something for everyone - and I do mean everyone. Whether you are 9 or 99, you will find a game within this game that you will like - and probably a few to which you will become addicted.
There are 23 games within TouchMaster. All require the use of the DS touch screen and stylus. The games are split up into three categories: Cards, Skilland Puzzle. Once you have played a few games, a fourth category, Favorites appears at the menu screen, which consists of the top four that the system has discovered that you have played the most.
The games in the Cards category are: Uplift, Solitaire Classic, Power Cell, Double Take, Triple Elevens, Phoenix 13, Go Wild, 3 Peak Deluxe and Target 21. Games in the Skill category are: 5 Star Generals, Pick-Up 6, Trivia, Word Search, Hot Hoops, Pond Kings Checkers and Artifact. The Puzzle category includes Crystal Balls, Mahki, Pairs, Times Square, Mah Jongg Pairs, Gem Slide and Wordz.
Most games are easy to play with no time limits, while a few are a bit more challenging and fast-moving with time limits. All of the games have the one-player option, most have the two-player option, and some also have the two-player wireless option (requiring the Nintendo WiFi Connection and two DS systems containing separate game cards). Some also have the Tournament option, where the DS will go online and look for tournaments or information on upcoming tournaments on the Midway Tournament Server.
Most of the 23 games take just a few minutes to play a round (alone or with an opponent). You can keep playing without having to leave the game - you will just keep playing on to the next round, and the system saves your score after each round. The system will not save a game in progress if you have to shut down the DS shortly after beginning a game.
TouchMaster was released on June 25, 2007 by Midway.
My Experience with TouchMaster:
When I first bought TouchMaster, I literally popped it into the DS and started playing. I just picked a game from the game menu (which are divided into the categories I mentioned above) that looked good to me and started playing it. Most of the games have brief directions on the starting screen but sometimes even those directions aren't needed. For example, when you select Mahki from the menu, the next screen that comes up gives you the directions in one sentence - "Score points by matching two or more similar touching tiles". You then start your game right from that screen. Those directions were definitely sufficient for me to play Mahki. I figured out what to do right away - touch the groups of same-color tiles once to select them, and again to eliminate them. They clear from the board and you move on to the next group. Easy. This game is a bit like Tetris but even more low-key.
For any of the 23 games, if the on-screen directions are not enough, the Instruction Booklet that comes with TouchMaster goes into more detail on each game.
I have had TouchMaster for probably eight weeks now and have not played all of the games as of yet. There are a few that I keep going back to that I love, such as Wordz. This game is a mixture of Hangman and Wheel of Fortune and moves along at a pretty fast clip. No waiting for Vanna to walk across the stage and move the letters or tell me it's my turn, and no waiting on my AI opponent - because it's always my turn. This game has the simplicity of Hangman (six wrong guesses and you're done) and the variety of Wheel of Fortune (word categories, up-to-date phrase and words and a Wheel of Fortune-like gameboard).
Other games that I find particularly fun are Trivia, Mah Jongg Pairs, Crystal Balls and Word Search. Trivia is a fairly simple trivia question game that gives you six categories to choose from (Music, General Wisdom, History, Film & Television, Kids and Sports), then gives you a question and four multiple choice answers. You get two guesses to get the answer right. Believe me when I say that I play the Kids category more often than I play the rest of the categories, because the questions in the other categories can be hard! This game is fun for those who have 20 minutes at a time. Crystal Balls is a game that is vaguely on the order of Super Bubble Pop. Colored balls with numbers come out of the top of the screen and you have to guide them onto either the same color ball or a ball with the same number. If you get three colored balls or three of the same number in a row horizontally, vertically or diagonally, they clear from the board. If the board gets too high, you're dead. This is another game good for those with 15 minutes at a time.
Mah Jongg Pairs is just like regular Mah Jongg. Select two matching non-landlocked tiles to make them disappear, with the goal being to clear the entire board. Word Search is like a Word Search puzzle book - find the words from the list and circle them. In this case, you just run your stylus from the first letter of the word to the last, and the system circles the word for you.
Actually, all of the games in TouchMaster are good for those with 15 minutes at a time. Or two hours. Or an entire afternoon. There is so much variety here for ALL ages. My mother, who is 59, had a garage sale with us last month. She got so addicted to Mahki and some of the card games that she bought her own copy of TouchMaster and is currently using my original non-Lite DS. So there's definitely something for everyone here. Games that I think kids would particularly enjoy are Pond Kings Checkers, Hot Hoops, Mahki and Crystal Balls - although it depends on the kid. Some of today's kids need tons of graphics, tons of violence and lots of technology in their video games. These games are probably more suited for kids who need something to do in the car on the way to grandma's house three hours away.
We do not go online with the DS' WiFi Connection to play against others, post scores or look at scores. We don't care about our own scores, let alone someone else's. We also don't want to play games with others (maybe if I didn't work, I could get into this, but for now I don't really have enough time for it). So we tend to play all the games alone. There have been a few occasions when we ribbed each other at being better at a game (Hot Hoops and Wordz) and played the two-player version together by just passing the DS back and forth between turns.
The graphics of TouchMaster aren't bad for a game that has 23 games within. The games are colorful,s move smoothly and the graphics aren't pixel-y. I'm not a techie, so I can't tell you anything about megabytes and other things like that. I just know that the graphics are good, the images in the games move quickly and smoothly (the fire in Hot Hoops looks realistic). The sound is not customizable as far as I know, but it's just generic background music while you are playing the games. It is, of course, interrupted by the sounds of the games (a basketball making a hoop, balls being cleared from the board, a "bawwwwwnk" when you have selected a wrong answer, etc.). All of the sounds in TouchMaster I have heard so far are appropriate for the individual game and none have been over-annoying to me.
A few of the games have skill levels (such as "Easy" and "Hard"). It has been my experience with these games that there is very little difference between these two levels. The games might be a bit more difficult, but the difference in the challenge is not enough to make me consciously select "Hard" on a regular basis if I want a major challenge.
Overall, TouchMaster is a good investment for the "pick up and play" crowd. I recommend it for anyone in any age group (except 15 year old boys who need high-tech graphics and the latest version of Grand Theft Auto to be happy). I can easily see housewives, business executives, rock stars, kids on school buses, office workers on their lunch hours and factory workers playing this game. I can see a retired person playing this game. And this is great for those of us in our 30's and 40's who graduated from Duck Hunt and Tetris long ago and need a little video game action to feed our 30-year old video game addiction. Thank you, Midway and Nintendo. Bring us more games like this!
Price and Purchasing Information:
TouchMaster is $29.99 pretty much everywhere and can be found online at Amazon.com and GameStop.com. It is also available at brick and mortar stores such as Best Buy, EB Games, Target and Circuit City.
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