Touchmaster DS Hands-On

A whole bunch of touchable minigames are coming to your DS soon courtesy of Midway.


People under the age of 21 may not know that in addition to making console and arcade games, Midway has also produced a line of touch-screen machines that are quite popular in bars. These tabletop units sit on top of the bar itself and feature a variety of simple games that can be played solely with a touch screen. Seeing as the Nintendo DS has a touch screen as well, Midway thought the handheld would be a perfect fit for Touchmaster, a "best of" collection of 23 touch-screen-based games. We spent some hands-on time with Touchmaster to see how well the games hold up when not being played in a dark, smoky bar.

Touchmaster has 23 different ways for you avoid being productive.
Touchmaster has 23 different ways for you avoid being productive.

Touchmaster's main menu breaks the games down into four categories: favorites, cards, skill, and puzzle. Favorites has four games, including Crystal Balls, a Bejeweled-like game where you try to match three or more balls in a row by color or number, and Target 21, which is a challenging yet addictive cross between blackjack and solitaire in which you're dealt five hands and your ultimate goal is to get 21 in each hand. There's also Mahki, a puzzle game that tasks you with matching like-colored tiles as fast as possible, with the goal of erasing all of the tiles from the screen. The last game in the favorites section is 3 Peak Deluxe. This is another game that's similar to solitaire, but here the cards are arranged in three pyramids and you erase those cards by playing cards that are one higher or lower than the deck card.

The card games section includes nine games such as Go Wild, Phoenix 13, Solitaire Classic, Power Cell, and more. The skill section has a wide variety of games. Trivia buffs will enjoy the cleverly titled Trivia, a trivia game that will test your knowledge of everything from world history to television shows. Then there's Hot Hoops, a simple game where you tap one of five basketball players lined up across the screen to shoot at a hoop that moves back and forth across the screen. Other games include Pond King Checkers, where you play checkers by jumping frogs from lily pad to lily pad, and Artifact, which is kind of like Othello, but slightly more complex and with an alien theme. There are seven games in the puzzle area, including Crystal Balls and Mahki, both mentioned earlier. One of the all-time time-killing greats, mahjong, is here in the form of Mah Jongg Pairs. Another enjoyable game is the Wheel of Fortune knockoff Wordz.

Most of your favorites are here, and best of all, there's no second-hand smoke to deal with.
Most of your favorites are here, and best of all, there's no second-hand smoke to deal with.

Once you select a game you're taken to its title screen and given brief instruction (usually a sentence or two) on how to play. At first the lack of detailed instructions is confusing, but you'll quickly realize that part of the fun and challenge is to learn the nuances of each game while under pressure from the clock. If you're really struggling to figure out what's going on, you can tap the question mark in the top-left corner of the screen for more in-depth instruction. Each game is played exclusively with the touch screen, and we found them just as easy to control on the DS as on the original machines.

There's no doubt that many of Touchmaster's games aren't particularly deep, but even the simplest games are made addicting by the game's scorekeeping methods. Each game logs and saves your high score on the DS, and you also have the option of uploading it to Midway's servers, where you can compare your score against friends' and the entire world's. Midway is promising tournaments, too, so perhaps you'll soon be able to claim the crown of "king of all bar games" that you've coveted for so long. However, you'll have to wait just a bit longer to start your quest; Touchmaster is set to be released this June.

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