Version tested: DS
I had a harrowing experience the other day, readers. I tripped and stumbled and fell down a dark deep well and there wasn't a rope in sight. Fortunately, after hearing my cries for help from below, good old Tom came up with a solution. He'd pour all the average to terrible DS games he could find down into the well so I could swim to the top. I was out in five minutes. Hooray for DS Roundups! Here's just a few of the games I shook out of my shoe after getting to the surface.
Prey the Stars
- Developer: KOEI Canada
- Publisher: KOEI
If we can get the tenuous x meets y comparison clich out of the way first. It's Pac-Man meets Katamari Damacy. It's Pac-Man because you roam around a grid eating things to win the game. It's Katamari Damacy because you get bigger as you do so, both in terms of the current level you're on and the overall arc of the story. Your small alien eating machine starts out small, eating food from the inside of a fridge, before expanding rapidly to the size of a house and beyond as the game progresses.
To pare it down to its apparent influences is misleading, however, as it lacks the quality or purity of either of its spiritual parents. Instead the game has you running around a small, partly top-down map made up of different squares, each containing a certain number of objects to eat. Some squares contain larger items, for which you have to chomp down on power-ups that make you big enough to eat them. The more you eat, the more points you get. Meanwhile other players, AI or human, are trying to do the same, hindered only by the attack power-ups unleashed by people every once in a while until someone wins.
While the game itself is none too complicated, the problem is it's over-egged the design. You can't just eat something and move on. Instead you're forced to stop moving and time your button presses to chomp down a number of times before you can actually swallow anything, and the buttons are different depending on what you've got in your gob. The result is a little too stop-start for a knockabout multiplayer game.
There's an unappealing visual style to it as well. It's all done up in that blocky low-res 3D the DS musters - too bland to stand out and not charmingly retro enough to evoke nostalgia - while the front-end bears a spirit of wackiness that doesn't quite gel. And I might have given the impression that the size thing was impressive, whereas the truth is that the individual levels are all exactly the same, it's just they've drawn bigger things on a smaller scale for each consecutive one.
Visuals aside, the game ultimately gets too repetitive too soon. It claws back some respect by providing additional challenges for each map and offering different characters with slightly different abilities for replay value, but the mechanics never really change enough to capture your interest for long. There's better could be done with the idea, really.