- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 22, 2009

Casual gamers get another bountiful selection of addictive opportunities that will consume their time with TouchMaster 3 (WB Games, $29.99), the latest release in the series that offers 20 new casual games for Nintendo’s handheld console.

With collections themed to Cards, Strategy, Action, Puzzles and Word Games, players will find just enough of each type of game to maintain a TouchMaster addiction. All the action uses the DS touch screen and stylus, be it clicking on cards, moving a bumper to deflect a pinball or flicking bombs.

Check out Cards and have a go at Nine Hole, a multiround, nontimed game that plays a bit like solitaire on a putting green. Target Royale, meanwhile, requires forming the three best poker hands and using multipliers to get the highest points.

Jewel fans will appreciate Prismatix 2, found under Puzzles. Simply find predetermined matching patterns of colored hex gems and break them off the game board to collect points. Use the stylus to pick gems and tap a button to destroy them.

The most ambitious of the bunch goes to Cannon Fire. The player controls the angle of the barrel and manages power on a golden field gun with a circular motion of the stylus over two handles. When the cannon shoots its payload, it flies across and over both DS screens as the terrain scrolls by until landing, hitting an enemy (you hope) that is squished to pieces.

Extras to Cannon Fire include factoring in wind direction when firing and using a special weapon, such as cluster bombs and bombs tethered to parachute, to destroy enemy slimes.

Most eclectic of the Strategy games is Chef Memory, which mixes rounds of Concentration with helping a cook put together dishes. Match the wrong ingredient tiles and end up with a very off dish. Anyone for some cheesy egg cookies?

My only gripe is I wish there was a way to save a game midway through as some of the challenges can be time consuming.

Besides the modest price, what seals the ownership deal is multiplayer action where two gamers can share a cartridge and compete wirelessly in all 20 games.

Learning time: While I’m not endorsing the idea of poker lessons for kids, the fine selection of card games certainly will help with basic numerical sequencing skills.

Also, obviously, the word games will help with spelling. Take, for example, Sea Word, in which a player maneuvers a fish to grab letters stuck in bubbles and tows them back to his lair to help spell a given word.

For me though, Wild Word is much more enjoyable as the player moves and swaps letters around a board in a permutation of classic word find and slider puzzles to complete a specific list of words such “contour,” “sever” and “overtax.”

Age Range: The more cerebral young tween and older tweens who haven’t been exposed to third-person action games will find the selection of challenges great for a long car trip or plane flight. Adults definitely will find the poker/solitaire style action worth some serious investment of down time.

Joseph Szadkowski’s ROMper Room is a place for children and their parents to escape the world of ultraviolent video games and use that gaming system or computer to actually learn something while having fun. Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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