TouchMaster is an arcade game that shares its success under different names and in different places. The diminutive machine shows up in bars, clubs, arcades and fast food restaurants, and it requires nothing more than your finger on a touch-screen to control everything. With the release of the Nintendo DS, it was only a matter of time before Midway brought its mini-game compilation hit to the handheld with TouchMaster 2 to achieve the same success. TouchMaster 2 mixed in some games from the original title with new ones from the various arcade versions. It, too, was a success, but the franchise's future was put into jeopardy when Midway was in financial hot water. Luckily for fans, WB Games bought both the Midway name and the rights to the series to release TouchMaster 3, a game that feels almost as good as the original.
For the uninitiated, TouchMaster is a mini-game compilation. There's no other premise or motive behind the game other than to get the highest possible score in each and every available game. There are five different categories into which the games are split. Card Games features five mini-games dealing with your standard 52 card deck, and in the case of all but one game, you should have some knowledge of poker hands. Strategy Games features four brain-teasing games dealing with things like math problems and basic memory recognition. Action Games has four games testing your reflexes, while Puzzle Games features five lite variations of some familiar puzzle matching games. Finally, Word Games has two games that have you trying to form specific words with the letter set given to you. In total, there are 20 games that cater to just about any possible subject.
Based on the included games and other additions, you get the feeling that the development team is very confident in the design. Unlike the second title, none of the games in this compilation have appeared in the first compilation. All 20 games here are either brand-new entries to the NDS or sequels to games that have been featured before. The card games in the series have always been solid entries, but they almost become the centerpieces of this title. Every single one feels different but no less fun, especially once you learn how the bonuses are obtained.
Second to the card games would be the developer's variations on some basic games. Chef Memory, for example, is just like Concentration except you're looking for specific food items to complete the given recipe. Bumperball is exactly like pinball, except you get to use a giant bumper to hit the ball. Electro Maze is a nice twist on Pac-Man, where you need to gobble up all of the green dots without touching the electrified walls. Dice King 2 has you matching items like Bejeweled, except you have to get specific matches in order to quickly move to the next stage. These variations capture the spirit of the original TouchMaster games, and they're welcome additions to the franchise because of it. The other big addition this time around is achievements. Trophies, badges, and a high score wizard goal are all given for accomplishing certain tasks in each of the 20 games. Most of them can be stumbled upon during normal play, but a few are daunting tasks, such as using all of the given pieces to reach a goal or only making the goal in a set number of moves. This type of rewards system has always added an extra layer of gameplay to the next-gen consoles, so it's nice to see a similar system being implemented here.
The different mini-game choices don't all make for some great gaming, however, as there are a few that are either too complicated to understand or too boring to enjoy. Recall, for example, is less fun than a game of Simon Says simply because the patterns aren't difficult enough. Domino Run's instructions make it impossible to know what you're supposed to do until you accidentally pass a level, and the same goes for Counterweight. While Cannon Fire is easy to understand, it somehow doesn't feel as fun as Worms or Scorched Earth. That leaves 16 other games that are great to play, but it is a shame that there are some games you'll only bother to play once and never again.
Multiplayer games remain nothing more than competitions for gaining the highest score in the given game. Just about every game is playable in multiplayer and can be played with one cartridge or multiple ones, the only real difference being the ability to save high scores in multiplayer matches. The games don't change much between the single- and multiplayer versions. Bad games in single-player mode remain bad in multiplayer and vice versa. The one issue that does arise from this, though, is the feeling that all of the games in this package were designed with single-player in mind before having multiplayer tacked on. Games don't stop when one player loses, meaning that they have to wait long periods of time (especially if the opponent is good and can extend his game for a few more rounds) before another game is chosen. By that time, that player would already be bored and simply move on to another title, quitting multiplayer altogether.
The graphics have a distinct look that tells you the game is embracing its portable console home instead of hanging on to its arcade roots. The main menu has a steam machine look to it, with blowing steam and moving dials really adding to the motif. Each one of the games has a cleaner look, thanks to the images that don't feel like they've been shrunken down from a larger display. Colors are brighter, giving the whole thing a cartoon-like appearance. Text is larger, and while the animations remain simple, it doesn't feel like the game is struggling to make object movement and special effects appear on-screen simultaneously — a problem that existed in the prior titles. All in all, one really can't complain about the graphics in TouchMaster 3.
Like the graphics, the sound feels tailor-made for the system. The sound effects aren't anything special, but they are louder this time around and don't feel like they've been compressed too much in comparison to the older titles in the series. The same goes for the music, which also lacks compression but isn't exactly very memorable. It's much richer this time around, though, and fits the rest of the game well. Despite the freshness of the sounds, it is nice to hear that the high score music from the first title has been used here for the medals and trophies screen, serving as a nice musical theme for series veterans to make them feel a sense of familiarity.
TouchMaster 3 cannot be considered superior to the original release. Games like Mahki, 3 Peak Deluxe, Crystal Balls and Hot Hoops on the original game are classics in the series, and nothing released on either TouchMaster 2 or 3 comes close to attaining that addictive quality. It also doesn't have the multiplayer-specific titles the first one did, despite having more multiplayer options this time around. Instead, TouchMaster 3 can be considered a complementary title in the series rather than an evolutionary one. There are some games that are a delight to play, especially the card games, and the achievement system, along with the single cartridge multiplayer, make it a great title for portable gaming. Fans of the franchise will need no more encouragement and will enjoy the title immediately upon purchase. For those who are craving some fun gaming in quick bites, this title will suit you nicely.
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