Magic Pengel: the Quest for Color

Review

posted 9/10/2003 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PS2
While the graphics are inspired, a lot of the game just tends to look the same after awhile. The characters, at least the humans, have a somewhat washed-out look, and never seem to rise above under whelming. The animation is cute, but nothing we haven’t already seen on the original PlayStation almost 8 years ago.

In this world of bland colors, look alike buildings, and uninteresting characters, the only thing that really stands out is your doodle. Regardless of whether its just looking around the ranch or fighting in one of the arenas, your creation almost seems to stand out thanks to its bright colors and defined outline. It will probably be pretty funky looking, especially if you spend enough time playing and tweaking its look.

For an adventure game, Magic Pengel has an odd way of making you feel strangely claustrophobic. The world you float around in is nothing more than a few buildings, a handful of interesting town’s people, a castle, and various side paths. The game never takes you too far from your home, which is where you draw your characters and save your progress. In effect, the game doesn’t feel very grand in scale, and comes off more as an excuse to feature a unique drawing program.

You navigate through the world using your cute little Pengel creature, which looks like a paintbrush crossed with a squirrel. Your Pengel can float all around the screen, but he will always return to his center-of-the-screen perch when you aren’t touching the right analog stick. Since the game doesn’t require quick dodging, or even any exploration, it’s anybody’s guess why you can float around the screen, but it does add for some diversion when flying to your next destination.

Like the pace of the game, your Pengel’s flight is frustratingly slow. He also has a tendency to get caught up on invisible walls if you don’t keep him on the extremely linear path. There are also a number of questionably long load screens you will have to wade through in order to even fight one single match. By itself this isn’t terrible, but over time your patience for the game will start to fall.

The game will surely be compared to Pokemon, or any of the other trendy games with funky looking monsters fighting for some unknown reason. But the truth is, Magic Pengel has an uncanny similarity to Monster Rancher (for the original PlayStation). Like Magic Pengel, Bandai’s creature nurturing game also featured a gimmick, one that allowed you to use any CD to create a random monster. The game also had a rather limited combat system, was fairly repetitive, not to mention under whelming graphics.

But Monster Rancher was fun, and frankly, so is Magic Pengel. This is the type of game that could spawn a cult following. I wouldn’t be surprised to see fan sites pop up all over the Internet displaying their best (and worst) doodles. If you get into the whole concept of drawing characters and tweaking them to look just right, this is a game that could potentially last for hundreds of hours.

I was a little worried about my lack of artistic talent, but the game is amazingly intuitive, and before too long I felt like I was drawing like a pro. Instead of punishing you for not getting the design right the first time, the game seems to reward you for trying again, and eventually getting it just perfect. Even if it fails as an adventure game, Magic Pengel truly is one of the most captivating gimmicks I’ve seen in a long, long time.

The game certainly won’t make your friends stop playing Soul Calibur II, but with the right kind of community, Magic Pengel is the sort of game that can go a very long way. It’s also made for all ages, so I wouldn’t be surprised if even youngsters were captivated by the theme of the title. Regardless of whether or not you actually find it, the Quest for Color is an engaging game that is almost as entertaining as it is original.


C+
Magic Pengel falls a little short of being an epic adventure game, but manages to be one of the most original games of the year. Even if you’ve never fancied yourself an artist, Taito is here to show you just how little practice you need to draw the perfect doodle.


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