Ping Pals Hands-On

THQ is readying a new Nintendo DS game for kids that will let them draw pictures, send messages, and trade funky outfits.

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SEATTLE--We got our hands on Ping Pals today at Nintendo's Gamer's Summit. The game is being targeted at the six-to-12 age range and will facilitate all sorts of communication and trading between friends via the Nintendo DS' built-in wireless networking functionality. The only question we had after we stopped playing the game was this: If Ping Pals is meant for little kids, how come we were having fun messing with it?

The focus of Ping Pals is on your very own ping pal--a character that you'll create and customize, and who will then act as your own personal avatar in wireless chat rooms that you can join with other nearby DS players. Once you're in a chat room, you'll be able to send messages back and forth, draw pictures for each other, play multiplayer minigames, and that sort of thing. It's a bit like the PictoChat software built into the DS itself, but much more advanced and featured (and with more personality to boot).

Ping Pals' biggest aspect is the continuing customization of your character, using the application of roughly 2,000 items. This includes everything from hairstyles to hats, clothing, accessories--you name it. The catch is that each game of Ping Pals will only have about 300 of these items available, so you'll have to trade items with other players (each of whom will have a different 300 items in their cache) if you want new stuff. More specifically, you'll have to buy these items from your friends--style don't come cheap, friend. When you sell an item away, you lose it, but you do reap the cash reward, and you'll also be able to earn extra money in the aforementioned minigames. Maybe kids will even learn the value of a buck while playing Ping Pals (but we doubt it).

The game seems to have a lot of charm from our brief experience with it--you can scroll down the list of items you have and apply them to your character to see what they look like, and then when you join a room with up to 15 other players, you'll be able to see everyone's characters in all their glory. Ping Pals is slated for release alongside the DS in late November, so look for more on it soon.

For more updates on the Nintendo DS and other impressions and media, check out GameSpot's coverage of Nintendo's Gamer's Summit.

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