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DS

North America

Ping Pals

by Jonathan Metts - December 30, 2004, 9:02 pm PST

5

This decent chat program has little going for it as an alternative to PictoChat.

If games existed in a vacuum, Ping Pals would deserve, and probably

receive, great success. It is a fully capable chat program that mimics

the popular IRC chat protocol on the Internet. Unfortunately, Ping Pals

doesn't do much that isn't already offered in PictoChat, and in some

ways it's not as easy to use. It also happens to be sold separately,

while PictoChat is included with every Nintendo DS...and even a

wireless download feature can't bend the rules of economics. Free is

better than not free.

Ping Pals is a straightforward chat program; you can boot it up and be

chatting within seconds. Most communication is handled through a small

keyboard display on the touch screen. The keys are tiny, so a stylus is

absolutely required. After a bit of practice, it's not too hard to find

the letters you want and strike them accurately, but the process is

slow and rather laborious. For a more natural method of input, there is

also an option to draw your messages and send them to the chat room,

just like in PictoChat. However, the drawing area is smaller in Ping

Pals, and you can't mix text into your drawings. In fact, you have to

manually switch from text mode to drawing mode and back. The drawing

feature is quite simple, in that you cannot draw in mixed colors or

even change the pen size.

Ping Pals is primarily a utility program, with some game-like features

for when you get bored with just chatting. What's interesting is that

all of these games take place entirely within the chat structure. One

plays like Pictionary, with one person drawing a picture to represent a

word and the others guessing what that word is. Another is like Hot

Potato, with each player typing the word "PASS" as quickly as possible

when the designation reaches them. It's extremely simple stuff that

creative chatters could set up themselves without the game's built-in

infrastructure. There are even games for when you are chatting alone,

like "guess a number between one and ten"...is your heart still

beating? Solo Chat is a game that puts you into a "conversation" with

an artificial chatter, who tells you a lengthy story and periodically

asks you for input. All it really wants is for you to type "YES" or

"NO", and most variations on these words, such as "YEAH" or "NOPE",

will not be understood.

The incentive to play these incredibly simple games is virtual money,

which is used to buy items for your avatar. There are literally

thousands of items to buy, although only a few are available during any

given session. The items for sale rotate frequently, and other Ping

Pals owners can even put up their own items for sale to make some money

back. The idea is that you can eventually get the perfect set of items

to make your avatar look just the way you want. The last major method

of earning money is to discover "Money Words", which will give you a

certain amount of money depending on how rare they are. The Money Words

tend to be things you would say in a casual conversation with

classmates in elementary school, like "FRIEND", "TEACHER", and

"AWESOME". There are hundreds of Money Words, but you only get money

the first time you type one.

Ping Pals offers a downloadable wireless feature that lets you send a

simplified version of the program to other nearby DS owners. The

moochers will be able to chat and draw, but they will receive a generic

avatar and will not be able to make money or buy items. In other words,

the downloaded version of Ping Pals strips out the few features

differentiating the game from PictoChat, making it even more

redundant. The only way to enjoy Ping Pals as intended would be to have

a sizable group of friends who all own their own copies of the game. If

that is the case, you should consider moving to a different school,

because all your friends are idiots.

Chatting with Ping Pals is completely functional, but manually typing

text gets annoying quickly, and the more intuitive and fun drawing

feature is simply inferior to PictoChat. The avatar concept might

appeal to young kids, who are the game's target market, but it only

works well if several people all own Ping Pals. This isn't ever going

to be the case as long as our schools are still teaching basic

math. Furthermore, earning the money needed to buy avatar items

requires that you manually type for hours on end or play the included

mini-games over and over again, even though none of them are very

appealing. This game just doesn't have much to offer over PictoChat,

and for the price difference, we should expect a much fuller experience

and a better interface. Ping Pals, though certainly not terrible, is

one of those games that is hard to recommend to anyone, even its

young target audience.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6.5 3 5 1 4 5
Graphics
6.5

This kind of product needs more utility than flair from its visuals, and Ping Pals generally does a good job of that. The "hip" art design will probably appeal to the kid audience it's intended for. If you chat enough, you can eventually make your avatar to look pretty much exactly like you want. On the downside, the touch keyboard is too small, considering it is the primary interface with the game.

Sound
3

If you can be bothered to rack up thousands of coins to buy new background music, maybe you'll find one that suits you. Until then, it's the same generic beat over and over.

Control
5

The interface could certainly be better. Typing manually on the touch screen is even slower than typing on a cell phone, and the tiny keys mean that you will have typos (which can be a hindrance in the mini-games). Just drawing words is easier and more fun, but the drawing space is rather small, and you have to switch back and forth between text and draw modes.

Gameplay
1

Ping Pals is not really a game at all. But even the act of communication can be fun...PictoChat has proven that already. It doesn't work as well in Ping Pals, because text chatting is the main focus, and the more entertaining draw mode isn't as well developed. The built-in chat mini-games are extremely simple, not that much fun, and could easily be set up without help from the software.

Lastability
4

Playing by yourself is amusing for all of about five minutes. Then you can let other DS owners download the chat program...but their version will be inferior to PictoChat, so that's not going to fly. In the unholy circumstance that you know someone else who owns a copy of Ping Pals, then yes, it is conceivable that you could spend many countless hours chatting back and forth and collecting avatar items.

Final
5

Ping Pals doesn't suck. It's not the worst software ever released. It's actually a pretty decent chat program, though not a fantastic one. But alongside the ubiquitous PictoChat, there is almost no reason to own Ping Pals. I repeat, do not buy Ping Pals.

Summary

Pros
  • Tons of avatar items to collect and mix
  • Whisper and ignore features for individual chatters
Cons
  • Depends too heavily on clunky text input
  • Downloadable version lacks all the real version's unique features
  • Largely upstaged by a similar, free program that every DS owner already has
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre
Developer WayForward Technologies
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Ping Pals
Release Dec 07, 2004
PublisherTHQ
RatingEveryone

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