About the game
Pac Pix is a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS.
Released in 2005 by Namco, the game is based around the successful pill and ghost munching arcade character Pac Man. For those of you who are reading this and do not know what the character should look like then the best way is to think of him is the shape of a round cake with a narrow wedge taken out!
The game is based inside the pages of a book! The book has been splattered with ghost ink which has led to an infestation of ghosts on each of the books pages. Pac Man has been despatched to restore the book by eating all of the offending ghosts but unfortunately as he enters the book he is turned into an inanimate character on the page. Pac Man asks for your help and using your stylus you must draw Pac Man pictures on the pages of the book that will magically animate and eat their way to victory.
So that's the plan - how does it play?
The game starts quite sensibly with a tutorial mode that will teach you the skills of drawing a Pac Man.
When you draw your Pac Man on the screen there are a few things to take into account. Firstly is the size of the drawing as the bigger the drawing the slower the Pac Man will move. Bigger Pac Man can eat more ghosts in one mouthful but cannot catch faster ghosts whereas smaller Pac Man can move faster and catch ghosts but be more difficult to control. Also in the latter levels there are areas that are size restricted and only smaller Pac Man can get through. You can have three drawn Pac man on the screen at any given time.
As soon as you have drawn your Pac Man it will magically become animated and start to move and chomp in the direction of his mouth. If the Pac Man goes off of the horizontal sides of the screen or the bottom edge of the touch screen then he will die.
To prevent Pac Man from dying you can control his orientation on the screen by drawing lines in front of him. Depending on the direction of your stroke made when you have drawn a line the Pac Man will move in that direction. Using these strokes carefully can keep a Pac Man on the screen and be used for navigating him towards ghosts and other items.
With these essential drawing skills mastered you can then start the game.
As I mentioned earlier the game is based around the chapters of a book. There are 12 chapters in the book and each chapter consists of several levels. Once you have completed all of the levels in a chapter then the next sequential chapter is unlocked. At the end of each chapter your progress is automatically saved which is great as you can return to the game as and when it pleases you.
For each level of each chapter there are three important criteria. Firstly there is an indicator that advises you of how many Pac Man you are allowed to draw in that level. The second indicator shows you the amount of seconds that you have to complete a level, this figure depletes and when it reaches zero its game over. The final indicator shows the number of ghosts to be eaten; when these have all been eaten the level is clear and your progress to the next.
The game is played over both Nintendo screens. The lower screen is where all of your drawing is done whereas the top screen shows the three aforementioned indicators and a tunnel (which I'll explain later).
The first chapter starts off easy enough with a few on screen ghosts to be munched to clear the level. Each level of the chapter gets progressively harder and you are introduced to several different ghosts that manoeuvre differently and prove more difficult to eat! It is also in the first chapter that you are introduced to the key icon and the upper screen tunnels.
A key icon is a small square symbol that once activated (by munching or shooting) unlocks a tunnel pathway on the upper screen that you can direct your Pac Man through to eat further ghosts and eat items of fruit that represent score bonuses. You can also periodically gain extra lives using this tunnel. The tunnel is a loop that runs horizontally along the top of the screen and if you despatch your Pac Man through the right hand entrance he will exit on the left hand side of the screen once he has proceeded through the tunnel.
So that is the basic principle of the game; clear ghosts from a chapter of a book to progress to the next. Sounds simple, so is that all there is to it? No; with the easier levels under your belt the future chapters introduce new levels of puzzle that require different strategy and game plan.
I don't wish to spoil the game play but it's worth a mention that the later levels will introduce lots of new objects onto the play area that make the game harder to progress. You will learn to draw weapon items such as rockets and bombs that you can use to shoot or stun ghosts with plus unlock tunnels etc. One of the most difficult items you will encounter are walls or small moving blocks that will send your Pac Man hurtling out of control in a different direction when collided with. There are also numbered enemies that need to be eaten in the correct order. If you eat these out of sequence then they will all reappear and require re-eating!
Finally you can access a set of gallery screens that show pictures of Ghosts that you have encountered through game play and brief descriptions of them. I rarely look at these screens but it does add a Pokemon style collectors twist to the game and I guess you can't say that you have completed the game properly until you have collected pictures of all the ghosts!
Sound, control and graphics
The sound in the game is actually quite good. The computer generated music is upbeat and jolly and also features a modernised version of the Pac Man music that was used in the original arcade machine version! In fact a lot of the movement, weapon use and bonus items all have the sounds closely modelled on the original version.
The control is done totally via the stylus on the touch screen. At first it can be difficult to draw a Pac Man that the system will recognise and subsequently animate but practice makes perfect. The tracking and stylus recognition is really accurate which makes game control a breeze.
The graphics are quite good. The ghosts and other enemies seem to have a little more depth and character than their original arcade counterparts and have been graphically smoothed so there is not a jagged pixel to be seen. The sprites are quite large and all of the menus, text and objectives are clearly displayed in a tasteful colour scheme.
Undoubtedly the game offers a unique twist on the old arcade favourite. The control mechanism was unique for it's time (the concept has been used in later Nintendo DS games) and is undoubtedly the games strongpoint.
It's enjoyable to play however game play does become repetitive quickly. I liked the way that the difficulty of the chapters are structured as they allow you to become comfortable with the controls and enemies, before introducing you to additional controls and more difficult challenges
My only minor gripe is that the game can become a little frustrating when the system occasionally doesn't recognise your drawing of a Pac Man but overall the game is a good fun arcade romp that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
A mischievous magician, known for playing pranks on poor unsuspecting folks, created something known as Ghost Ink, a fluid that pretty much turns any drawing into evil and vicious ghost monsters. Any ghost created with the ink ends up just as mischievous as the magician. Ink ghosts have invaded books and paintings, causing trouble within those realms, and now it's up to Pac-Man to wipe out the ghost problem by using the Ghost Pen, a device that allows him to enter the infested books and paintings to clear out the bad guys. Pac-Pix is a game tailored specifically for the Nintendo DS' system capabilities. By drawing Pac-Man characters in a specific fashion (the mouth first, then the circle, all in one swoop), the drawing will come to life and munch anything in his path. Players can maneuver Pac-Man drawings in different directions by plotting pathways on the screen for the scribble to follow.