Tag, you're not quite it.
It's no secret that, thus far, software for the Nintendo DS has been generally underwhelming. Most of the games are little more than glorified tech demos, showcasing the touch-pad and stylus or doing interesting things with the dual screen while failing to provide much in terms of compelling gameplay. There are some cool titles on the horizon, but by and large, the present isn't the best place to be for a DS owner.
We keep hoping the next game we play will change all that, but it turns out that Yoshi Touch & Go isn't the one to lead the revolution. This cute diversion does exactly what we expect from DS titles these days by tossing some fun ideas into a pretty weak game.
It hasn't always been that way for the green dino, though; Nintendo fans will fondly recall Yoshi's Island on the SNES (later ported to the GBA), a game that managed to make great use of what looked like just another badly-voiced mascot. Yoshi hasn't really gone on to do much, although he somehow managed to sneak into the early starring role in the DS launch title remake of Super Mario 64.
But unlike Hollywood celebrities, Yoshi doesn't have the luxury of reading his scripts and picking his spots. After Baby Mario is accidentally dropped by the world's worst stork, it's up to Yoshi to see him through all kinds of danger and return him to the stork safely. Not really a triple-A story, but at least he gets top-billing, right?
Actually, Yoshi turns out to be almost as useless as Baby Mario because you don't control him directly. Instead, Yoshi Touch & Go takes a cue from games like Lemmings, requiring you to play god and guide Yoshi and Mario to safety.
The game is broken up into two segments. The first part shows Baby Mario tied to three balloons falling vertically through the air. Using only the DS stylus and touch screen, it's your job to draw little lines of clouds to keep him from floating into dangerous brier traps and to direct him towards lines of coins. You can also draw circles around bad guys, turning them into coin-filled bubbles that mini-Mario will burst on contact. Should you screw up and draw clouds where you didn't mean to, you can simply blow on the DS mic to whisk away all the clouds in a jiffy. The limited strategy here boils down to how quickly you can gauge Mario's descent and how quickly you can lead him to large coin trails while avoiding traps and foiling enemies.
If you manage to keep him alive, Mario will eventually land on Yoshi's back, who then sets off on a side-scrolling mission to bring him back to the stork. Again, you use the stylus and touch screen to draw clouds in an effort to keep the incessantly meandering dino from tumbling off cliffs. You can also tap Yoshi to make him jump or tap quickly to get him to throw an egg at enemies. After a while, he meets up with the stork, Mario is returned, and you get a score.
Astoundingly, that's about all there is to Yoshi Touch & Go. A Marathon mode increases the length by letting you go for distance rather than points (Yoshi hands Mario off to another Yoshi instead of the stork, indefinitely), but the experience remains the same. You can also unlock a Time Attack mode and a harder Challenge mode, neither of which offer dramatically deeper or more interesting gameplay.
That being said, playing Yoshi Touch & Go can be pretty fun. The stylus sensitivity and precision has never been better, really making you feel like you're interacting with these little digital morons as you try to save their lives. Things get pretty frantic, especially during the later Yoshi Marathon levels, requiring some pretty swift stylus multitasking. You don't have unlimited eggs, so trying to nab as many coins as possible in one toss (a sort of combo) comes into play. It's not a bad gaming concept and is relatively engaging.
Too bad it gets old so quickly. Yoshi Touch & Go is so simple and lacks so much depth it's almost startling. High scores? People still care about high scores? What could have been built as an actual adventure game (you know, with various levels, tons of different enemy types, maybe even some bosses) is instead a repetitive ordeal of saving Yoshi and Mario over and over again just to increase your score. You'll eventually want to draw a bubble around your DS and pop it altogether.
There's not much to say about the delivery " the game looks like a smoother version of a SNES game and sounds the same. Classic Nintendo voice squeaks and lilting melodies comprise the bulk of the audio.
In a nice twist, multiplayer doesn't require two copies of the game. Instead, you and a buddy race, setting spike traps for one another by shooting a few green briers in a row. It's decent fun, but not very enthralling in the long run.
Nor is Yoshi Touch & Go. You have to commend Nintendo for producing a pretty cool tech demo, but they failed to encapsulate it in a worthwhile game. It's a shame, too, because they've definitely touched on some interesting concepts. Unfortunately, touching ain't always good enough.