Namco’s iconic character from the past 20+ years returns in a new 3D action/adventure title, PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures. Published and developed by Namco Bandai, is PAC’s return to 3D platforming one worth chomping into?
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is based on the new animated series that launched in the summer, so the story is like that of a typical Saturday morning cartoon. PAC-MAN, Spiral and Cylindria are all speaking with Sir C until they find out the ghosts of the Netherworld have escaped and are wreaking havoc on the citizens of PacWorld with the aid of their leader, Betrayus. The story is told through in-game cutscenes to help connect the plot with the gameplay a bit. There’s not a lot of storytelling to look forward to here, but it’s solid enough to just carry the gameplay along. Let’s be honest: You’re not playing this game to look for an amazing story, but what’s here is certainly serviceable. It’s a fun, cheery story that’ll you won’t find yourself terribly engaged in, but enjoy it enough to get through the campaign.
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platformer that harkens back to the days of classic platforming. For fans of PAC-MAN World 2 from the PS2/GC/Xbox days, you’ll be in for a treat here. If you’ve never played that, then you’re still in for a great game fundamentally. PAC-MAN is away from chomping down the infamous ghostly creatures roaming around mazes and is out in the open environment. The object of each level is to reach the end and collect one of the fruits that we’re accustomed to PAC-MAN eating (cherries, lemons, pineapples, etc). Controls are simple, with movement being controlled with the left analog stick, camera with the right analog stick, jump button (with a double jump incorporated), chomp button and special ability button. PAC-MAN controls very smoothly and platforming is done quite fairly, with a solid amount of challenge incorporated. One of the more satisfying elements in the game lies within the chomping attack. When ghosts are grouped together in a somewhat close radius, PAC will be able to chain together his chomps into quick combos. Simply pushing the analog stick in the direction you want him to go next, he’ll lunge toward the next ghost to chomp before touching the ground. Doing so when there are more than just a few ghosts (4-5+) always feels rewarding and fun to pull off.
Not only will you jump and chomp your way through levels, but also utilize numerous abilities that PAC-MAN can acquire through specific power pellets. Those specific power pellets will give him either an ability to throw fireballs, shoot ice beams, magnetize to objects, swing around with a chameleon’s tongue. roll around as a giant boulder, or even bounce around as a little ball. These all become essential throughout your platforming as each is pertained for specific scenarios and enemies. For example, you’ll come across fire ghosts which can’t be chomped unless you freeze them first. Same goes for ice ghosts but firing them up first before finishing them off. Certain environments have metallic platforms that are the only means of traversing forward, no matter how zany the platforms may look. This is where the magnetism would come into effect, allowing PAC to stick to the platform whether it’s right-side up or upside-down. The combat with these specific abilities adds even more satisfaction, with the fire ability being my personal favorite. Throwing fireballs non-stop as PAC locks on to each target effortlessly just feels tight and rewarding.
PAC-MAN will traverse a variety of environments within the six worlds (such as Pacopolis and the Netherworld), each containing roughly 4-7 levels. Within each area, you’ll have to collect the pellets that PAC-MAN is known to collect for over 20+ years, as you’ll have to accrue certain numbers to unlock temples within certain regions. When on the World Map, you’ll notice you can choose paths to reach certain levels, but not all the levels need to be completed to advance. There are bonus levels that you’ll notice veer off the path as a dead end. These levels you’ll find a bit more challenging than the standard levels, mainly to earn some Arcade Tokens. However, if you’re a 100% completionist, you’ll be doing these as well. Occasionally you’ll tackle boss battles within levels, all of which require unique strategies to beat. Whether you’re facing a giant rock golem or a fat ghost chef, each boss will have you utilizing various skills and brings variety to the table. Speaking of which, that’s another thing PAC-MAN has going for it, variety. Throughout levels, there may be times where you’ll shoot PAC out of a cannon to bring down towering obstacles, ride a molten rock down a volcano and ski down icy slopes. These little elements help keep the game’s pacing smoother. Unfortunately, checkpoints aren’t always placed in the best spots, having you go back to some sections where frustration might ensue a bit. This isn’t too often of an issue, but often enough where it’s noticeable. Also, reviewing the game based on the Wii U version, the only feature the GamePad provides is off-TV play at all times. There’s no “special” uses incorporated into the GamePad but better to not force something gimmicky in there, as the off-TV play is always one of the most welcome features for a game on the Wii U.
