A touch of genius, but maybe just a touch easy?
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So word of mouth does work then? Sometimes it feels like we're talking to ourselves here when we dish out 9/10s to games that go on to sell, ooh, 13,500 units. Case in point the wonderful WarioWare, Inc. on the GBA, which suffered the ignomy of being last year's 169th best-selling handheld title despite probably being one of the best games available for the system. And yet WarioWare Touched has gone in with a bullet at No.6 in the All Formats chart over in the UK, second only to Super Mario 64 as the most sought after DS game. We nearly fell off our chairs.
And yet, while we're punching the air and rejoicing in the rare thrill of something vaguely new and original being in our nation's Top 10, it's tempered with the slightly uncomfortable knowledge that, well, (whisper it) it's not actually as good as the original.
Ready to Ware
At first glance it's hard to be anything but truly enamoured with the humorous flourishes and pure design genius that ripple through each and every microgame within Touched. In keeping with WarioWare, Inc., you're simply tasked with progressing through a series of five-second long 'microgames' that relate to specific characters and their silly and surreal back stories (Jimmy T and Dr. Crygor making a very welcome return). Normally armed with four 'lives', you must quickly perform the task required, move on, defeat a 'boss' task, unlock the next character and so on.
Exactly like before, Touched is addictive, hilarious and impossibly good fun in small-ish doses and perfect short journey fodder. If you're not sporting a ludicrous grin the first time you blow into the microphone or try to do animal impersonations in a room full of people you must have fallen out of love with life itself. This kind of infectious lovable humour has always made us want to evangelise WarioWare, and with such a pick up and play mechanic it's the sort of game you don't mind handing to anyone (so long as they have, you know, hands).
The use of the touch screen is sometimes innovative (touch screen Duck Hunt, tune in a radio, rotate a black hole and suck the matter out of space itself) other times too simple or overly predictable (draw a line between two points, poke a cat, light two candles), but it's still rarely less than superb fun in the short term. The best thing about such a pot pourri of games is that even the rubbish ones are over with in the blink of an eye, and so long as there are new things to play you'll always come back for more.
But where the appeal of Touched begins to wane is when you realise that after three or four hours you've unlocked practically everything there is to see. It's possible that we're more familiar with the concept now after the months we put into WarioWare, Inc., but there's no denying that the difficulty of many of the Touched games is considerably lower than before and as a result presents little more than a humorous demonstration of the DS' touch screen and microphone capabilities.
To be fair, you can go back and try and set high scores on each of the 15 or so characters, or even play each of the 180 microgames individually and see how what difficulty level you can reach, but this really isn't the nature of WarioWare. Pulling out games in isolation merely serves to highlight how basic they really are. You'll soon tire of repeating the same five second task 30 odd times in succession, trust us.
There are a few 'Toy Room' diversions to mess around with, like the two-player 'Pong Ping' game that gives an overhead view of the table, a shoulder button each and a fairly madcap mini-game of table tennis to battle with, while a few pointlessly amusing other extras unlock as you go through, such as the ludicrous Grandmother Simulator who spouts wisdom at you in return for a quick blow (in the microphone, pur-lease), not to mention a the touch screen based Yo-Yo, microphone based Air Dude (blow to keep air dude gliding), or even the gratuitously pointless Clacker. Things that'll probably elicit an "ooh" the first time you seen them, but never be played again. Shame.
A touch of class
Like much of what we've seen on the DS, the appeal of Touched is rooted in novelty value. But after a dozen or so touch screen games, what you really want is a game you can come back to and get more than the initial novelty rush from. Sadly we're more likely to be found returning to the far superior original or the forthcoming WarioWare Twisted! (out in June on GBA and sporting a wonderful tilt sensor). The bottom line is that there are better ways to experience WarioWare, and that Touched! is simply too lightweight and way too easy to prove very satisfying for most gamers over time.