Tom Create's follow-up to the cheap-and-cheerful space-based take on Dig Dug II is Touchpen Wars, an arcade-style shooter that's also offered at the budget price of 200 Points.
Don't be fooled by the title – it's not a game laden with sentiment, but uses flicks and taps of the stylus to launch projectiles from gun emplacements at the bottom of the lower screen towards attacking enemy troops coming down from the upper screen. Each of the levels has a fixed time limit; you just need your central main gun to survive the waves of cannon fodder intact. When the time runs out your support aircraft will come in bombs blazing as the remaining enemies run away – cowards! In the beginning missions you only have your main cannon; thankfully you'll get extra guns, sandbag barriers and then your own tanks to help fend off the waves of infantry, tanks and helicopters coming to destroy you.
You'll need to practice your multi-tasking skills because the satellite guns must be controlled independently of the main cannon. Most of the guns just fire shots when tapped, though for ease of use they often operate in pairs and can rotate using deft stylus motions. The sides of the screen act like pinball bumpers so you can create a zig-zag hail of fire to net enemy troopers without focusing on accuracy. Your main gun fires a bigger shot with a helpful blast radius and you can control the distance it travels with stylus flicks of varying length. It's nicely calibrated and you'll quickly get the hang of putting shots where you want them (though this becomes more challenging when you're under pressure). Tanks that show up later are autonomous: you simply tap and flick to send them on their way into oblivion (hopefully taking many enemies down with them).
We're not sure how many levels there are exactly as there's no placeholders: each level appears printed on the side of a carbine round and new ones only become available as old ones are completed. Tapping the levels will display your high score and biggest chain of enemies destroyed whilst your total score across all levels is recorded at the top of the upper screen.
The art style is cartoony, reminding us of Taito's Front Line more than anything else, though it has a unique flavour. Most enemies are a dark green colour; as you progress you'll encounter yellow enemies who helpfully explode when destroyed, taking out nearby associates, and pink tanks and helicopters that are sub-bosses of a sort and very tough to kill. At level five (and presumably every five levels thereafter) you'll encounter a boss in the form of a large troop carrier. There's also variety amongst your own weapons: from guns that have a low rate of fire and do little damage, but take lots of punishment before being destroyed, to rapid fire dual gun emplacements that seem to vanish when an enemy brushes by them.
Touchpen Wars is the kind of pick-up-and-play game that we feel is perfect for gaming on the go. The fact that all the menus are in English makes it a good choice for DSi importers and one that we hope will be published in other territories.