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Chat's entertainment: new Ping Pals DS screens

Come put a chat among the pigeons and scale the north face of Chat-mandu with THQ (all puns copyright Alan Partridge)

You can imagine the ideas meeting at THQ. "Okay, the DS has wi-fi," says big executive bloke. "What kind of game can we come up with to take advantage of that?"

"I've got it, boss!" yelps excitable young ideas pup. "How about a chat program that lets you send messages and pictures wirelessly to your mates?!"

Genius. And then Nintendo announced that PictoChat, which lets you send messages and pictures wirelessly to your mates, comes embedded in every DS. For free.

"Oh..."

But forget about all that! THQ's Ping Pals improves on PictoChat's bare functionality by letting you create a wacky cartoon avatar you can customise with all sorts of guff like sunglasses, eyepatches, and natty T-shirts. There are apparently thousands to collect and trade, with rare items only available at certain times in an Animal Crossing stylee.

Zoom

Then, not only can you chat wirelessly with your pals, you can play them in a bunch of minigames like Hot Potato and Top 10. And thanks to the DS's Game Sharing feature, you only need one Ping Pals game card to start jawing.

You can almost hear the sighs of relief from THQ's boardroom.

Ping Pals should be available at the DS's European launch in March.

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