A solitary life pulsates at the top of the screen, as the tempo of the music increases once again. The elevator doors slide back, and you're confronted by a roll of toilet paper on a holder. The five second timer begins to fizz away at the bottom of the screen, and panic sets in once more. You scrabble madly at the touch-screen with the stylus, until you accidentally pull down across the screen, and a bit of the paper rolls off. Suddenly, it all makes sense, and you frantically keep flicking downward, pulling paper off as quickly as you can, as the roll gets slimmer and slimmer, and the timer fuse fizzes away to nearly nothing. With a sigh of relief, the paper runs out, and a bizarre warning about recycling to save the environment flashes on the screen. A feeling of success and elation washes over you, and you begin to laugh at the sheer oddness of the situation you've just been in. But as soon as you begin to repose yourself, the tempo racks up again, and the elevator doors slide apart once more...
And that, in a nutshell, is what Wario Ware Touched! is all about. Over 180 bizarre, ingenious, challenging and fun mini-games are shot at you in rapid-fire, like a gaming machine gun. The best bit, though, is the humor - games have done laughter before, with the Monkey Island series' dry wit and surreal dialogue, but Wario Ware Touched! is pure slapstick. Yes, it's "immature". But saying that misses the point - the game is a riot of oddball ideas, of snot and archery and kittens, and it'll have you giggling like an idiot.
But wait - even for those who've experience the previous Wario Ware games on the GBA and Cube, there's something new in Touched! Finally, you can chop off those damned useless opposable thumbs that have been plaguing you all your life - Wario Ware Touched! is controlled using only the stylus and microphone, and there's absolutely no need to even touch a D-Pad. Wario Ware is a showcase for the DS' new ways to play games - and it's a wildly successful one. The touch screen mini-games throw a huge range of tasks at you, so you'll be shaking fruit from trees, then striking matches, followed by thrashing an electric guitar until the amp is destroyed. The game even manages to shoehorn deeper lateral thinking into many of its five second tasks, so you'll find yourself playing spot the difference, or connecting up an electrical circuit, drawing constellations in the night sky. However, it's always at its best when it throws you a complete curveball, and your ability to complete the task is actively impaired by your convulsions of laughter. No matter how many times we're forced to milk a cow by pulling on its udders, or extinguish a campfire using a urinating statue hanging from a rope, we can't help but grin. If you smile at the idea of tickling a man's armpit with the stylus, forcing him to let go of the piece of elastic between his teeth, which pings back swatting his friend full on in the face, then you'll love Wario Ware Touched! And let's face it, that idea appeals to most of us.
After the variety and quality of the stylus-based mini-games, the small selection of microphone-based tasks are a little disappointing - not unenjoyable when mixed in with the rest, but more uninspiring. In the end, most of them boil down to simply blowing onto the DS mic as long and as hard as you can, and you'll have passed the challenge - whether it's cooling off a cup of tea, spinning a windmill, or flipping a paper plate. It's a shame, as there are a few microphone mini-games that are great - one that immediately springs to mind involves a boy with a blowpipe moving back and forth across the bottom of the screen, and you have to blow at the right moment to hit the target. These examples show that there are innovative possibilities for the microphone; it's just a pity that Wario Ware doesn't make better use of it across the board. But let's not get carried away with the failings of a small slice of package - in all, the mini-games present in Wario Ware Touched! are of a consistently high standard, and this translates into the game being, well... consistently fun. For a game which is so bold with its control methods, Wario Ware doesn't really stretch the DS hardware when it comes to looks, sticking to 2D almost entirely. However, this really doesn't matter - its bold, large sprites are full of character and serve their purpose perfectly - letting you figure out what's going on as quickly as possible! If you must be a filthy 3D whore, though, there's some rather nice crayon-style cel shading in the level transitions, and a smattering of minigames have you manipulating 3D Nintendo consoles to find a button. On the sound side of things, there's some great left-field sound effects, and music which is quirky, fun and catchy - a description equally applicable to the game as a whole. Ashley's theme in particular deserves special mention, with its unusual melody, bizarre vocals and neat synchronization with the game itself.
The game is presented well, with the minigames being divided by theme between characters which are unlocked as you play through - Mike fronts the microphone based games, for example, whilst 9Volt and 18Volt present the excellent selection based on Nintendo classics, with each section ending with a longer "boss" mini-game. Each character has a sizable and utterly barmy cartoon story which precedes their section - but thankfully, after the first viewing there's an option to skip it and dive straight into the games. Unlocking all the characters in Wario Ware Touched! can comfortably be done in an afternoon - however, the challenge certainly doesn't stop there. Each character is accessible on the menu screen, and you can play a survival mode to see how many of their minigames you can last on four lives - as well as the option to play a mixture of all the levels, which can be made harder by choosing to play on full tempo from the beginning, or playing with only one life. The high score table and range of difficulty makes it compelling even for the hardened gamer, simply trying to improve on your best is satisfying, but Wario Ware throws something else into the mix. By achieving certain high scores, you can unlock a range of brilliant - and naturally, mad - toys and games which are stored in the Toy Room, having been delivered by a giant flying robot pig (we kid you not). These are some of the most quirky yet lovely playthings we've seen in a game - what other title lets you use the console as a spirometer? Or a metronome? Or a table-tennis table? Or a piano? Or a parrot, that actually repeats what you say, thanks to the microphone? There's some real genius tucked away in the folds of Wario Ware Touched!, and it keeps you playing and wanting to discover more. You can practice your game to almost perfection, with the option to return and play any mini-game you've already unlocked individually - it's probably fair to say that, save perhaps for Super Monkey Ball - Wario Ware Touched! is the most playable "party game" ever. We've been at it since its Japanese release, and it's still fun for a 5 minute blast - which soon transforms into an one hour monster.
Of course, Wario Ware Touched! is not without its faults. The lack of a multiplayer mode is lamentable - especially as it was such a great four player experience on the Cube. Perhaps it lacks the impact of the Gameboy Advance original too, in that the concept doesn't seem quite as fresh. But in a world where games are obsessed with production values and cinematic experiences - yes, we're talking to you, Hideo Kojima - Wario Ware Touched! is just what the doctor ordered. It sets out simply to make you laugh, and give you a fun time, and it achieves that aim completely. Our prescription is to go out and buy it now - it's another essential title for the DS.