Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

PANG: Magical Michael (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for PANG: Magical Michael on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Much like a certain Italian plumber, PANG started life as a ‘Bro’; or, to be much more specific, an arcade title known as Buster Bros. Converted for home computers way back in 1990, and soon revered as a classic, Buster Bros saw the player tackling multi-coloured bubble-like spheres by popping them in a manner not too dissimilar to vertical shooters like Xevious and Espgaluda, only in the shape of a platformer. The concept made its way into sequels in the following years, eventually being renamed completely to its original Japanese name of PANG when publisher Capcom and developer Mitchell Corporation parted ways. Now, after successful trials with Magnetica and Polarium on Nintendo’s dual screen handheld, Mitchell have given the PANG series a completely new look, a new publisher in Rising Star Games, and a new format to work on. How does this classic formula hold up on the DS?

The Magical Michael of the title is the main character of this game, and the one you’ll be controlling throughout it. As the story goes, he is a famous magician who accidentally messed up a potion he was brewing, and unleashed thousands of deadly balloons into the world. Now he has to travel around the globe to stop those balloons from destroying famous landmarks and cities of various counties. This story provides a nice retro call-back to Buster Bros, as it went along similar lines, all the while providing a sturdy basis for newcomers to grab hold of in this newest edition.

The basic gameplay of PANG requires little explanation to get off the ground; move left, right, and up and down ladders with the D-pad, and fire upwards with A. Pop a balloon by firing at it, and depending on its size and colour, it’ll split into smaller balloons, or disappear altogether. Your goal is to clear all balloons on screen, all the while avoiding touching any of them as they are fatal to Michael.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The beauty of Magical Michael is in the way that Michell Corp have taken such a basic concept, and ran with it until their feet blistered and ached. In Tour Mode, the real meat of the game where you can explore the world, every single round within every single country-represented level is unique, and brings along a brand new, fresh structure, item, or situation. You may have disappearing platforms, or warp gates, or circus-type balloons that bounce on the ceiling instead of the ground. You may have to make use of a bottomless pit’s worth of item choices, including a vine-like shot that stays in place until a balloon hits it, an hourglass that slows or freezes time, a bomb that reduces larger balloons to their smallest form, or even an energy sphere that can be hit to instantly burst all inflatables on the screen. There is so much variety and design aesthetic in just one mode you’d be left wondering how there is room for it all. This becomes steadily more apparent as you progress through the game and more of it opens up, and new modes present new situations, such as the addition of a jump button or allowing players to use land mines, for example.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The original Buster Bros made use of only one screen, whereas this new incarnation of the game has DS features to play around with; ergo, double screen usage, and later on there’s a dedicated mode that makes use of the touch-screen in a fashion not too dissimilar to the Bust-a-Move series. Through availability of two screens, Mitchell have expanded the levels to include shooting from one screen to another, double-layered levels, and for Panic Mode in particular, a mode that fires endless waves of balloons at you as you bid to gain a high score, a preview of what is coming next to fire at. The gap between the screens is largely ignored here, so a balloon or item falling from the top would instantly appear on the bottom, which may faze those used to games that compensate for the gap. One area where the gap is enforced is through certain multiplayer modes that allow you to keep an eye on your opponent on one screen while you take care of business on the other. For that mode it is of no issue, but even in single play the gap is quick and easy to get used to, and PANG uses the dual screen setup - and the touch-screen - to great effect. Even the microphone gets a look in through the multiplayer feature, as it can be used to blow back certain balloons at your opponent on the top screen.

Magical Michael uses a highly colourful palette style of design throughout the game, which, despite its initial simplicity, adds bags of character and personality to what would otherwise be a trek across a wide variety, but dull and static, of world locales. As it is, it’s quite a motivating push to see how Stonehenge looks in this style, for instance, or even the Sydney Opera House of Aussie fame. The visuals do not push the DS to any particular degree, yet they complement PANG immeasurably well, providing a crisp, clear canvas for you to play on.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sound is another area where the game more than holds its own. All tunes are uplifting, cheery, and entirely fitting for the levels they are backing in most cases, most notably with the motivational track that Panic Mode hosts, or the authentic tunes supporting the different nations of Tour Mode.

Many players would quite rightly expect a vast amount of playtime from any puzzling title, and for PANG that is certainly no issue. From the aforementioned multiplayer features, which only require one cartridge for two people to play, to the vast amounts of single player modes and difficulties that are unlocked as you progress through the main game modes, PANG will last a considerable amount of time for anyone that clicks with the concept. Aside from that, high-score enthusiasts will be in heaven with Magical Michael, as the game features not only a medal system for high numbers, but an Achievement-style system for fulfilling certain conditions. Also, Wi-Fi support comes as standard, albeit only in leaderboard form, but it is still a motivating prospect to compare your ability to that of the rest of the world. PANG: Magical Michael will no doubt fall under the radar from the glut of high profile releases over the coming months yet, as anyone that plays it will likely attest, it can easily match them in the entertainment stakes.

