Pac-Man is gaming’s original star: long before Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong showed up on the scene, the berry munching, ghost escaping yellow mascot gripped the gaming world in a wave of hype and hysteria, and took it by storm. Over the years, Pac-Man has increasingly grown less and less relevant, even as Nintendo, Sega, and Capcom have introduced (and then maintained) a new generation of mascots, although he’s always stayed in the background as a reminder of gaming’s true grand daddy.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is the newest Pac-Man game released, and it releases on a full range of systems. This new game is not anything like the classical Pac-Man games. It is basically a platformer with a surprising emphasis on the story, which in turn is directly based on a Pac-Man cartoon. The new game ostensibly serves to introduce a new generation of kids to the classical mascot, and it makes no bones about the fact that its true intended demographic is ultimately children. In spite of that, it does try a fair number of interesting things, and provides for an adventurous, if not necessarily successful, outing for the franchise.
Even though the 2D sidescrolling platforming design of the game by nature limits a lot of what the designers are able to do, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is able to get a surprising amount of gameplay variety in. Eating and chomping are Pac-Man’s primary means of attacking and interaction, though he does get other special moves at his disposal as well, none of which are as fun or as useful. There are also Power Up Berries to be found all over, as well as hidden items in each level.
"Pac-Man moves slowly and sluggishly, he seems to have too much inertia, and while this does not cause the game to be unnecessarily difficult, it does cause it to be unfortunately frustrating."
The unique hook is that unlike most other platformers, you are given the chance to choose what order you want to progress through the game in, which lets you play it your way. You can always (and should, actually) go back to a completed level to get any items you may have missed.
The combat and power ups are interesting, and the level design often has interesting things to offer, but all of it is let down, at least initially, by the actual movement and platforming: Pac-Man moves slowly and sluggishly, he seems to have too much inertia, and while this does not cause the game to be unnecessarily difficult, it does cause it to be unfortunately frustrating. Ultimately, however, it takes a few hours to get used to the controls and the game’s physics, and after that it becomes easier to appreciate some of the great level design and platforming on display.
Another frustration is how little time the game gets to actually flesh out all its intriguing mechanics (power berries chief among them): at just five hours long, it’s a really short game from start to finish, although as mentioned above, it does add to its length by encouraging repeated play throughs and explorations of already completed levels to find hidden loot.
"In a year that has been flooded with great 3DS games, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does not necessarily stand out; ultimately, it comes across as a fun platformer with some good ideas that weren't developed well enough owing to the game's short length."
For a platformer, and for a Pac-Man game, Ghostly Adventures puts a surprising amount of emphasis on the story. I am told that the story follows the Disney cartoon series almost completely, and it involves the evil emperor Betreyus stealing the Tree of Life, which is functionally the source of Pac-Man’s powers. As Pac-Man sets out on his quest to defeat Betreyus and retrieve the tree, he’s joined by his long time nemeses Inky, Binky, Pinky, and Clyde, along with friends Cylindria and Spiral.
The game places a lot of emphasis on character interaction, and some of its best moments come from the humorous cutscenes that add so much charm and character to the game, even if the context that they add to it (that being the story) is largely meaningless and actually fairly weak. However, the dialog is all great, and the characterization adds so much to these classic icons that until now have existed largely as pixelated abstractions.
In a year that has been flooded with great 3DS games (some from Namco Bandai themselves), Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does not necessarily stand out; ultimately, it comes across as a fun platformer with some good ideas that weren’t developed well enough owing to the game’s short length. And yet, it has some surprisingly ingenious mechanics and level design on display, and the actual dialog and writing is great fun, and something that even adults can appreciate too. It’s not the must own pick up title on the Nintendo 3DS for the season, but if you do get it, you’re going to appreciate what Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures has to offer.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo 3DS.
Great level and platforming design, well written with humorous exchanges people of all ages can appreciate, power ups and item exploration are fun
Pac-Man controls like ass, the game is almost obscenely short, its best ideas don't get enough time in the oven to be developed properly