The DS has become the unlikely savior of old-fashioned adventure gaming. While Trace Memory and Sprung were nothing to write home about, the phenomenal success of Phoenix Wright has proven that there's still a lot of potential left for pondering and solving mysteries. The DS is undoubtedly the system best suited for it. Enter Touch Detective, a quirky little point-and-click... er, tap-and-touch adventure from Atlus.
Touch Detective follows the exploits of novice sleuth Mackenzie, her friends (the bratty, bossy Chloe and airheaded Penelope), and the other... uh... things that inhabit the strange world they all live in. Mackenzie's cases are, well, not the sort of things the police would get involved in - like chasing down a thief who steals Penelope's dreams.
One thing Touch Detective has going for it is its art style, which is cute in a very disconcerting sort of way. It helps to accentuate the game's other major asset - its completely bizarre sense of humor and all-out weirdness. The town Mackenzie lives in is inhabited by health-conscious skeletons, shark bodybuilders, starving walruses and midget hot-dog vendors, just to name a few from the rogue's gallery. The dialogue and interactions among the cast as the cases progress is quite entertaining, though you never develop any real attachment to the characters and their plights.
The game is completely stylus-controlled, which makes exploration a breeze. But like many adventure games, Touch Detective has moments where you'll get completely stuck. This is where the game's absurd humor actually hurts - some of the things Mackenzie needs to do to proceed are completely off the wall and not obvious in the slightest. It's extremely frustrating to learn that a solution to a puzzle is something you never would have thought of and that the game never even hinted at.
As is typical for the genre, Touch Detective is very brief, lasting only 4 cases (with short, optional bonus quests in-between). Once you're done, there's no reason to go back, unless you're completely obsessed with filling out the log of things Mackenzie's touched. But there's not really a very good reason to go through the game in the first place, either. Taken as a whole, Touch Detective is forgettable. Adventure fans might want to give it a go, but the rest of us are better off waiting for the next Phoenix Wright for our would-be detective fix.