Formerly known as Balloon Trip, Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (known as Yoshi's Touch & Go in US) was one of those games that I had a real love and hate relationship with. One could easily consider it the spiritual successor to Yoshi's Island. It even has the same look, and you can shoot eggs! But somehow, I had this sinking feeling that Nintendo would mess it up badly.
Fortunately for everyone who's been anticipating this title, Catch! Touch! Yoshi! has turned out to be alright, although it's completely different from what anyone is imagining. Those who are hoping that the game will be similar to the SNES cult hit will be majorly disappointed; the game isn't a platformer at all. In fact, it's more like an arcade side-scroller mixed with some puzzle elements than anything else. It's a weird combination, but it's pretty easy to explain.
Using your stylus, you must help Yoshi and Mario through enemy-filled territory as they get wherever the hell they're supposed to be going. The first part of every game starts off with Baby Mario tumbling through the sky. This part of the game sets the tone for the rest of your session, believe it or not. You can use the stylus to create clouds that can block enemies or encase them with bubbles that will transform them into coins. Then, you can 'throw' the bubbles to the top screen so that Mario can get them. The descent is filled with tons of enemies, although Mario can withstand up to three hits during this section. Once you have cleared that section, Yoshi will show up to save Mario from sure death, and then you will start Yoshi's section of the game.
You can still create clouds that act as bridges, roadblocks and whatnot, but you can do a whole lot more with Yoshi compared to Mario. Tap anywhere on the screen to make Yoshi fire an egg, and tap Yoshi himself to make him jump. Do it again to make him perform his hover. There are pieces of fruit scattered around the area that will allow you to replenish your egg stock. You can't use enemies to do that, unfortunately. What will please fans of Yoshi's Island is that the egg mechanics are relatively the same. You can still make them ricochet off solid surfaces to get hard to reach items and coins, and special blocks like the redirection glove from Yoshi's Island also makes an appearance.
Here's where it gets a little random. Depending on how many coins you were able to get during Mario's freefall, you'll get a different coloured Yoshi, with a different amount of eggs. Perform poorly and your Yoshi will be a stock green, with 20 eggs. Get around 90 or 100 coins, and you'll get a brightly colored dino with a stock of 30 or more eggs. Mario's section also alters the level design as well. An easy, basic level will be before you if you get below a certain amount of coins, while more enemies (and consequently more coins) will be had if you do good.
This does make a hell of a difference in the gameplay, too. The two default modes that you can play are Score Attack and Endless. During the former, you have to get a certain amount of points, where one enemy usually gives you 1 or 2 points. In Endless mode, you have to progress through the game while it tracks how many meters you have walked. Get 300 points in Score Attack and you'll unlock Time Attack, while 3000 meters will get you Challenge mode. Of the two, Score Attack seems to be the hardest one to finish up. 300 points may seem like peanuts, but you'll be left scratching your head when you're 30 points shy of the mark.
One more thing that you should know about the game that will either infuriate you or pique your curiosity. The game has no levels. Really, it doesn't. Score Attack's levels are generated randomly, based on your score during Mario's freefall. This is also true during Endless and Challenge mode. You'll get a different level just about every time you play. I've only played through Endless and Challenge three times each, but every time I've had a different stage before me. Weird.
Despite the odd design, the game is unbelievably addictive. The primary focus of the game is solely on your score, and nothing else. It harkens back to the time of Tempest, when beating someone's record by just one point was enough satisfaction for a gamer. The game isn't without it's problems, but most of it has to do with the fact that your characters are always controlled by the AI. Sometimes Yoshi or Mario will get stuck within a cloud, making it difficult to predict what they will do next. What's also annoying to me is the lack of any commands for the buttons or directional pad on the DS. I know that the game is supposed to show off the powers of the touch screen, but mapping a jump and eat button would have helped immensely. There are times when the fruit that Yoshi needs to eat are on his sprite, and he refuses to eat it.
Leaving the gameplay for a bit, the graphics in the game are reminiscent of Yoshi's Island, but all of the sprites have been redrawn. You hear that Capcom? Redrawn. The sprites are a bit on the small site, but the screen gets filled up pretty quickly, so it's for the best. At least the animation is still above average, and the game doesn't slow down!
After five hours of solid play, it's safe to say that the game is pretty strange, but it works really well. I can't say anything about the longevity of the game right now (or the versus mode, since the game will officially come out tomorrow), but it seems that it could last most people a good two or three weeks, possibly longer if you have someone to play against. If you're looking for a good platform/adventure game, you'll still have to stick with Mario 64 DS, but if you want something to sidetrack you until the next big thing hits, definitely consider getting this game.
We'll have more impressions as soon as we put in more time with this title. Check back soon!