The relative success, both commercial and critical, of Yoshi Touch & Go proved, at the very least, that there's a place for simple, straightforward concepts on the Nintendo DS platform. Provided, of course, that said concept puts the hardware's unique capabilities to use. It's a trend that's slow to rise on the handheld, but Whac-A-Mole
from Activision Value is clearly the start of the "simple game" onslaught. This game isn't what you'd think is an "awful" game, and clearly, with a name like "Whac-A-Mole" you know exactly what you're getting into if you decide to add the game to your DS collection. But even though it's honestly not an overall crummy product, what's in this package is clearly more for a mini-game collection than a standalone product.
The game is exactly what the title says it is: Whac-a-Mole. The DS game is actually a licensed product, lifting the old mechanical "hit the gophers on the noggin" challenge out of carnivals and Chuck E. Cheese restaurants and putting the idea on the Nintendo DS touch screen. But instead of using a hammer to nail plastic rodents back into their holes, players use the stylus and "tap" them away.
The designers of the Nintendo DS version of Whac-a-Mole try to extend the experience with different types of moles popping out of the holes; along with the "ordinary" rodents are "plush" versions that actually remove points if players tap them. There are also Ninja and Thief moles that make an attempt to "attack" a player's score on the upperscreen if they're not quick enough. There are also power-up presents that come into play that'll help or hurt players -- one "trap" cleverly cuts the video feed with a television-style test pattern, for example. It's rapid-fire, twitch action that's always challenging, but not exactly a whole lot of fun. Especially after a bunch of levels of the same action over and over and over again.
Whac-a-Mole's secondary game option is its "Puzzle Mode," a game design that challenges players to whack different colored moles in an identical pattern to the one that's displayed on the upper screen. Since the moles pop up randomly, the colors left behind can be shifted by either row or column with a tap of the stylus to form the proper pattern. It's a very hectic design, but in some cases the ambitious art designers have created some backgrounds that make it incredibly difficult to see the three different colors left behind by the whacked moles. More often than not it's because of the hard-to-see hues that's the player's downfall in this mode.
What's surprising is the solid implementation of wireless in Whac-a-Mole. Usually these budget-developed games get the shaft end when it comes to multiplayer, but the production studio actually put a lot of effort into getting head-to-head battles working wirelessly. It can be experienced with or without a cart, and if Whac-a-Mole wasn't
single cart multiplayer we would've hammered the developer on that, what with the simplistic game and art design and all. But this is one of the few DS games to enable cart-to-cart wireless in the modes that work in single-cartridge multiplayer -- it sounds like a minor feature, but why force someone who owns the game to download the single cartridge file?