In the upcoming Nintendo Wii game The Munchables, amorphous blobs with gaping mouths run around a bright and colorful world, chomping and eating anything that gets in their way. If that sounds a bit like Pac-Man to you, perhaps it should come as no surprise. The game, being developed by Namco Bandai (the house of Pac-Man, if you will), takes more than a bit of inspiration from the seminal arcade classic; yet calling it a straight Pac-Man clone would be missing the mark completely, because The Munchables also owes some of its trippy inspiration to the Katamari Damacy series (another Namco property), among other games. Yesterday, at Namco's spring press event, we had a chance to play The Munchables for ourselves to see how the game's multiple influences collide.
In the game, you play as a Munchable, a tiny little creature whose mouth is his best weapon. The basics of gameplay involve moving your Munchable around the screen and pressing the A button to chomp down on any enemy that gets close. Which enemies you can or cannot eat depends on your Munchable's level--the higher the level, the bigger the bad guy he can consume. Enemies that are larger than you are usually indicated with a level number above them. Even if you meet a bigger foe, however, you still have options, mainly in the form of breaking down enemies into smaller, more easily consumable portions by barreling into them with the B button. You can even target specific enemies by holding down the Z button on the nunchuk. You need to move quickly with "broken down" enemies, because they'll eventually reassemble into something larger if you give them enough time.
There's a storyline to The Munchables--something regarding the Munchables battling a bunch of space pirates and their boss, Don Onion--but that hardly seems to be the focal point. Instead, the game relies on its easy-to-learn controls, cute graphics, and some light puzzle solving to bring the fun. In the level we played, our goal was to get our Munchable to a certain spot on a level composed of islands of various sizes. To move from island to island, we used cannons that would blast our Munchable from one island to the next. The problem was that some cannons were gated off, and the only way to open the gate was to stand on buttons strewn around elsewhere on the map.
Adding further complication to the puzzle, activating certain buttons required our Munchable to be of a certain level, which meant that it was time to go eat everything in sight. Once we'd fattened him up, we could activate the button, backtrack a little to the previously closed gate, and continue on toward our goal. If this puzzle was any indication, the gameplay in Munchables looks to be more focused on chomping down baddies than testing your logical sensibilities, which means the game will likely find an audience with kids and adults alike.
The game's bright color palette and humorous boss battles--against characters with names like Brocco-Lee and Big Choco--should appeal to younger folks as well. The game will also support lots of character customization options and the ability to join up with another player to take on Don Onion and his Space Pirates. The Munchables is currently set for release on May 26.