PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) (Nintendo DS) Preview

By Mike Mason 06.06.2010 4

Review for PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

PANG originated in arcades in 1989, published by Capcom and developed by Mitchell Corporation, who handled all of Capcom's arcade output at the time. It would later go on to be known as Buster Bros. in home conversions, where it enjoyed critical acclaim. However, PANG has not been seen in the land of mainstream gaming for quite some time - until now. Following input from Cubed3 readers many moons ago, Mitchell have revived the concept for Nintendo DS in PANG: Magical Michael.

The Michael of the title is a world-renowned magician, respected and adored by the world at large. That is until one day, when mixing a potion in his castle, he clumsily adds an ingredient that doesn't mesh well with the rest of the pot. An explosion follows, creating a horde of balloons that tear a hole through his homestead - these are strong balloons - and invade the entire world. His reputation on the line, and because he's an all-round good egg, Michael sets off to right his wizardly wrongs and burn some helium-filled rubber.

The gameplay follows earlier editions of PANG closely. The aim is to clear each level of bouncing balloons, accomplished by bursting them with a vertical blast from your bewitching baton. The spherical menaces pop with a 'pang' when struck - hence the title - but, unless they are already at their tiniest possible size, will not disappear, instead splitting off into smaller parts that continue to roam the arena and must be destroyed. Only when you have broken down all the large masses and taken out the tiny balloons will a level be complete.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

By relying on a simple concept, as well as controls that consist solely of the D-pad for Michael's movement and 'A' or 'Y' to shoot, Mitchell have been free to complicate things in terms of level design, safe in the knowledge that players will not have trouble understanding what they are meant to be doing. Whether players will actually be able to deal with the challenges thrown at them is another matter, as PANG: Magical Michael can be a tough game. The balloon counts will start small, but later - if you're useless at ball control - it seems as if a carnival has exploded inside your DS, leaving behind it nothing but floaty, colourful debris.

The stages, each adorned with backgrounds of world landmarks that change as you traverse the globe on your magic carpet in the game's main Tour mode, are initially sparse and feature only basic platforms and the odd ladder. The further you get into the adventure, however, the more complicated the architecture becomes; destructible, vanishing and replenishing platforms force you to alter your strategies to avoid death. Speaking of which: one hit from a balloon and you are one washed-up wizard, puffing away in a plume of smoke, and if the time runs out then the end result is basically the same: you lose. You have limitless tries to conquer each stage in the standard mode, but you must clean up all balloons without being touched before you can progress to a new stage.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Your magical attacks have a huge range, allowing you to snipe balloons from afar. However, their straight, vertical-only nature means that it is inevitable that you will have to use a mix of cleverly timed strikes to cut through balloons' paths so that they bounce right into the split-second magical beams, and suicidal charges under descending objects to fire them down from short range. Thankfully, there are items to help you. Firing down coloured blocks dotted around the stages can net you a variety of balloon-busting goodies, such as hourglasses and clocks to temporarily slow down or stop the movement of balloons, and bombs to knock all on-screen nuisances right down to their smallest size for easy pickings. Power-ups for your staff let you use two beams simultaneously, or a grappling hook-like beam that stays attached to the ceiling until an enemy bumbles into it. You also get the opportunity to put away your staff for a few seconds to hurl out deadly playing cards, which have a far wider horizontal range than your usual weapon. Collecting a protective shield allows you to flout the 'no touching' rule once before you die.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

A mere conversion of the original PANG might not have sat well in the present gaming spectrum, unless it was a barebone release on a download platform. Choosing not to go in this direction, Mitchell have heaped on the extras. As well as the standard Tour mode, you can also play as if it was an arcade game, with limited lives to further the challenge. The Panic mode has carried across from previous home versions, where an endless stream of balloons drop down towards you, with the only reprieves being offered by momentary ball freezes when you pop a flashing enemy, or by infrequent item drops and enemies that destroy others when shot. Scoring high is the central goal, and the more balloons you burst, the higher your level will go - along with the difficulty. This mode also has an unlockable touch-screen version, wherein Michael is locked into place in the centre of the screen and magic can be sent out at any angle by tapping with the stylus. The lack of movement means this is almost as challenging despite the improved flexibility of your attacks, and it provides a fresh way to play while keeping the core concept intact.

You'll want to obtain as high a score as possible to prove your expertise, thanks to the inclusion of online leaderboards. There will be high-score tables available for each mode, though in the pre-release version played they are obviously not yet active. In another bid to keep you playing, an achievements system is included. Not only that, but there's also a variety of competitive and co-operative multiplayer modes that can be played with either one or two copies of the game.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael (Hands-On) on Nintendo DS

Final Thoughts

PANG: Magical Michael's simple concept has ensured its addictive, 'just one more go' nature, and if you are a fan of action-arcade games (with a little puzzling to boot), it's hard to imagine that you would find something to dislike about it. With a string of DS successes such as Actionloop, Polarium and Sujin Taisen: Number Battles to their name already, it looks as if Mitchell have worked their magic once again for their remake of PANG.




Rising Star





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


Excellent stuff, Mike. Can't wait to play the final version of this to see how well the online stuff works and get my high scores uploaded Smilie

For those that don't remember the older version, here's a classic video of Super Pang:

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses
PANG Fan! (guest) 11.06.2010#2

I'll be interested to see how this looks in motion. Are there any videos available? Was a big PANG fan!

Not yet...I'm sure there will be some promo footage out there soon.

It's very smooth, and it's got some tiny touches of animation that bring things to life. It isn't the sort of game that is going to blast your eyes out with amazing visuals, but it's got a nice little style about it!

I can't believe three months have passed already! PANG will be arriving in Europe this Friday!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

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