Review by Arkrex

Reviewed: 03/19/07

I CAN(not) DRAW PAC-MAN!

Pac-Man is a truly legendary gaming icon. Nearly everyone on the face of the Earth knows who he is, and you can't call yourself a gamer until you have at least played the classic 1980 arcade hit. But the times have changed, and the good old gobble-gobble gameplay is no longer something that can hold us for very long (case-in-point the more recent Pac-Man World games). With new touchscreen technology, Namco had set out to rejuvenate the pizza-like hero, and their first effort was Pac-Pix. Namco's tech-demo on show at E3 2004 proved to be a hit, and to follow up, the famous developer churned out a fully-fledged game featuring their classic flagship hero and the much lauded touchscreen mechanics shown earlier. The result is disappointingly incomplete.

Visuals - 7
Sound & Music - 7
(Sounds like Pac-Man sounds: "Wakka wakka!")
Gameplay - 6
Controls - C
Longevity - C
(2-3 hours for Book 1; Book 2 is more of the same)
Replayability - B
(It's a pick-up-and-play high-score-driven game)
Difficulty - Medium to Hard

Draw your own Pac-Man! - 8
VERDICT - 5.5


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At its heart, Pac-Pix plays out like your typical Pac-Man game. Your aim is to gobble up all the ghosts on the screen whilst munching up the odd piece of fruit for further score bonuses. The key differences here are that you are no longer confined to a claustrophobic maze, you no longer have to consume power pellets to be able to eat enemies, and you now draw up your own Pac-Men with the power of the DS stylus!

Big, small, well-shaped, or a mess of lines; you call the shots. With a well-implemented morphing-routine system, you can bring your own creations to life no matter how 'off' they look. This is what makes Pac-Pix a joy to play for the first few minutes, but this gimmick wears thin after a while and you'll soon wish that the morphing wasn't as lenient as it is. In the heat of things, you may draw a really odd looking Pac-Man, and not only does it make it hard for you to tell which way he's going to go, but some iffy collision detection will accidentally have you lead him out of the picture and losing very important lives in the process.

Child's Play
You are slowly introduced to enemy ghost types, each of which need to be eaten up in their own special way. However there are only a small handful of different types, and although the boss battles are interesting while they last, there are much too few of these as well. As you make progress, you will also gain 2 abilities to help Pac-Man on his quest. These include arrows that can be shot to stun enemies or activate switches, and bombs which can blow up walls or armour off enemy ghosts. They provide more variety to what is otherwise a very simple concept, but there isn't enough application. The drawing recognition is also terrible compared to the job Namco managed to do with drawing the titular hero himself.

The game is played out in a storybook format, with 12 chapters each containing 5 or 6 pages (levels) to complete. The game saves automatically between chapters, but not within, so losing at any point between pages means having to restart the entire chapter from the beginning. Due to the difficulty, which is more pronounced due to some bad touch recognition (especially with the arrow ability), later levels will see you enduring numerous repeat attempts in order to clear the chapter and move on. It is particularly annoying to have to play the last 5 levels over again just to have a rematch against a boss. Each level may only last 1 or 2 minutes, but they are repetitive as heck.

Time to Pac up
As for the use of the second screen, it shows your key stats as well as a small tube which Pac-Man can use to cross over from the main touchscreen. This lets him eat up any enemies hiding there, as well as providing a temporary sanctuary while you shuttle other Pac-Men down below (up to a maximum of 3), manage your bombs, or align your arrows. It makes good use of what is available without bordering on unnecessary additions.

Once you have completed the 1st book, you then have access to the 2nd which is more of the same, but with a greater number of fast-moving enemies at any one time and a smaller time-frame to eliminate them all in. The bosses and the general layouts of levels are the same as in the 1st book; future replays will see you play one or the other, but they aren't different enough to make you want to go through both of them in succession.

Pac-Pix aims to bring back the addictive score-based nature of the classic arcade title. Unfortunately the whole draw-up-your-own Pac-Man gameplay doesn't lend itself well to this sort of structure. It is a game which is no doubt fun to pick up for a brief while during the rare occasion when there is nothing better to do. You will probably have a few laughs, before venting some frustration, and then move onto bigger and better things.

5.5/10 - I can see how earlier reviewers were enamoured, but the novelty has worn off this one; still worth drawing up now and again though

My Score System – a score of 7 from me denotes a good, solid game. Excellence earns a higher grade, whilst 4-6 reflects a below average product; glitchy, unplayable games deserve less.

18/03/07

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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