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Pac'n Roll

Developer: Namco | Publisher: Namco
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 08/23/05 | Genre: Platform

For Pac-Man's second outing on the DS, Namco's taken away his arms and legs and dropped him in a big 3D world. That's okay, because as it turns out, Pac-Man controls pretty fun that way. You've read some reviews that claim Pac'n Roll is like a cross between Pac-Man and Super Monkey Ball. You may have read yet other reviews that say Pac'n Roll is mix of Pac-Man and Marble Madness. Well, I'll set them all straight right now. Pac'n Roll is like a blend of Pac-Man, Super Monkey Ball, and Marble Madness. Not that we have that out of the way, I can explain what it's all about.

Pac-Man has been turned into a ball and players must guide him through 3D worlds filled with many types of obstacles towards a goal in each level. To make Pac-Man roll, you simply slide the stylus across the render of Pac-Man's spherical body on the Touch Screen. It works just like a trackball, and the basics are very easy to get used to. There is also a dash move that's used to climb up slopes and break certain obstacles. To perform a dash, you must quickly flick the stylus across the Touch Screen. The tough part is that you must then stop in a narrow border around the edge of the Touch Screen. If you don't stop in the border, it won't register as a dash move. It takes some practice before you get the hang of it, and it could be tougher for younger players. It's for this reason that you need the precision of the stylus. You can't really play with the thumb strap or your finger. It would have been nice if the dash move was easier to perform, but once you get the hang of it, it shouldn't be much of a problem. The control is otherwise very intuitive.

Each level has a series of gates that block your progress towards the goal. In order open the gates; you must collect a certain amount Pac-Dots. The dots force you to navigate various obstacles rather than just blast straight toward the end of a level. So the collecting is not tedious; it's where a lot of the fun and challenge lies. The Namco developers came up with some pretty imaginative level designs with a good amount of variety. Overcoming the game's hazards requires not only track ball skill and timing, but sometimes a little puzzle solving too. Pac-Man can don two hats. The knight's helmet makes him heavy, impervious to some attacks, and slow. The feather cap makes Pac-Man fast and light, allowing him to float through the air a few moments. The game is fairly easy for the first half or so, and the challenge starts to pick up after that, but most gamers should be able to beat the story mode with out much trouble.

After a level is beaten in story mode, a series of challenges open up that extend the replay value. You'll be tasked with collecting every single dot plus a hidden gem in each level, time trials, and other various objectives. The additional challenges can take quite a few tries to complete, and provide some additional play value to what would otherwise be a pretty short game. There are some cool bonus levels that can be unlocked, so players will find it rewarding to try to complete the game 100%.

Pac'n Roll's levels are rendered in full 3D on the top screen, and Pac-Man's body is also rendered in 3D on the Touch Screen. It looks fairly impressive and it always runs smoothly. The camera is always zoomed out a certain distance from Pac-Man, which does hide the lack of detail in the game's textures. The levels are quite large, but they're broken up into smaller areas with nearly instantaneous transitions.

Thematically, Pac'n Roll features standard platformer designs. There's a jungle level, a ghostly level, desert level, etc. The music is generally cheery and fits each level well. Some of it is directly inspired by classic Pac-Man sounds. I found the music enjoyable, but forgettable.

Pac'n Roll is very fun to play and it's a good fit on the DS. It would have benefited from some additional levels however. It will only take you a few hours to beat. If you strive for 100% completion, then you can double or triple that play time. The gameplay isn't very original, but it's well done. A multiplayer mode could have convinced me to give a stronger recommendation for Pac'n Roll, but that doesn't mean you should pass over the game. It's a worthy design and unique one (for now) in the Nintendo DS game library.

By Andrew Thivyanathan - 11/23/05
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