The touch screen of the Nintendo DS is a wonderful thing. Look at all the things you can do with it. You can stroke it lovingly. You can caress it tenderly. You can poke it curiously with an outstretched finger. You can blow on it gently. And you can stab it repeatedly, furiously, with the tip of your stylus.
Stab it repeatedly? Well, WarioWare Touched! might well have that effect on you. Within seconds of starting you'll be forced to watch interminable cut-scenes of such banality that you'll soon be hitting buttons and hammering the stylus on the screen in an attempt to bypass them or simply to make them hurry up. The world of WarioWare is populated by a succession of crudely-drawn, one-note stereotypes that have somehow managed to completely bypass the normal Nintendo charm factory, and you'll be forced to watch their idiotic "adventures" for what seems like an age. As the game itself consists, as before, of a series of micro-challenges lasting a few seconds or less, you'll actually spend the vast majority of your first play through the game watching these unskipable cut-scenes rather than playing the game.
In short, first impressions of WarioWare are extremely poor. Considering that this was widely expected to be the DS's defining title, it's hugely disappointing. Thankfully, things don't stay that way. After the first play-through - which should take no more than an hour or two at most - the cut-scenes magically acquire a "skip" option and the game settles down into a more familiar form.
WarioWare Touched! is, to all extents and purposes, the same as its GBA predecessor, but with a touch screen. This has allowed the developers at Nintendo to indulge their imagination, and the results are predictably wacky. Within the space of a few seconds you might find yourself unravelling toilet paper at great speed, pulling party poppers, swallowing sweets, poking kittens, or indeed completing any one of dozens of surreal challenges. Thanks to its launch line-up, the DS has already been well-served with mini-games, but there's something irresistible and strangely compulsive about WarioWare's quick-fire approach. Some of the ideas, particularly on the boss levels, look a little familiar - there's a trampoline level that's straight out of Mario 64 DS, and a driving game that could have come from Project Rub - but nothing can really match WarioWare for its frenzied surrealism. The demented music, which increases in tempo as you play and now features vocal pieces alongside the more traditional numbers, adds to the crazed atmosphere.
It's all great fun while it lasts. But there, if you'll forgive the pun, lies the rub. WarioWare Touched! simply doesn't last as long as you'd like it to. There are fewer minigames on offer here than in the original, and the game as a whole is much easier. This is partly due to familiarity, but mostly due to the touch screen interface. There are only a limited number of things you can do with a stylus, after all, and by the time you've poked and/or dragged the most obvious thing on the screen, you've generally completed the challenge. Just in case you're having trouble, the game makes things even simpler by grouping similar challenges together - so one set of games involves nothing but dragging things from one place to another, while another set only involves rotating items. This strange design decision reaches its lowest point with a set of games which only involve blowing on the screen; a couple of minutes of asthmatic wheezing later, you might wonder exactly why you're bothering.
In short, there's a limited window in which WarioWare Touched! is as much fun as you think it's going to be. The first play through is a miserable affair, dominated almost entirely by those terrible cut-scenes. There are then a few hours of genuinely enjoyable play to be had as you unlock the remaining games, set some high scores and practise your favourite challenges. All too quickly, however, things become over-familiar, and even the game's Megamix collections won't keep you playing for long.
The unlockables do much to lengthen the game's appeal either. Although plentiful, most are ridiculous toys that you'll look at once and then never revisit. The appeal of a touch screen-operated yoyo or a vibrating bowl of custard is strictly limited. There are a couple of gems lurking here, including an expanded version of the addictive trampoline game and a two-player ping-pong title that makes novel use of the dual screens, but it's necessary to wade through an awful lot of dross to find them, and there's nothing here that even begins to compare with the quality of the Dr Wario game that shipped with the original.
WarioWare Touched! is a strange game, then: initially frustrating, then hugely entertaining, but too short and ultimately lacking. Like much of the DS's launch line-up, it's clearly been developed in a hurry, and it shows. That's not to say that you won't find it fun, because you will, and in many ways it's the perfect way to show off your new handheld. But it's interesting to note that the touch screen control, while simple and accessible, in many ways restricts what can be done with WarioWare, and it's impossible to escape the conclusion that the more traditional controls of the GBA version offered a more challenging, and ultimately more satisfying game. WarioWare Touched! manages to demonstrate the limitations of touch screen control as much as it does its possibilities, and for Nintendo that must surely be a matter for concern.