PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs Review – It’s Not a Lake, It’s an Ocean

Bandai Namco's re-release of PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle has a solid enough gameplay loop with nice visuals, but suffers in several other areas.

Posted By | On 06th, May. 2024

PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs Review – It’s Not a Lake, It’s an Ocean

PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs is a battle royale game, contrary to any expectations its name may give. Funnily enough, this isn’t even Bandai Namco’s first attempt at the same – it launched Pac-Man 99 for the Nintendo Switch in April 2021 to relatively decent praise. It also discontinued it about two years and six months later, hopefully not a sign of things to come.

Then again, Chomp Champs may have a built-in shelf life because it was first released for Google Stadia as PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle in November 2020. That’s right – this is the OG Pac-Man battle royale experience, which eventually shut down with the service last year in January with all purchases refunded. The re-release offers a few tweaks and the addition of cross-platform play, but it’s very much the same game.

"Lest you think it’s an allegory for purgatory, with Pac-Man doomed to an eternity of gluttony, you see the doors. These lead to other mazes where other players run their respective rat races. As it turns out, your maze is one Pac-lake in a Pac-ocean."

At its core, PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs features the same arcade gameplay that made the “paku paku” so iconic. You have a maze with multiple routes covered in dots to consume and add to your score. There are four corners with Power Pellets, which, when consumed, energize Pac-Man and allow for eating the Ghosts pursuing you throughout the maze. Consuming the Ghosts resets their position, but if they’re no longer rendered vulnerable upon respawning. As such, you need to predict their pathing, moving across the maze to maximize dot consumption and clearing the board.

However, that’s not the end. Clear out all the dots, and your maze levels up, making it slightly larger and resetting the dots and Power Pellets. The Ghosts also become faster, with clearing the board becoming more challenging. Lest you think it’s an allegory for purgatory, with Pac-Man doomed to an eternity of gluttony, you see the doors. These lead to other mazes where other players run their respective rat races. As it turns out, your maze is one Pac-lake in a Pac-ocean.

The game changes in earnest from there, as you’re not just thinking about clearing your board but consuming just enough until the doors to the other 63 mazes open. When energized, it’s possible to consume other Pac-Men for lots of points, but breaching their mazes and gobbling up their Power Pellets, farming their Ghosts and garnering any power-ups you can before departing is also a legitimate strat (though the doors have timers to keep in mind). Theoretically, nothing stops you from remaining within your maze and taking out any intruders while steadily leveling it up.

Chomp Champs doles out missions to encourage invasions, like consuming three Ghosts in another player’s maze or using a Power-up within them. These provide a decent enough incentive, though I’ve found – at least on lower ranks and Unranked mode – that you can do well enough without completing the missions. You might miss out on extra lives as a potential bonus reward, but considering it’s a pick-up and earned with enough points, it doesn’t seem like that much of a loss.

PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle Chomp Champs_04

"However, you may get that one player in Ranked Mode who knows what they’re doing, manipulating the Ghosts and carefully navigating around the Power Pellets to outplay you and win."

The Power-ups range from stunning other players and Ghosts for several seconds to increasing your speed and gaining a shield that repels Ghosts. Alternatively, you have items that empower the Ghosts, making them faster or attracting them to you. The former is great for trolling another player in their maze, while the latter cuts down on some of the work of chasing down Ghosts while energized (but it’s a double-edged sword when they’re not vulnerable).

Nothing too crazy or over-the-top, but being able to store Power-ups and use them when necessary adds another layer of strategy to the chaos. On its own, there’s just something compelling about entering another maze-like some multiversal invader, taking everything, wrecking shop, and just leaving. Or navigating across several mazes, picking up all the Power Pellets available until nothing remains. Or even find a maze with a few dots and then eat them to level up your own.

