Pac 'n Roll
Pac Man keeps coming back, and we're happy to accept all of his new adventures, especially his second starring role on DS!
There were scores of games at E3 2005 but I had the most fun playing Namco's upcoming Pac'n Roll for the Nintendo DS. This Marble Madness-style game tests your stylus skills by requiring you to maneuver Pac-Man through mazes and along narrow bridges without sending him to his doom, and although I wouldn't name it my favorite game of show, it definitely surprised me.
This is one of those games where its story isn't the least bit important, but just in case you're interested, apparently Castle Pac (yes, Castle Pac) is preparing to celebrate a huge harvest of power pellets when a strange UFO interrupts the festivities. The mysterious craft emits a powerful ghost beam that transforms the peaceful kingdom into Ghost Land, and if that's not bad enough, the evil monster Golvis (who's behind the attack) turns all of the Pac people into spheres. Enter Pac-Man! Our pizza-shaped hero launches himself into action and attempts to save the day, with you as his navigator.
Pac'n Roll is a fully 3D game where, using the stylus, you must guide Pac-Man through Ghost Land to safety while at the same time delivering the big hurt on those pesky ghosts. Just like in Marble Madness, you need to make sure he doesn't fall off ledges, but the game appears to be nowhere near as maddening as the aforementioned title. The levels or worlds are set up in a more obstacle course-like fashion, so you'll swing our little buddy around bends and sharp turns.
You'll also launch him off jump pads, and to do this you'll really need to pick up some speed by rapidly rubbing the DS' touch screen (the actual game is displayed on the top screen). To make matters worse, there are enemies meandering about, but throughout the entire game you'll be able to chomp on power pellets, and if you munch on a special one all of the ghosts will immediately turn blue and you'll be able to snack on them. In an interesting twist, as soon as Pac-Man eats one of them they don't come back like they do in the original Pac-Man games.
Like many of the DS games at E3, Pac'n Roll is fun in the most purist sense. Namco really nailed the controls, as manipulating Pac-Man with the stylus feels extremely tight and spot on, so whenever I accidentally caused him to fly off into a lava pit or through a ghost I blamed myself and not the game.
It's also not one dimensional. In other words, it's not all about gobbling up power pellets and destroying ghosts. The majority of the game's focus is steering Pac-Man through the various levels and making good use of power ups that are scattered about. Not only can you pick up armor to shield him from attacks, but he can swim and fly as well!
One of the coolest things about Nintendo's DS lineup is how companies such as Namco are making me forget about the ugly looking Madden game that debuted on the system last November. Although it looks just a slight step above an original PlayStation title, Pac'n Roll is a gorgeous game that features a host of different environments including lava pits, gardens, and a jungle, among others, and it moves without a hitch in its frame rate, so if you really get Pac-Man rolling he'll speedily zip all over the place.
Out of all of the games that I played at E3, Pac'n Roll is one of the select few that I actually came back to for a second helping (the other being Sega's Full Auto). Not only is it a perfect game for the Nintendo DS, but it breathes life into a very stale franchise that Namco has been milking for years (and yes, the original Pac-Man is included). My only concern has to do with the number of levels. The E3 demo was but a taste of what's to come, but there didn't appear to be a lot of worlds, and since I managed to blaze through three stages in a matter of minutes I'm wary of the game's difficulty level. However, regardless of how easy it may be I'm still going to rush to the store and pick it up when it releases this summer.