It's been a long time since a remarkable Yoshi release has hit the market (the SNES edition in particular comes to mind). Enter Yoshi Touch & Go, a revision based upon previous releases that attempts to recreate some of the classic "magic". Though it doesn't quite reach the caliber of Yoshi's SNES outing, Touch & Go manages to shine as an excellent, unique title -- even if doesn't answer the long-standing question of why a male dinosaur is capable of laying eggs.
Touch & Go's premise will be especially familiar to fans of the SNES/GBA outing -- ultimately leading to the rescue of Baby Mario. The stork has been ambushed (again); and as a result, drops both baby Mario and Luigi. Again. Naturally, these games are played for the gaming rather than their storyline, and it's there in which things really start to shine.
Every level of Yoshi Touch & Go is divided into two parts. The first part involves guiding Baby Mario down the sky towards earth and a waiting Yoshi, while part two consists of guiding Yoshi along the ground. Generally in each part, the action is performed via the touch screen, with one notable exception that involves blowing on the built-in microphone. Although it sounds simple enough on paper, the devil's in the details.
In Part One, Mario has been dropped by the stork and it's the player's job to get him safely to the ground. The problem is that Mario is in the top screen and action can only be carried out on the bottom one. Drawing a line leaves behind a trail of clouds, guiding Mario towards coins and away from enemies. Drawing a circle will create a bubble to trap enemies, turning them into coins, which can then be flicked at Mario for bonus points. Finally, blowing on the microphone erases all the clouds on both screens. Mario has three balloons tied to him, and when he hits an enemy, one pops. In the event that all three balloons break, the game is over. Fortunately, the task is simple enough in getting Mario safely on the ground with a single balloon.
Part Two is a bit trickier. Yoshi walks on the bottom screen so can be more directly controlled. Unfortunately, he's also a one-hit wonder. Make any contact with an enemy and the game ends. Thankfully, the game allows the player to continue from the last area where Yoshi caught Mario. All the Baby Mario abilities are available, along with a complement of interactive elements (hand-drawn clouds for example which the player can blow at to clear away the screen). Also of note -- Yoshi is packing heat. Tap the screen and an egg goes flying, touch Yoshi and he jumps, then touch him again in mid-air for to execute a his trademark hover ability. It's all pretty straightforward for each respective part. That is, until the scoring system comes into the equation.
Unlike a standard platformer, Yoshi Touch & Go isn't about getting to the end. It's all about old-school score maximization using whatever is available to eke out as many points as possible. For example, guiding Baby Mario to the ground is easy -- anyone can do it, but earning more points on the way down rewards players with a more substantial payoff (i.e. a faster Yoshi with a higher number of eggs available for chucking at enemies and obstacles). Even a simple ride down the sky will turn into a race to draw paths through lines of coins, circle enemies to trap them in bubbles and toss them up to Mario for the bonus points. And if there's a bit of time left over opens up an opportunity to do the same for any coins Mario might otherwise have missed.
The same is true of ground-based challenges, only moreso. Yoshi's eggs plow through coins and enemies alike, nailing several items with one shot nets an additional point bonus. Of course, Yoshi only has a limited number of eggs available, but these can be easily replenished by collecting more fruit. Either guide Yoshi to the fruit by drawing cloud paths, or chuck an egg at it, causing the fruit to fall to the ground. Fruit that's otherwise inaccessible can also be picked up by drawing a bubble around it and dragging it to Yoshi. However, this also means Yoshi is left to his own devices for those few seconds. Speed, accuracy, and solid combo skills are the name of the game.
The game offers four variations, two of which are available from the start while the remaining modes become accessible after fulfilling certain conditions. Score Attack and the unlockable Time Attack have self-explanatory goals, repeating the same courses with a specific timeframe. On the other hand, Marathon and the aptly named, unlockable Challenge consist of random layouts with no end to the Yoshi section (assuming the player is good enough) and the score is measured by distance traveled.
In the end, Yoshi Touch & Go is a game that almost perfectly represents the Nintendo DS itself. At a glimpse, it's easy to be dismissed as a quirky-esque title filled with gimmicks. However, players willing to give it a chance will discover a game rich in gameplay and depth that they're bound to enjoy.