Developer: Monkey Bar Games/Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games America
# of Players: 1-4
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Score: B (80%)
Has there been a year since Pac-Man was introduced that the character hasn’t been in a game or other must-have product? The dot-munching ghost chomper has been on the video game scene in plenty of 2D and 3D adventures from arcade games to platformers, kart racers and even an adventure game or two. His longevity has been pretty much secured thanks to Namco (and now Namco Bandai) shaking thing up every so often with a reinvention or classic reissue and the latest new game on the scene is Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, a kid-friendly game based on the fun new Disney XD animated show. While some of the more stubborn fans of the arcade classic might give this one an automatic sneer because it’s not their favorite way of playing Pac-Man (in which case, they can go dive into the stellar multi-platform Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+), the game is actually quite a lot of fun with only a few quirks…
While you don’t need to have seen the Disney XD show at all (but both Disney and Namco Bandai would approve if you did check it out at some point), it comes in handy when the game plops you into a completely different Pac-World than you might be expecting. Here, it’s a younger high-school age Pac, Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde as his buddies (!), some new characters created for the show and the usual plot about some evil baddie named Betrayus out to take over PacWorld.
The game pokes fun at itself throughout from the beginning and there are some visual gags and dialog that were laugh out loud funny (well, at least to me). All I’ll say is Pacopolis probably needs a standing army, as poor Pac’s response to finding out the city is under attack was perfect. The game starts out as a straightforward 3D platformer with dots to collect, enemy ghosts of a few types to munch, pickups to restore lost health and hidden secrets to discover. But it’s the power-ups here that make the game entertaining, specifically once you get out of Pacoplolis proper.
Ice, Chameleon, Stone, Rubber, Metal and other pickups transform Pac into a more powerful and efficient version of himself, although you’re not completely invincible with those new powers. Every edge in this game is a potential hazard and the somewhat loose controls combined with rotating walkways, disappearing platforms, angry charging enemies and plenty of other dangers can have you losing a life or three if you’re careless. In the grand scheme of things (and compared to other platformers) it’s not terrible at all and in fact, I actually liked that there were no invisible walls here and you needed to time some jumps and pay close attention to the different environments. If anything, the plentiful checkpoints help keep the frustration factor down a huge chunk.
For the most part, the six stages are pretty straightforward and secrets are fairly easy to locate if you follow the dots around the different maps. Toss in a few citizens to rescue and the occasional tricky boss battle and you get a decent (albeit non-innovative) slice of fun that lasts about a dozen or so hours for your average skilled gamer. Thankfully, the camera control is pretty well implemented throughout, but there will be times where you’ll shoot off a ledge because you’ve misjudged an angle or were propelled off by an enemy attack you didn’t see coming or your own overeager double jumping going wrong.
Granted there’s a ton of replay value here with a multiplayer mode and a bunch of funky arcade games to unlock using the assorted produce you’ve gathered during the main game. So going back into old maps is a key element for those masters of unlocking who want to see everything. Presentation-wise, the game looks and sounds great overall with special note going to some of the enemy designs and the non-interactive in-engine transitions when Pac moves to a new part of a level. Sometimes he showboats beautifully into a new area, while others, he’ll land on his head or have some other amusing accident.
While the simple level designs look great and colorful (Vicious Cycles very versatile Vicious Engine is being put to good use here) I’d have loved to see a more open world in the later stages outside Pacopolis or at least the ability to explore more of the game’s maps with the busier background action. Between stages, Pac gets to run around a fully 3D school set, but interactivity is limited to talking with friends and a few others, selecting missions and playing those aforementioned arcade games.
What’s nice about this one is it’s solid and fun for the kids, but any parental unit that picks it up as a gift may find that they’re also playing either in multiplayer with the kid or solo once that kid is fast asleep. As noted above, “innovation” isn’t what this game is going for at all, but that’s a word that’s both overused and over-expected of too many games these days. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures makes a great introduction to this new take on the classic character and his new show that’s bound to please young and old alike.
I’m hoping this does well enough at retail and digital delivery (the PC version is on Steam) because I’d love to see Pac and company expand into something like an even more bold and quirky RPG at some point. If your head just exploded, just think Super Mario RPG and start crossing those finger and toes that Namco Bandai decides to do something like that classic in the future and make a new Pac-Man game that people will “wokka” miles to snap up. Yeah, lame pun… but it’s a Monday and I really don’t get rolling until about Wednesday with the better ones…