The magic of Magic Pengel: The Quest for
Color is your own. As part of Agetec’s Designer Series, along
with the niche favorites RPG Maker and Fighter Maker, the game gives
you the brush, paint, canvas, and, when you paint, a magical
transformation from two to three dimensions. While the drawing is
the strength of this game, it also crams a surprising amount of
personality and story into the small area in which it takes place.
In essence it is true that this game relies on its drawing and,
while this isn’t quite a gimmick, you will have to enjoy drawing
doodles to fully enjoy this game. Fortunately, the drawing aspect
becomes so enjoyable that most people will be coming back after
giving it a chance.
Since all games now require a narrative,
Magic Pengel gives us a sad story of creation, humans, and doodles.
See, at one time there was no color. Then the Spirit of Creation
created color, humans, and doodles. To the humans he granted a free
spirit, the doodles a free body. With their free spirits the humans
drew doodles, and with their free bodies the doodles filled the
world with color. But, like always, free will comes along and mucks
things up: a human king enslaves all of the doodles to control the
colors of the world. Saddened, the doodle king offers himself and
half of the world’s colors to bar those with impure hearts from
creating doodles. But, you guessed it; the evil human king tries to
control those pure-hearted humans who can create doodles. That’s
where you come in!
Magic Pengel takes place entirely in first
person. You are thrown into a situation where saving the people
from the oppression of the kingdom is on your shoulders. Along with
Zoe and Taro (the first characters you meet in the game), you will
search for their father Galileo (once the most renowned doodler in
the kingdom) and attempt to free the people from the kingdom’s
oppressive system. Simply creating and fighting with your doodles
can accomplish all of this! Imagine that!
The game follows a pretty simple progression:
draw doodles, fight in the kingdom preliminaries, challenge people
in the town to battles, draw more doodles and make additions to your
existing ones, and participate in story elements. You will meet
some interesting characters along the way, but the story is by no
means the meat of the game. If you let it be the meat and do little
else, the game will likely take you less than 12 hours to plow
through. While the story cannot be described as slapped on, it
certainly doesn’t hold up next to more traditional RPG’s where the
story is the focus. However, if you take the time to wander the
small home area you will find a surprising variety of people to
challenge and purchase items from.
Drawing the doodles, although seemingly
simple at first, actually has quite a bit under the hood. Depending
on the colors, amount of paint, body parts, and placement, your
doodle may turn out to be a prominent attacker, spell caster, or
blocker. These choices also determine the stats of your doodle
(e.g. HP, MP, attack, defense, etc.) You start out with very
limited amounts of everything, so essentially the only doodle you
can create is a glorified blob. That soon changes however. By
winning preliminary matches in the main arena your Pengel will level
up and gain new colors, a higher overall paint limit, and new parts
(such as arms, legs, and even wings). The Pengel (pronounced
pen-jell) is a little cupid looking character that has paint brushes
sort of attached to its body. This is your mouse cursor, so to
speak. Although you don’t ever see yourself in the game, you
essentially control the Pengel and follow wherever it goes. Along
with being your mouse cursor in the adventure portions of the game,
it also serves the same purpose on your painting canvas, painting
away with its tail.
The fighting consists of one-on-one,
two-on-two, and three-on-three battles depending both on the arena
and on how far along you are in the game. Fighting is simple: it
amounts to an enhanced game of Rock/Paper/Scissors. You have four
choices of moves: Attack, Magic, Block, and Charge, the latter you
cannot select on the first turn. Magic beats attack, attack beats
block, and block beats magic. Charge is unique in that it beats
nothing, but it repairs some of your health along with powering up
your next move. If the attack you select beats your opponent’s
selection, you dole out damage but take none, effectively canceling
your opponent’s move. It you select the same move, however, both
moves are allowed to take place. After using a move on one turn it
is not selectable on the following turn. This battle setup does
allow for some strategy, and your doodles will have a huge variety
of magic attacks as well, from poison to slow to sleep and
everything in between. The choices become more interesting when you
fight more than one doodle. Still, I frequently got stuck in
situations where the decision was essentially made for me (i.e.
there is an obvious best move) and since your opponent knows this as
well the battle can become stale, especially without being able to
select the same move twice in a row. A few more moves would have
helped the situation considerably, or perhaps a less strict
interdependency of moves.
Now you know enough to get started playing
the game, but there is actually much more. In between your matches
at the main arena and the story interludes, you can fly your little
Pen pal around town and talk to all the locals. They are actually
pretty entertaining most of the time, and with some of them you can
buy doodles, buy new brushes, initiate a battle challenge, or ask
them a question. They will often provide information in the context
of the story at that point, so it is useful to talk to them outside
of shopping or challenging. Along with this, they are all very
colorful. I don’t think players would want to miss out on their
vibrant personalities. Anyway…when you challenge people to fight,
the place you resolve your differences is the Seaside Arena. When
you fight people in this arena your Pengel does not gain anything,
but you do win color gems (win or lose), and the doodles themselves
gain experience if you win. Color gems? Experience? No Gold??
Ah, you can go talk to Granny and she will give you 50% in gold
color gems (which you can use to buy doodles and brushes) on any
color gems that you trade in.
As you can see, there is a lot more to this
game than initially meets the eye. So how does everything balance
out? I found most of the main arena battles to be quite easy…as
long as I took the latest abilities of my Pengel and put them to
good use in between battles. Herein lies perhaps the best lesson of
the game. The experience your doodles gain is almost useless
(although the color gems you win in battles are anything but). What
does make a huge difference is your Pengel’s experience. If you
don’t take what your Pengel has learned and apply it to your
existing doodles and to creating new doodles you will have a hard
time winning any battles. The amount of paint used in creating your
doodle makes a huge difference in the extent of its abilities.
Usually the people you challenge are on the same level as you, but
every once and a while I found somebody who was way more powerful,
somebody I easily dispensed after fighting a few more main arena
battles and powering up my doodles.
Magic Pengel has simple graphics, but that’s
all that it needs. It uses cel-shading to render your doodles,
which is a perfect use of the technique. I was stunned to see some
of my doodles come to life, especially when my Pengel started
hitting higher levels and I got more body parts. The transition of
a 2-d drawing to a 3-d animated being is easily the most impressive
part of this game. Admittedly it takes a little tweaking before you
figure out where to put everything to get it to turn out exactly how
you want, but it is totally worth it. The only thing I found a
little too difficult was trying to make additions to my doodle in
3-d space. You can rotate the canvas in any direction, but it is
still difficult to get some parts exactly where you want them.
Everything else about the graphics is pretty much middle of the
road, but as far as I am concerned they get the job done.
Everything is vibrant and the characters definitely come to life.
There are some camera issues to note: Sometimes the Pengel gets
stuck as if it hit an invisible wall. This is especially annoying
because Pengel flies; yet you are confined to certain paths by the
layout of the ground.
In the sound department Magic Pengel
impresses. There is not a whole lot of music, but what is there is
cheery, upbeat, and doesn’t really get old. One of the toughest
things for a video game to convey is humor, so I am always impressed
when a game does it well. The voice acting is some of the funniest
I have heard in a long time, with an incredible array of wacked-out
characters. One girl burps then apologizes before she fights you,
another guy dons a guitar and plays/sings consistently out of tune.
Along with this, the ambient sounds (such as people at the market,
insects buzzing in the background, and wind) are excellent as well,
really making it feel like a fully fleshed out world.