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“You should take better care of your Doodles!”
By: Anna Marie Whitehead
With the large number of tired and clichéd roleplaying games being churned out one after another, it's often a pleasant surprise to find one that innovates. Or, in the case of Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color, makes a hearty attempt to break free of the average mould. Innovation isn't a huge surprise, considering Agetec also brings us the RPGMaker series on the consoles. While standing out as a fun alternative with a light storyline and an easy to learn battle system, the large amount of silly errors and the overall randomness of battle may leave some players looking for an alternative title.
The player takes the role of a doodler, but said character does not actually appear in the game. Instead, characters stare, somewhat disconcertingly, straight out from the television. Doodlers are people still pure at heart, and therefore can draw Doodles - animate, feeling drawings that can be used to battle against other doodles.
The setup to the adventure in Magic Pengel is novel, and adds much to the originality of the game. While the battle system isn't exactly new, the way the colors contribute to each individual doodle and the amusing way they battle makes up for the chancy approach. Most opponents have well-detailed or themed doodles, and many will change their doodles as time goes on. The fact that each monster is drawn and has the potential to be upgraded in many different ways allows for a lot of creativity. Even without artistic talent, a grand fighting doodle can be born, which means just about anyone can pick up the game without worrying about drawing talent, color coordination, or any other artistic touches.
So, how does one go about creating the best Doodle in town? Pretty simple. At 'Home' (a set location where the game can be saved), there is a doodle book. Open up this book, and many pages are inside - one doodle per page. Here you decide what brush to use (large square is different than circle), what part to draw (first you need a body; some arms or legs; horns, spikes, or spots?), and what color to draw it in. Though your options are limited at first, you can gain additional parts (such as weapon parts or tails parts) by winning in tournament battles; this is also how new colors are acquired, in varying amounts. Brushes can be purchased. Not feeling creative? Fully-drawn doodles can be purchased from anyone in town. These doodles can also be upgraded with new parts. Bear in mind, however, there is a cap as to how much color and size a doodle can have.
The battle system itself is a mixed bag. Disappointingly, the old rock-paper-scissors-neutral rears its head again, often making battles a chain of lucky or unlucky guesses. One error can often make or break a battle. Attack beats Block; Block beats Magic; Magic beats Attack; the neutral, Charge, heals a small amount of HP and makes the next attack, regardless of type, more powerful. It is a good thing that losing a battle doesn't mean 'Game Over' - in fact, there doesn't seem to be such a thing. Advancing through the levels in the game is a predictable cycle: Draw or add on to your doodle, win in the Kingdom Arena to gain a new part and higher pengel abilities, then fight in the Seaside Arena to gain enough colors to add on to or create a new Doodle. This circle is broken up by a simple but amusing plot.
As a Doodler, the goal is to win progressively difficult matches against other Doodlers and gain new parts and colors to add to your own talented drawings. As a guest to Zoe and Taro, the player is drawn into the story of their missing father (Galileo), and the Kingdom, angry at Galileo for abandoning their cause to collect color and once again enslave the doodles. The Kingdom always wants to control all Doodlers, leading to constant conflict. The story is presented in a very straightforward way, and there's no hidden depth to it. This is not a negative point in the least - with the lighthearted attitude of the game overall; a deep sort of story would be unfitting.
The menus system works quite well in keeping in theme to the game. Boxes, options, and your pointer all look like they've been drawn with crayons - or doodled. The drawing system used is fun, and it is easy to go between colors and parts. Battling is also very intuitive - one button represents each Charge, Attack, and Block, while the four front buttons are used to choose which Magic attack to unleash upon the unsuspecting opponent doodle. There isn't exactly an item system normally found in RPGs, since a doodler's sole important possessions are color. Money (gold colored paint) can be received by trading in excess amounts of colored paints, and then spent on pre-made doodles being sold around town, or more useful doodling tools. A creature with thin round wings won't be able to fly if its legs were painted with a large square brush, after all.
Localization is where this title really hurts. The game abounds with simply stupid mistakes, such as signs indicating 'flesh seafood', words written 'withoutspaces', capitalization and grammatical errors. The voice acting, while adding a great amount of personality to the characters in the plot scenes, has atrocious timing in many scenes, and sounds terrible and grating during battles and while out and about in town. The voice acting in these two cases is totally unnecessary, and the game would be better without. Oddly, when it comes to the Encyclopedia cataloguing the help section of the game, nary an error can be found. Very curious indeed that the rest of the game doesn't stand up to this same level of quality.
The graphical style of the game may lead some to presume the game is childish. While things are agreeably kept to a simpler agenda, this doesn't mean that the look of the game isn't appealing. With the exception of the epilogue, everything in the game is drawn as if they, too, are doodles - later in the game; a doodle is mistaken for a human, for example. While this often gives the game a somewhat ragged look, having crisp graphics coupled with simple doodles would make the doodles seem terribly unappealing.
At the first listen, the appeal of the music in Magic Pengel might seem to depend greatly on the age of the person playing the game. The music is pretty simple, the sound effects average, and the voice acting seemingly timed by the tone deaf. The music does get better, fitting the theme very well; the sound effects, while suffering from the usual repetitiveness, do fit the cheery theme well. It's really a pity that their good qualities are overcast by how bad the voice acting is.
Magic Pengel really isn't that long of a game, easily completed in 15-20 hours. Once the credits roll, players can continue gameplay without having to restart. While this is a great opportunity to experiment with new doodle designs, by this point the novelty of the game has rather worn off, and only so many squiggly lines can be drawn before all the doodles begin to look like each other. The lack of replay value in the game is a disappointment, especially taking into account the short length of the adventure.
The game’s difficulty is really dependent on lucky encounters in battle, guessing the correct move to counter, or timing when to use charge. Some fights will only consist of one or two choices before the Doodles lose their color (ie, get knocked out), which can make the game either laughably easy or frustratingly difficult. Likely the hardest part of the game is when you are asked to amass a specific amount of color, since defeating the right opponent to gain it is difficult to gauge at a glance. Overall, with a bit of observation and pattern recognition, just about every battle can be won with minimal fuss.
In the end, the game is a pleasant diversion from deep, serious, mind bending titles. Anyone can pick it up, complete it, and then go on their merry way. While in no way can Magic Pengel be deemed a blockbuster title, it's a great little game when enjoyed at face value. A thorough quality assurance check could have done the game wonders, and it is hoped if further RPGs are forthcoming from Agetec they get a bit more time invested into them. The game is good, and above all else very fun, but with a lot of missed potential, this may be one game that's better picked up at a sale price.
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