Saturday, 23 January 2016

Pang: Magical Michael (DS)

So, Pang (also known as Buster Bros. and Pomping World) is a series that was once fairly well-known, but seemingly got completely forgotten once the 32-bit consoles came long in the mid-90s.  For those of you who don't already know, it is, at its most basic, a kind of mix between Space Invaders and Asteroids, where the player (or players) run around the bottom of the screen firing upwards at malevolent balloons, that split into smaller balloons when shot, until they're at their smallest size, at which they just pop. The aim of each stage is to get rid of every balloon without any of them hitting you.

2010's Magical Michael was the first new Pang game in ten years, and in the years since, there haven't been any more of them. It's a shame, because it's easily the best in the series. The two main modes in the game are tour mode, which is the traditional stage-based affair, themed around visiting famous landmarks from around the world and freeing them of their inflated spherical oppressors, and panic mode, introduced in 2000's Mighty Pang, which is an endless survival mode with no platforms, items or ladders, in which balloons endlessly fall from the sky, with the player just popping them, scoring points and staying alive as long as possible.

The reason that this is the best version of Pang is mainly down to its host hardware. The two screens of the DS allow for a wider array of stage designs in tour mode: single-screen stages, stages in which the balloons have the height of both screens to bounce in, and split-level stages, where the player has to judge when and how to climb the ladder from one screen to the other.

To be honest, though, I don't particularly care for tour mode. Panic mode is a lot more enjoyable, being a pure score-based game of skill. There are two main scoring mechanics: one based on which order you pop balloons (more points for consecutively popping same-sized balloons) and a bonus that gradually increases as long as you don't fire off a shot that hits nothing. Panic mode doesn't really gain anything massive from being done on two screens, though, other than the fact that it takes place in a series of extravagant high-ceilinged halls that look amazing, despite being heavily stylised static artwork. It does, however, benefit greatly from being on a handheld. It's just a great game to have on hand to play for a few minutes while waiting for something else to happe, and a handheld console is a lot more convenient and logical towards that end than an arcade cabinet.

Pang: Magical Michael is a good game and a worthwhile (though simple) update to an old series. It's also available for practically nothing, so I definitely recommend seeking it out.

1 comment:

  1. I've been playing this beautiful game on/off since it was released, and I agree the best in the series. I even own the original 1990 arcade board and the 2001 Mighty Pang version.

    The DS version is constantly with me, in my 3DS. I am almost done with Tour mode, it's my favourite because I like seeing the scenery of all the World Heritage sites, and also solving the "puzzle" aspect of each level. The final levels are ridiculously difficult, but I know I can do them. There's a great longplay on YouTube I've been using when I get stuck.

    I also maintain the gamefaqs page of unlockables/cheats:

    And I am indirectly responsible for the forthcoming Pang Adventures, as I picked Mitchell Corp to be interviewed for The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, which resulted in press about their IPs being up for licence, and then DotEmu licensing Pang for a reboot/remake. Crazy really.

    Thanks for posting about this game!