Pac-Pix Reader Review
If someone said to you ďtell me three things about the game Pac-ManĒ, most people would probably reply something like ďheís a yellow acid faced character; you guide him through a maze running away from the ghosts collecting the pills along the way; you eat power pills in order to eat the ghostsĒ. Well Pac-Pix is completely different and as far removed from the original Pac-Man game than anything that heís starred in before. Thereís no maze, heís no longer a yellow acid faced character (well not with me in control of the stylus anyway) and thereís no pills for Pac-Man to collect. After reading the story in the manual one must assume thatís because the Namco execs were up late one night popping them instead.
See the story goes that youíve been capturing all of the ghosts and putting them into a book. No I donít know why. Then this nasty wizard comes along and traps you in the book and thenÖ.sorry what was that? Oh you donít care! Neither did I!
Isnít art great!
Needless to say the story is there purely to try and explain why you are drawing Pac-Man on pages of a book (looks nothing like a book to be honest though) and guiding him around eating ghosts (no pills required, they are only ink after all now). Should one of your drawn Pac-Men go off the side of the screen, you have another four in reserve. You can also draw more of these often freaky looking monstrosities on the screen so you have more than one at once, although this often results in a much lower score as the multiplyer resets back to zero once a different Pac-Man eats a ghost. The Pac-Men you draw can vary in size, with the larger ones moving slower than the smaller ones.
The ghosts range in designs, from the standard looking ghosts that float across the screen slowly and basically act as cannon fodder, to ghosts that either float faster or throw paint on to the pages. Where there is paint there is trouble as you can not draw on that part of the page until it disappears, making drawing more Pacís or even guiding your existing one around even more difficult than usual. And to be honest, it was already pretty difficult in the first place.
You see, the DS is a wonderful handheld, it really is. The touch-screen has brought us some excellent games that just wouldnít work on any other format, like Kirby and Meteos. The DS has also helped improve existing games by purely offering a smoother control system, like Zoo Keeper. However it doesnít always get it right and Pac-Pix is one of those occasions.
It seems that it has difficulty telling when youíve drawn a perfect Pac-Man and when youíve drawn something that better resembles a deflated tyre, often preferring to recognise the tyre. To stop Pac-Man going off the side of the screen you can draw lines to block his path and make him turn or grab his back with the stylus and drag him backwards, well in theory you can drag him backwards. Often Pac-Man carries on regardless, completely oblivious to the fact that youíve just drawn a bloody great big line above his head to block his way and have him by the short and curlies dragging him back. As the game progresses it also has you drawing arrows to knock things down off of the top screen and bombs to blow up containers and protected ghosts. The problem is that it seems unable to recognise a perfectly drawn arrow or bomb, even when they have been drawn exactly the way the game requires (each item that requires to be drawn has a start and end point that you can not stray from). Cue spending precious seconds of a level drawing ten consecutively perfect bombs, only for the eleventh one to be recognised, which predictably looked less like a bomb and more like a sperm. Infuriating? Yes but it does help add some extra length to what is a criminally short game.
Iím all for games of short length. They have their place right next to the 50 hour epics and itís more about the experience contained in the game, rather than how long it lasts. But when youíve just spent £30 on what is basically a shallow, 4 hour tech demo for the DS, you canít help but feel cheated. What starts off as an interesting and fun game for the first hour becomes a chore by the fourth, purely because none of the 12 levels last more than 10 minutes and can be completed on your second attempt at the very most. And when I say completed, I mean a perfect rank, not just merely getting a good enough rank to progress to the next level. If you werenít bothered about getting perfect ranks before progressing, this could most likely be clocked in under 3 hours.
The overall presentation is as much of a letdown as the gameplay itself. From the underwhelming front-end to the extremely basic visuals on to the forgettable audio, Pac-Pix shouts ďrushedĒ, well it writes it on paper and then fails to recognise it anyway.
Give him back his pills
Itís not as though this couldnít have been a decent early launch DS game. Itís innovative and starts off fun, but the short length, the failure to recognise perfectly drawn objects and the repetitive nature of the 12 levels doesnít warrant a full price release. As a game thrown in with the DS to show off what it could do, this would have been fine, a sort of playable technical demo. But to expect the public to spend £30 on Pac-Pix would be laughable if it wasnít so iniquitous.
One thing that did strike me as both frustrating and an odd omission was no Pac-Man VS. When will developers learn that the second screen isnít just for touch-screen use, it can equally double up as a second screen without the reliance on shoehorning in a touch-screen element.
Pac-Man Vs over wireless link-up would have been fantastic. Up to 5 people playing, 4 ghosts, one Pac-Man, with Pac-Man seeing the whole maze split across both screens and the ghosts having the whole maze on the top screen, showing the position of the other ghosts but not Pac-Man and then their own part of the screen on the lower screen, very much like how it worked on the GameCube. That as an added extra would have added at least 2 points to the score and made it a much more worthwhile package overall, as well as adding a much-needed multiplayer element.
So Namco, next time you release a DS Pac-Man game, think about including Pac-Man VS and, whilst youíre at it, reinstate Pac-Manís pills and make sure you drop some Viagra in as well. He could do with being a bit harder and lasting longer.
4 / 10