Screenshot for PANG: Magical Michael on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

Absolutely flawless controls, solid game concept, and a good variety of level designs and locations. The gap between the screens may disorientate at first, but it soon becomes a non-issue.

Graphics

Initially a basic, bland yet colourful look, but becomes readily apparent how much style and character this palette choice adds to the game.

Sound

Some truly sublime themes, acquiring both authenticity and motivation from where they are placed in the game modes. Microphone is scarcely used, yet works a treat where it is.

Value

From a high score perspective, Magical Michael has limitless longevity. Just from the game’s levels, even minus online play, there is still a scary amount of playtime offered here, as the number of modes only increases the more you play.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Mitchell Corporation have given the DS yet another top quality puzzler, and simultaneously revitalized a classic gaming concept for a new generation. From what passes as a barebones offering to begin with, Magical Michael proves itself to be an addictive, high value game that deserves to be recognised amongst the DS’s best.

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20.09.2010

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Developer

Mitchell

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Puzzle

Players

2

Online enabled

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   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Johnny (guest) 21.09.2010 18:06#1

This sounds excellent! Where can I buy it from, though? I can't find anyone online selling it and it wasn't in my local game store Smilie

Don't want to miss out on this if it's in limited supply!!

Michael (guest) 21.09.2010 23:00#2

That's a much better review than the two read on some obscure little websites! Wonder why places like IGN, Gamespot, CVG and Eurogamer haven't covered it yet?? Even N Europe and Nintendo Life haven't given the game any coverage.

Weird...

I'm a big Pang fan and this game does not disappoint " on the whole.

Whilst it plays a great game of Pang the main character sprite and animation are pretty bad. The voice overs are worse - emotionless and, criminally, cannot be skipped.

It's most similar to the most recent arcade game in the series Mighty Pang (which I happen to own) in its style of graphics and the types of platforms and power-ups that appear. Mighty Pang is more charming as it doesn't feature the magician and has some fantastic Japanese arcade style voice overs and graphical touches.

To that end, I'd love to see a straight conversion of Mighty Pang for WiiWare/Virtual Arcade. But for now I'm happy to see a new incarnation of one of my favourite games. Well done Mitchell Corp/Rising Star Games.

Striker7 (guest) 22.09.2010 19:59#4

I guess it's personal choice, but I quite like the cheesy US style voice this time. Annoying, shrill voices like in the past really grate on the nerves!

Cool game, very addictive!

Petey (guest) 24.09.2010 22:53#5

Iiiiiiiit's showtime!!! Smilie Classic stuff! Michael's scary without eyes, but I like how there's much more background detail on the character (read the profile thing, pretty cool!). Amazon UK only has two copies left in stock, so it's clearly selling. Good stuff! Smilie

Great review mate, definitely sold me on it. Now, to grab one of those copies!! :-D

Staff Member

Awesome, glad I could help. Smilie

Gotta say, the inner critic in me had a very tough time of it with this one. Smilie


Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I know it's my voice in the game, and I helped with feedback and ideas for the final product (did you see my name in the credits, Shane??), but from an unbiased viewpoint I'd still give this an 8.5, which in Cubed3's case rounds up to a 9/10.

It has all the fun of the original PANG games, but with the fantastic addition of special challenge modes, local wireless multiplayer and the very cool touch-screen addition. This may not have entered the Chart Track DS Top 40, but it's already sold out and been restocked on Amazon UK (as noted by one of the guests above).

I can see this being a slow burner. I wonder what's going to happen with the US and Japanese release, though?

Thanks for the honest, forthright review Shane - glad you enjoyed it so much in the end Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Petey (guest) 26.09.2010 14:59#8

There's only one left in stock again at Amazon! Seems to be selling out as quickly as they can restock Smilie

I'm still loving this. I didn't mean to be rude by criticising the voice overs - I wasn't aware people here were involved in the game.

I love the Japanese style presentation of the previous games and with this one I don't hear an American voice I hear an Northern English regional accent trying to sound American. But that's probably because I'm a Northerner, too!

That said, the game is excellent and as a fan of the series and a perfectionist I'm only critical of the finer details out of love, rather than hate. Long may it continue to sell well!

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I didn't realise this, but you can actually buy this in Australia now!

It was also launched in Germany on 12th November. Shockingly, Namco Bandai Partners listed reviews from Nintendo Life, Game Central and ONM...but not Cubed3!! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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