Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Review (PC)

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Pac-Man Championship Edition grabbed the score-hungry, ghost-gobbling gameplay the ol' yellow puck is so well-known for, chugged a quintuple shot of red bull, threw in some neon '80s madness, and cranked everything up to eleven, resulting in a game every bit as addictive as its ancestor. With Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, Namco-Bandai wanted to create a sequel which retained the core of what came before it, while expanding where necessary, and the result is a sequel which suffers from that most crippling of sequel problems... mediocrity.

Despite having an "adventure" mode, there's no story to speak of in Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. You're just trying to get the highest score possible on a variety of different maps. You'll gobble dots, dodge ghosts, and get power-ups, just as you would in the original Pac-Man. The difference between this and the arcade classic is that you'll do so on an ever-shifting map which changes as you progress through a run, adding new nooks and crannies, more dots, and more ghosts to dodge. This time around the ghosts aren't the foursome of instant-death they're known for; Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde are still around, but you'll mostly be dodging and creating conga lines of ghosts to chase after you. Bump into a ghost, and they'll rebuff you. Do it a few times in a short span of time then they'll get mad and try to kill you. PMCE2 is so fast that tiny mistakes are inevitable even for the most formidable of players; the new ghost-bumping system may seem to coddle players, but it instead this slight wiggle room gives the gameplay space to go faster than ever before.

It's not all good in Pac-Land, however. PMCE2 makes a few changes from its predecessor, and they're mostly lateral moves. In the first Pac-Man Championship Edition, ghosts would line up behind you as you passed them and woke them up, requiring you to think smart, keep moving, and avoid looping around lest you crash into the tail end of the conga line. When the time for a power-up came it was a blissful combo of complete carnage, letting players rack up an unbelievably satisfying pile of points as they wokka-wokka-wokka'd their way through the ghosts. Here you're being chased by four groups of ghosts, and when you get the pellet power-up they run away from you, forcing you to chase them down around the level while your power-up timer ticks away. This not only breaks up the rhythm of the rockin' combos of PMCE, it makes you have to work harder for those points, but not in a way that feels meaningful or skill-based. It's a small choice which seriously wrecks the flow of gameplay and drags the entire experience down.

Arrhythmic flow is the chief problem, here. Nearly every new change to PMCE2 alters the flow of the original, and not in a good way. Bumper pads bounce you around a level in an unpredictable pattern, making it harder to navigate on the fly. The tutorial is required for you to play any of the game's standard modes, and adventure mode is gated again behind a chunk of normal mode. One of the few changes for the better are the implementation of Championship Editions' bombs. Bombs now allow players to teleport to each stage's starting point to grab the key to the next stage, allowing them to use them strategically in order to maximize their pointage, and giving you a smooth, skillful way of maximizing your flow.

The Adventure Mode offers a small variance to typical gameplay, but not much. Instead of giving you a set amount of time to go bananas and get as many points as possible, you're given a set amount of time to try to complete a level in a predetermined pattern. If it sounds basically the same, that’s because it is.

While this sequel looks every bit as sharp as its predecessor, with eye-catching neon colors, retro sound effects, and thumping music that would be at home in a sweaty, misty nightclub. The controls... well, they're Pac-Man. You basically only need a directional pad (and, in this case, a single button for bombs). How well Pac-Man moves is entirely between you and your controller.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 shines in all the same ways as Pac-Man Championship Edition, just with a light that's a little duller. Levels are still fun, they're just not as fun. The action still has a funky, flow-y groove, just not as funky or flow-y.

This review was based on a download of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 provided by the publisher for the PC.

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