When a player is eliminated, their maze collapses, narrowing the field until only two remain on a single screen. Most times, it may not even get to that point in Unranked – you can often win by outliving the competition, as they run out of lives, either to Ghosts or other players. It can lead to monotony at points, even though matches are fast-paced and end quickly.

However, you may get that one player in Ranked Mode who knows what they’re doing, manipulating the Ghosts and carefully navigating around the Power Pellets to outplay you and win. It can be exhilarating, especially as the maze levels up multiple times and you try desperately to survive. Then again, it can also sometimes boil down to waiting for the stun Power-up and incapacitating your opponent before getting a Power Pellet and consuming them.

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"As much as I did like (not love) the online modes, there isn’t much impetus to partake in Ranked unless you care about the leaderboards, as it doesn’t seem to offer any exclusive cosmetics or rewards."

The competitive tension, however, is diminished by how Ranked works. Unlike other competitive games, you fight for a spot in the top 32. As long as you meet that requirement, then you always have a 100 percent win rate. The higher your position, the more XP earned towards the next rank, providing some impetus to win. However, there isn’t any feeling of loss – it doesn’t seem possible to lose points and de-rank, turning this into a long-term grind rather than a competitive journey with ups and downs.

It’s not the worst solution considering Pac-Man’s score-based nature, but it makes victories feel hollow. Settling for second or even fifth place is perfectly acceptable, especially if you only get a few points less than the competition. This means you can cruise through the middle and latter parts of matches without worrying too much about completing objectives or consuming the competition. Some players also seem to be bots, which further lowers the stakes.

PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs only offers Unranked, Ranked and Training modes. It doesn’t have a dedicated single-player mode or even the option to play classic Pac-Man without the battle royale mechanics offline. As much as I did like (not love) the online modes, there isn’t much impetus to partake in Ranked unless you care about the leaderboards, as it doesn’t seem to offer any exclusive cosmetics or rewards.

You gain Tokens that can be spent on cosmetics with a nice bit of choice available, from hats and sunglasses to entire outfits. I particularly liked the maze themes, turning your home maze into a game of Galaga or embracing different seasons, though some more options would be great. The outfits are decent, though some like the fox can be clipped through by Pac-Man in the main menu.

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"The overall package leaves much to be desired, especially with the low-rent UI, the sparse content, the lackluster Ranked experience and the questionable shelf-life."

I liked the visual presentation – the stages are full of detail and effects, and the performance is solid throughout. However, the Fall Guys-inspired main menus desperately need some life – they come across as too static and lifeless, right down to the text describing different cosmetics. The music can also get repetitive as it attempts to fit the iconic Pac-Man hook into some forgettable techno.

There are some bugs, like the Ghosts in an invaded maze suddenly going invisible and my character dying out of nowhere. It’s a relatively stable experience, though sticking to your region (or somewhere close) is advised to avoid sluggish controls caused by latency.

PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs’ gameplay is solid and differs enough from Pac-Man 99 to provide some fun. However, the overall package leaves much to be desired, especially with the low-rent UI, the sparse content, the lackluster Ranked experience and the questionable shelf-life. Maybe Bandai Namco could build on it further and innovate on its admittedly interesting concept. For now, it’s a fun short-term distraction and little else.

This game was reviewed on PlayStation 5.


THE GOOD

Core gameplay loop is fun and addictive for the first few hours with good amount of strategy. Visuals are distinct and performance is solid. Extensive array of cosmetics for customizing stages and Pac-Man.

THE BAD

Forgettable music. Ugly UI. Some Power-ups like Stun can feel a little overpowered. Lack of content, like offline modes. The Ranked experience is very barebones, with gameplay that gets repetitive after some time.

Final Verdict:
FAIR
PAC-MAN Mega Tunnel Battle: Chomp Champs isn't quite as endearing as Pac-Man 99 and has its share of shortcomings. Its core gameplay will keep you busy for a time but lacks real staying power.
A copy of this game was provided by Developer/Publisher/Distributor/PR Agency for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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