Pac 'n' Roll review

NGC discovers that DS's best roll-playing game is here

Pac-Man's been around for ages, but now he's going around like never before. Balls to complicated action heroes with legs and arms - Pac-Man manages with nothing but his pokey little nose and a permanent grin on his face.

Pac 'n' Roll is actually quite similar to Super Monkey Ball. It's less subtle, but just as exhausting as you roll Pac-Man by rubbing the stylus over him on the lower screen, like a track-ball.

A dash move is activated by swiping at him with the stylus and letting your stroke reach the edge of the screen - an essential move for dodging ghosts, smashing crates and tackling slopes.

This time there are loads of power-ups available. For example, an armour pick-up gives Pac-Man a helmet. It slows his movement, but enables him to smash metal boxes and sink to the bottom of waterlogged areas.

There's also the feather pick-up, which gives him a winged cap, making him able to glide through the air and skim across water at speed. Unfortunately, there's no bandana to turn him into 2Pac.

The stages are a mixture of undulating racecourses and platforming sections; although the former are far more enjoyable than the latter.

Whipping Pac around the banks and slopes with the stylus is simple, satisfying fun. Performing jumps and dodging timed hazards are less enjoyable, but overall it's an agreeable mix.

As well as this, later levels include sections reminiscent of the ghost-filled mazes of the original Pac-Man. While that may sound lazy, they're actually plenty of fun, simply because the analogue controls are incredibly well executed and fun to use.

Some levels are absolutely glorious and very few are laborious.

There's a lovely journey through the sky that's straight out of Mario's Rainbow Road, for example. Although it's slightly marred by a previous stage where you have to continually jump off the back of a moving platform to collect pills - Pac-Man's traditional currency.

Initially, all the levels are about collecting enough pills. And it's possible to burn through the 30-odd stages in an afternoon.

But don't frown, time trial versions of each stage are also available, and there's a further Challenge mode for each level. Although they're so tough you may as well put your finger in a vice, just to get into character for such a masochist pursuit.

Pac 'n' Roll is heavy on the wrists, too. But when a game is this physical, that's the price you have to pay. Anyway, hands up those who gave themselves finger failure and broken palms on Donkey Konga's bongos? What's that? You can't raise your hands? Ho ho.

We're mystified by the lack of a multiplayer mode, though. Especially since it seems to fit the format so well. Although the fact that the original Pac-Man is unlockable within the main game goes some way to make up for this. But why is there no version of Gamecube's awesome Pac-Man Vs?

But although it is slightly flawed, Pac 'n' Roll is a really good, fun game. And with Pac-Pix already putting a smile on our faces, it seems that Pac-Man is turning out to be one of DS's biggest stars. Unbelievable.

Pac 'n' Roll is out now for DS in Japan will be available in the UK in October

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