| Pac-Pix

Amazingly, millions of people make a Pac-Man every day - just like his original creator Toru Iwatani did over 25 years ago when he removed a slice from his lunchtime pizza and studied the shape. Sadly history doesn't record whether it was a baked crust meat feast or Hawaiian with added olives - because when it comes to creating the lunchtime pizza Pac-Man, the pizza is all anyone is interested in. Pizza Pac-Man is about food not gaming.

But thanks to the touchscreen abilities of Nintendo's DS, Namco has decided to let you create your own Pac-Man outside of the pizza parlour. As suggested by its title, Pac-Pix is your chance to draw your own version of Pac-Man and see him charge around the screen eating up ghosts as he goes. It's always about food with Pac-Man!

When you draw your Pac-Man (you have to start by drawing his mouth and then his round body in one smooth motion or the game won't bring him to life), that exact shape will start to move. You can then direct him around the screen by drawing horizontal or vertical lines. When he hits one, he'll change direction, turning to face the way your hand moved when you drew the line. It's a brilliant trick and the first levels of the game let you simply enjoy drawing your Pac-Men (you can have three on-screen at any time) and chasing ghosts.

For unlike the arcade Pac-Man game, there are no pills to collect or mazes - apart from a little corridor that lets your Pac-Man move from one corner of the touchscreen, up to the DS' top screen and then back round to the other corner of the touchscreen. Basically, Pac-Pix just focuses on the action. Of course, there are several types to chase, from the slow-moving Pinky ghosts to the Blue ones, who speed up as you get close. As you get further into the game so the opponent get harder, including ones who can only been eaten when approached from behind, and some really annoying ones who can teleport around the screen. There are also barriers that will ping your Pac-Man backwards and reverse his direction.

To keep you on your toes, for each level there's a maximum number of Pac-Men that you can draw. If one disappears off the edge of the screen, he's lost forever, and if you run out of Pac-Men it's game over. Other restrictions include a ticking-down timer, so when you complete each level, your score is worked out from the number of Pac-Men you have left and the number of seconds remaining. And each chapter ends in a boss match, where instead of chasing lots of ghosts, you have to take on one more powerful monster. One of the funniest is Biggaboo, a big purple creature who you can only defeat by drawing a Pac-Man even bigger than he is.

But size isn't everything. For one thing, you may be thinking, 'I could beat this game easily by drawing a Pac-Man that fills the screen,' but you can't. The bigger your Pac-Man, the slower he moves. Also you can't draw over the ghosts and as they're always moving around, sometimes it can be difficult to find a space to draw a Pac-Man. These problems get harder to deal with when you start to come across some little critters who drop paint on the touchscreen to limit your space even more. Often they appear at the top of screen, floating around in bubbles. Luckily, you get to unlock more skills, including the ability to draw arrows that fly up the screen and knock the monsters down into the jaws of your waiting Pac-Men. Later in the game, you'll also need to unlock the bomb-drawing skill, where you draw a bomb and then attach the fuse to a candle to explode it and stun ghosts, releasing opponents and other items which are bricked up. Combining these makes the game much more complicated as you'll end up trying to keep your Pac-Men on the screen and eating ghosts, while firing arrows to hit a trigger to light a candle so you can draw a bomb to release the last ghost. It gets very frantic.

In fact, it's almost too frantic. This is particularly a problem because of the way the game levels are organised into chapters with five levels for each of the 12 chapters. You have to complete all the levels in a chapter to move onto the next chapter, but if you fail at any level, you have go back to the beginning of the chapter and try over again. It's not a very elegant system and one that can make you very frustrated as the final levels get super complicated. It also ends up detracting from the best bit of the game, which is just watching the Pac-Man you drew rushing around the screen.

It really is a magical experience, and one you won't find in any other DS game, which makes it such a shame it's locked down into such a rigid level progression.

Pac-Pix is on sale now.


One of the most innovative and fun DS games, Pac-Pix is eventually let down by its frustrating levelling up system