Review: Yoshi Touch & Go (Wii U eShop / DS)

Fleeting fun

Between the DS, 3DS and Wii U, Nintendo has delivered many touch screen gaming experiences throughout the years. While some are genuinely creative and/or mechanically deep, others have ended up feeling like little more than an experiment or a tech demo rather than a full-fledged game; Yoshi Touch & Go falls into that latter category. It's a game that, if it were to release today for the first time ever, probably shouldn't cost more than $10 on the eShop. Wouldn't you know, those are the exact circumstances that surround the Wii U Virtual Console release of this DS game. So the question is: should you spend your time and money tossing eggs with Yoshi when there are so many other options available?

Touch & Go relies only on touch screen controls for participation, with the stylus serving as a magic wand that allows you to draw clouds that can direct Baby Mario and Yoshi through two types of levels – vertically and horizontally scrolling. If you've spent any time with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse you should have an idea of what kind of mechanics to expect here; yet instead of going off on an adventure where you travel from level to level through scenic themed worlds, you essentially play the same couple of stages over and over again while trying to set a high score. If you don't like the idea of a score attack game that doesn't offer a whole lot of variety, it might be best for you to stop reading now.

There are two modes available from the start – Score Attack and Marathon. Score Attack begins with Baby Mario slowly descending from the sky with a few balloons tied to his back. As the top screen remains fixed on his position, you need to draw lines on the bottom screen to direct him around enemies and towards coins as he continues downward; you can even draw circles around enemies to turn them into coins and boost your score. When Baby Mario reaches the ground he'll then hop onto Yoshi's back and gameplay will switch to a side-scrolling style. Yoshi will press forward on his own, but you'll need to draw walkways over gaps, tap the screen to aim and shoot eggs at enemies, and even touch Yoshi to make him jump. The gameplay is the same in Marathon mode, but instead the goal is to try to see how far you can get without losing all balloons or Baby Mario.

Your best performances will be tracked on local leaderboards, and if you reach the top spot in either of the aforementioned modes there are two others you can unlock — Time Attack and Challenge. Time Attack follows the same two forms of gameplay, but the level design is a bit different, featuring stars to make Baby Mario invincible and a new area for Yoshi to travel through. Challenge functions similarly, except the presence of enemies and obstacles is intensified, which means it's no walk in the park. Lastly, it should be clearly stated that the Vs. mode featured on the main menu isn't functional; if that happened to be one of your favourite aspects of the original game, just know that it's not available to you here.

It takes a little bit of practice to accurately move Mario and Yoshi through these obstacle courses and optimize your coin intake, and once you get it down there's definitely some fun to be had. The problem is that the lack of variety can cause these two styles of play to grow stale after a short while. That's because once you've logged about 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how good you are, you'll likely have seen just about everything there is to see. This is Touch & Go's biggest problem, and it's what makes it a tough sell on a digital marketplace filled with fantastic value offerings. It's not the richest gameplay concept out there, but had there been more stages or significant tweaks to the formula between modes it may have amounted to something special.

Presentation-wise, the game looks good enough, with a similar look and quality to the original Yoshi's Island. When it comes to the music, it's a touch repetitive and underwhelming. One of the tracks sounds like it would accompany a puzzle in a Professor Layton game, and while that charm works well on its own it feels a bit too pensive and docile for the events on screen. That's not to say that this is an intense gaming experience, because it's not, but the song does feel slightly mismatched.

If you've played Touch & Go in the past and are debating returning to it, the question you're likely wondering is: how well does it perform on the Wii U GamePad? What it comes down to is that, because you need a very clear view of what's happening on the top and bottom screens at all times, the only screen formatting options that work are Standard DS and Vertical. There are one or two more options that you might find feasible, but it's hard to imagine that they'd be preferred by anyone. If the two screens aren't stacked vertically so you can have an accurate view of where Baby Mario is headed as he falls down to Earth, it's rather awkward to play; with that in mind make sure you access the settings and play with the GamePad positioned vertically. The game looks and performs the best this way, and actually feels surprisingly natural even though it's not on its native device.

There's not much more to say about Touch & Go. It's the type of game that gives the impression that it was an experiment that never had the opportunity to blossom into something more substantial - at the time of its original release it was, it's worth noting, taking advantage of touch screen gaming as a fresh concept. The touch screen controls are responsive, and outside of the rare situation where there's not enough screen available to tap and throw eggs, there aren't any major gameplay complications. This title makes much more sense as a download at its current price point than it did as a full retail release, but that doesn't necessarily make it an easy recommendation.

Conclusion

Yoshi Touch & Go is a cute and enjoyable score attack game that sadly doesn't offer much variety or long-term appeal. With only four modes included – two of which need to be unlocked – and no real sense of progression, there's not much incentive to keeping playing beyond a couple of hours; that's unless you're content competing against yourself for top honours on a local leaderboard. Quite frankly, there are various alternatives available, so this is a tough sell.