Pac-Pix Hands-On

Ghosts are munched by shapes that vaguely resemble Pac-Man as we check out Namco's stylus-based puzzle game for the DS.

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Currently scheduled for release toward the end of April, Pac-Pix is a stylus-based puzzle game in which both your reflexes and artistic talents will be put to the test. We recently received a preview build of the game that afforded us access to four of its 12 chapters, and we're pleased to report that there's a little more to Pac-Pix than just drawing horribly deformed versions of Namco's mascot.

Scarf up ghosts in a whole new way with Namco's quirky Pac-Pix.

Pac-Pix is played exclusively with the Nintendo DS stylus, which is used to draw walls that will coax your creation into moving in other directions, as well as pin him down when you want him to stop moving for a second. Your goal, predictably, will be to munch on the various ghosts that float around both of the handheld's screens. Naturally, as you progress through the game, this will get much more complicated and challenging than you might expect.

When you reach Pac-Pix's second chapter, for example, you'll have to chase ghosts up to the console's top screen, which you can only do after you've had your Pac-Man move over a switch that unlocks two doors between the screens. The top screen is also where you'll need to go to collect extra lives and fruit bonuses when they appear. And as you progress through the game, you'll find you need to be increasingly aware of events transpiring away from the bottom screen.

By the time you reach the fifth chapter, you'll notice that a number of the ghosts you're after are floating around the top screen inside bubbles, which can only be popped using arrows (drawn in the same way as your Pac-Man) fired from the bottom screen. Firing arrows and keeping your Pac-Man under control simultaneously can be quite challenging, and the fact you only have a limited number of Pac-Men with which to complete each level means letting them munch their ways off the screen and into oblivion is rarely a good option. However, despite this, you'll also be playing every level against a time limit. As a result, you might want to try to actively control more than one Pac-Man simultaneously.

The last chapter of Pac-Pix's 12 included in our preview build was chapter nine, which introduces a number of additional gameplay elements to the proceedings. Challenges waiting for you toward the end of the game will include ghosts that take more than one munching to kill, ghosts numbered one through three that have to be munched in the correct order, and ghosts trapped inside walls that can only be munched after those walls have been destroyed using bombs. These bombs you'll have to draw yourself, of course, and then connect to a flame somewhere on the screen with a line that represents its fuse.

This fellow doesn't look very pleased. What's wrong, chum?

As we mentioned earlier, Pac-Pix is deceptively challenging, which is largely because the first few levels you'll play are almost impossible to mess up. You can beat the earliest levels simply by drawing a giant Pac-Man that occupies almost the entire screen, for example, but on later levels (when you might only have a handful of Pac-Men with which to munch upward of 20 ghosts), you'll find these giants are much harder to control than their diminutive counterparts.

Pac-Pix isn't a great-looking game, but it boasts a surprising amount of depth. And at the end of the day, there's just something very satisfying about seeing your Pac-Man in action. Pac-Pix is also one of very few DS games that has clearly been designed specifically with Nintendo's latest handheld in mind. In addition, it arguably puts the stylus and touch screen to better use than any other DS game we've seen. We'll bring you more information on Pac-Pix as its release date closes in.

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