Are you as shocked as I was that someone is still making Pac-Man games? Apparently, Namco still feels there’s a market for the yellow cheese wheel whose best days are behind him. Don’t be fooled by the great old school Pac-Man games that were released on XBLA, PSN, and iOS. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platforming game complete with voice-overs, plot development, and endlessly collectible items. Consider yourself warned.
I went into this experience with an open mind and a willingness to try something different. Despite having played hundreds of platformers, I wasn’t remotely jaded picking up my controller. Unfortunately, within the first twenty minutes of playing my hopes were dashed and my eyes were in full roll. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is as bad as you might expect and is another black mark on a once proud and beloved franchise.
At the start of Pac-Man, I wasn’t completely convinced that this game was going to be terrible. Sure, there’s some kiddy storytelling at the kick-off. However, considering this game is an adaptation of a kids television show, there’s a certain amount of leeway that can be granted. I figured, I can just skip the terrible plot and spend my precious free time exploring the deep and entertaining gameplay. Yeah, right.
After the beginning cinematic, Pac-Man is dropped in three-dimensional platforming gameplay. For anyone familiar with Mario64, Pac-Man doesn’t veer too far from course. Players will jump from one landing to the next using a 3D camera to keep track of their surroundings. Along the way, Pac-Man will chomp power pellets, enemy ghosts, and anything else he stumble across. It’s a veritable collection extravaganza!
Namco makes one very smart choice and it grants Pac-Man a wide array of power-ups to chomp on. Want a super-long tongue to swing with? Just chomp on a green power-up. Want to breathe ice to freeze grumpy ghosts? Chomp an ice blue power-up! Basically, Namco has provided Pac-Man with various Mario (or more likely, Mega Man), suits to vary the gameplay somewhat. It’s a nice homage to better games and for the most part, the suits are not the problem.
Like I said, through the first twenty minutes, the platforming and power-ups wasn’t so bad. Sure, Pac-Man was delivering the funny that other better kids games do (see any LEGO game). Unfortunately, after delving past the first couple of stages, it becomes apparent that there are some major design flaws in the gameplay.
The two biggest flaws of Pac-Man are the poor camera controls and the punishing gaps in platforms. Regarding the camera controls, Pac-Man does not allow for players to smoothly explore a full 360 degrees of motion. Instead, the developers limit how much of a player’s surroundings can be seen. This forces players to guess a lot when traversing various stages.
This is especially problematic when dealing with switches that require very exacting contact. For example, there is a stage in the ruins that requires Pac-Man to jump onto a wall-mounted switch. Because the switch exists in a three-dimensional space, Pac-Man has to hit it perfectly in the middle. Too bad the developers force players into a two-dimensional perspective on this puzzle. Hitting this switch was so difficult, I assumed that the switch either didn’t work or that the game was bugged. While challenging puzzles is the norm of platform games, this was not an intentionally challenging moment -- this was lazy gameplay design.
The other major flaw that turned me off was the punishing gap between platforms. While killing players that fall into the abyss between platforms was the norm back in 1985, gaming has progressed quite a bit in the modern era. Although great platformers like the Rayman series still have falls into the abyss, these moments are mere blips on a radar full of more complex challenges. Unfortunately, for players of Pac-Man, falling to their death is a never-ending way of life. Mixed in with the annoyingly implemented camera controls, Pac-Man provides an endless barrage of death by abyss moments.
What’s incredibly surprising about these flaws is that Pac-Man is a game intended for little kids to play. The cut scenes are childish and simplistic while the gameplay is frustratingly punishing. This is a ridiculous pairing that is bound to anger old school Pac-Man fans and turn away any child that has seen this horrendous new television show. It's the ultimate candy combination of terrible gameplay and stupid storytelling. What could besmirch the legacy of a once legendary gaming icon more?
Pac-Man and the blah blah is not a completely terrible game. It’s just not very fun. Especially, this time of year when each week sees 17 great AAA titles released on every console possible. Do yourself a favor and skip this obvious attempt to cash in on the great Pac-Man’s legacy.
This review is based off of a publisher supplied copy of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures for the PlayStation 3.