The week I got my own look at the game – mostly for curiosity's sake, since I read the books as a child and adore the glorified fanfiction that is Wicked – and while I agree with most of what Totilo had to say about the game (let Toto fight!), I object to his take on the trackball movement system.
In Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, players control Dorothy's movement on the world map that is the yellow brick road by stroking the stylus along a virtual trackball that takes up the bottom of the screen. The faster you "roll" the ball, the faster Dorothy moves and the longer it takes her to come to a stop once you stop manipulating the trackball.
Totilo argues that the controls feel a little outdated and that the D-pad might be a better mode of motion. I say the trackball adds a layer of strategy to the game and spares your poor thumbs the jagged edges of the D-pad.
The strategy comes from trying to steer Dorothy around enemies or toward goals like treasure chests or the end-level points. Granted, you probably wouldn't want to avoid enemies unless you were running really low on health items – but all the same, I watched many a games journalist play chicken with the roving enemies on the screen by speeding up the trackball as fast as they could and trying to stop just short of the enemies without triggering the encounter. It was like shuffle board, but with Dorothy.
Beyond that, I appreciate having a DS game that doesn't make you use the buttons at all. The DS's big gimmick is the touch screen, after all, so why not use the hell out of it?
The Wizard of Oz: Beyond The Yellow Brick Road is out September 29, 2009.
P.S. If you touch the Toto icon with the stylus, Dorothy pets Toto.