Prey the Stars: Gabu Gabu Planet DS Review

Juice!!!!! Yeaaaaa!! In my tummy, yummy yummy! Milk!!!! Yeaaaaa! In my tummy, yummy yummy! Tower block! Yeeaarraa, eh?!? Stars?!?

All you need is, love. Oh hello. I am the Spirit of Love. There are three important things in this world. The first is love. The second is, again love. Third, and most important is love. In fact, there’s a fourth….It’s love! That’s what the Spirit of Love told me in this game…….

Yes, I may have lost my marbles but I swear it’s mostly down to this ridiculous action game by Koei, Prey the Stars: Gabu Gabu Planet. The best way to describe this wacky arcade game would be to imagine the cross-breeding of Pac-Man with Katamari Damacy. Pac-Man brings the retro vibe and grid based eating madness to the table and Katamari Damacy adds the element of increasing your size through eating. Your silly looking dog/alien thingy starts off small, chopping away in a fridge before expanding to the size of house and beyond as the game progresses.

However, this interesting sounding mating doesn’t do the game justice, if any thing it’s an injustice to its parentage, it must be a cuckoo’s egg. The game lacks both any sense of achievement or challenge and has none of its clearly spiritual parents quality or purity. The game has you mainly running around a grid of squares chomping, licking or sucking (no jokes please, this is a kids game right?) on 3 different item sizes. You must pick up the correct power up items dropped at intervals to increase your size, to eat larger items, totally ruining the idea of eating = growth, it’s just about points and power-ups. As well as avoiding various environmental dangers you must compete against up to 3 AI or human opponents for these items. Eating certain objects in groups will grant you Mario Kart style power-ups to boost your performance or hinder your opponents. This malarkey goes on until the items are all gone where the person with the most points wins.

While the game itself is pretty simple, the problem is it’s ridiculously over-the-top UI design covering up the simplicity and its over-egged gameplay tack ons. You can’t just run over an item and get the points, you have to mash a specific button (remember the chomping, licking, sucking?) depending on the item in your gob using a golf-game style power bar. While I can see why the idea made it past the design stages, I just can’t see how it got past play-testing. The result of it is too stop-start and makes collecting (sorry eating) items a real chore, both in single player and multiplayer.

Visually the front end 2D drawn art by Japanese pop artist Touma is cute, but it doesn’t mesh well with the in-game graphics. They are a kafuffle of blocky low-res 3D that the DS musters and intrusively over complex UI information. Not enough shiny modern and not retro enough to provoke nostalgia. And I might have given the impression that the size thing was impressive, whereas the truth is that the individual levels are all exactly the same, it’s just they’ve drawn bigger things on a smaller scale for each consecutive one. The music is not as bad with a bouncy tune for each map but repeated plays to get through to the next area had me reaching for the volume control.

Despite cute 2D art work and functional, but clunky visuals, the game ultimately gets repetitive and boring very quickly. There are some additional challenges for each map and a selection of 4 different creatures with slightly different abilities to inject some interest and replay value, but the mechanics never really change enough to capture your interest for long. I’m pretty much convinced that the target market (7+) would find the same problems and discard it after an hour or so of play. While the multiplayer is fun, Bomberman trounces it any day, so buy that instead.

Remember, all you need is love.