|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: KOEI Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: KOEI||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
Prey the Stars is KOEI's newest attempt at arcade gaming on the DS. Players take on the role of a very hungry monster-dog and are tasked with feeding it with anything that's on their path. The gameplay happens in a themed arena packed-full of junk - or food, I guess. Anything in this game is edible, whether it's a couch, a glass of soda, a dollhouse, or a barbecue set.
The lower screen shows a map that represents a summarized version of what you see on the top. The stage is divided in squared portions with objects scattered throughout. There are objects of many different sizes and qualities, and not everything will be suitable for your hungry character, at least at the beginning.
Green blocks in the map represent areas with smaller objects, yellow areas have medium-sized items, and pink areas have the biggest treats. Players will have to start by munching on small objects and they'll grow up exponentially, while racking up points. The main goal is to be the player with the most points, and the bigger the items you eat, the more points you get. However, you shouldn't waste too much time trying to eat bigger objects when you first start; you're better off taking it easy and doing things in order. That way you'll become the biggest guy in the lot, being able to eat literally anything that gets on your way.
The single-player campaign, also called Story Mode, will act as a tutorial, guiding you through different levels that get progressively more difficult, as they keep adding new features and further strategy. For example, in the first level you learn you have to bite most things a few times in order to eat them. You do this with the A button. You can also attack your enemies by biting them, which slows them down for a few seconds. You can also block certain incoming attacks with the L button. Later on you'll find out you should eat the same kind of food consecutively, because it will grant you special abilities. These abilities will become very useful as you advance, because the whole goal is to have more points than your adversary, and for that, you'll have to play dirty! For example, you'll get water waves that will push the enemies off the stage, thunder that will shock the adversary, bombs, and more. You can also get a "steal" item that allows you to steal abilities from them, or the "absorb" and "shrink" power-ups, which will make you bigger or simply make the enemy smaller.
If you eat similar items properly and are lucky enough, you'll transform into something dangerous for a few seconds; it can be fire, water, wind, or thunder. You can also find Hyper Transform Objects in the game. While transformed, not only will you eat everything you come across, but you'll also be able to crush and kill your opponents. They'll end up respawning, but at least they'll be out of the way for a bit and also lose their current size. Needless to say, these are all abilities the enemies can get as well, so if you don't watch out and check to see where they're at on the map, they'll keep attacking you and making you lose points left and right. That's maybe one of the most frustrating aspects of the game, and the most amusing at the same time. It's what makes the multiplayer mode so much fun!
Another important thing you learn early on, is how to eat properly. At first, you'll be able to just chew things a few times in order to eat them. Later, you'll have to time the bites right in order to make them count. The better the bites are, the less time it'll take you to munch them down. There's a little marker on the screen that shows you when to bite. When the light goes up to green, you'll have to hit A. Repeat this two to five times, and the item is yours. Unfortunately, you'll have to watch out for potential threats meanwhile. Your enemies may be nearby trying to attack you with one of their elements, or even certain on-stage dangers may decide to show up. This becomes especially frustrating with the lava pools in the fourth level. They appear all of a sudden and start taking points from you. Sometimes it gets so nerve-racking, you end up running into the pools more than once, losing your hard-earned points in a flash.
In addition, specific objects are charged with elemental powers. Some are burning, others are frozen, etc. When you come across these, you'll have to start by licking them instead of biting. That way they won't hurt you and you'll still get to fill up your belly. You can also eat nutritional items in order to earn Nutrition Power. This makes you faster and your bites more efficient. Other special items drop on the stage once in a while. You'll be warned about them with a certain sound and transparent placeholders showing where the items are going to drop. They're also marked with the P letter on the lower screen once they appear on stage. You should try to eat as many Power-Ups as possible, as they really help to increase your size.
If you keep getting "perfect" ranks while eating objects and fill up the "perfect" gauge, you'll end up entering GabuGabu time. It will only last for a few seconds, but in the meantime, you'll get double the points, you'll be immune to your opponents' attacks, and, best of all, you'll be able to eat much faster by just biting a couple of times without worrying about timing. You really have to try to make the best out of this, because moments like this are the ones that end up counting the most towards your final score.