When you’re not out saving the world from ghosts, you can explore the school PAC-MAN attends. Here you can talk with the NPCs, including the original four ghosts from PAC-MAN (whom are not out to get you anymore but are now friendly), as well as play some arcade games. While the arcade games are not rehashes of classic PAC-MAN games, they’re retro-styled mini-games that you’ll spend your Arcade Tokens to play (which you’ll find hidden within levels). For example, one of the mini-games is like a Defender clone (PAC-MAN style) called Cherry Copter Rescue. Here you’ll have to rescue those that are trapped in slime and escort them to the exit, while being careful of the ghosts trying to take them away. Another would be Lemon Blaster, where you’ll pilot the Lemon Rocket in a 2D side-scrolling shoot-em-up like R-Type or Söldner X.
Additionally, there’s a multiplayer mode which puts a spin on the classic PAC-MAN formula where you’ll play as the ghosts and try to hunt PAC-MAN down through 3D renditions of eight mazes that you can choose from. For GameCube owners back in the day, you may recall this as “PAC-MAN Vs.” and is quite similar to that. You can play with up to four players or even solo with bots controlling the other remaining players. You’ll traverse through the maze trying to prevent PAC-MAN from eating all the pellets and put a stop to him and his friends. While you’ll be working together with your friends to put a stop to him, you’ll also be competing for who can nab the most points amongst each other. Here is where things get interesting. You’ll pick up power-ups littered throughout each maze. You can use these to help stop your opponents, with either traps, mines, missiles, etc. One particular power-up called “Ultra Berry” allows you to scare everyone blue except for you, making everyone a vulnerable target. Suddenly, the co-op nature isn’t so team-based friendly anymore. It’s a fun multiplayer mode to play around with for sure but lacks online play, which could’ve really made this a ton of fun to tackle with other live players. Regardless, the overall gameplay in PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures is just great, simple fun that’s accessible to newcomers and fans alike.
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures isn’t trying to be a graphical powerhouse, and that’s completely fine. What’s here though is certainly a lush, colorful, vibrant world that’s very easy on the eyes and more than suitable. PAC-MAN is animated and detailed very well, as are the ghosts and other characters that litter the game’s world. Environments are nicely detailed, with weather effects going on in the background, as well as ghosts flying rampantly around the areas. The game never dips in framerate at all, staying at a constant 30 fps, and no screen-tearing either. Even the ability effects look pretty good, whether it’s the ice or fire, it just looks smooth and appealing. This is all powered by Vicious Engine 2. Again, it’s not a game to showcase groundbreaking visuals, but it’s a great looking game that’s immensely enjoyable to look at.
PAC-MAN’s audio department is precisely what you would expect being based from the show. All the characters’ voice actors return to reprise their roles as PAC-MAN, Spiral, Cylindria, Sir C, and the ghosts. The ghosts all have certain lines they’ll say when they encounter PAC-MAN and they pertain to the certain attributes they are. It’s appropriate and fits the game’s style. The soundtrack fits the game pretty well, even if it’s nothing too memorable (although I was digging one of the songs on the Ice Realm world). Unfortunately, there were some audio glitches where certain songs that were supposed to play wouldn’t kick in until a random point later in the scenario. An example would be the boss battle with the ghost chef. It continued to play the music from the stage itself but about 3/4 of the way through, it randomly cut to the music that was supposed to be playing during the scene. Even during another few scenes this occurred again. The sound effects on the other hand are completely spot-on. All the classic sounds from the PAC-MAN series are in full force here and still sounds as awesome today as it did over two decades ago. The game’s audio sounds just like a Saturday morning cartoon, and that’s a good thing.
Overall Score: 14/20 = 7.0 out of 10
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures doesn’t aim to break any new ground as a platformer, but that doesn’t mean the game isn’t worth playing. What’s here is a downright fun game that any platforming fans would do very well to look into. While the story and audio aren’t anything to write home about, the great gameplay and lush visuals help make this overall package a very good one. For only $39.99, I still recommend platforming fans pick this game up, or at the very least, a rental.
+ Great, varied gameplay
+ Nice visuals
+ Rewarding Chain Chomp mechanic
+ Has the vibe of a Saturday morning cartoon
+ Only $39.99
– Generic storyline
– Soundtrack isn’t too memorable
– Multiplayer lacks online
A special thank you to Namco Bandai for providing us a review copy for “PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures”! Copy tested on the Wii U.
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