Review: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
Normally I wouldn’t see myself even taking a second glance at a title like this. Thanks to the re-invention of shovelware on the Wii and subsequent titles of its ilk, it’s not a good day to be a 3D rendition of a classic game. Couple that with Chip’s lackluster impressions of the multiplayer – which were spot on – and I did not go into Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures with high expectations. To my surprise this title is a rock solid 3D platformer that can almost serve as a pseudo Kameo 2, borrowing most of its gameplay elements from that title, but there just isn’t enough here to justify even the budget price associated with it.
Pac-Man has never done well as a platformer. Whether it’s with the 16-bit era titles in the Pac-Land series or really anything Namco has done with him other than re-creating the original game, there just doesn’t seem to be anything there to differentiate these games from all the rest, until now. Pac-Man’s world has changed quite a bit. He’s back in high school (and apparently appropriate age despite being older than I am), the four ghosts that plagued him in the original arcade title are now his friends, and he loves to wear different hats that grant him special powers. None of this begins to define a worthwhile game until you start playing the initial levels and using early hats like the frost beam or the iguana that have grounded but useful applications. Then you realize the level design compliments these powers well and a bit of Mario nostalgia sneaks in. Pac-Man retains the eating ghosts mechanic and can even use a “scare” power to turn them blue and devour them old school style. Before you know it you’re having a blast traversing the game’s six worlds, all borrowed from video game tropes of old, and you don’t want to stop playing.
That’s the hook, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does a fantastic job of keeping what works in classic games and borrowing different aspects of contemporary platforms into balance. Levels don’t feel too long or too short and all challenges you face are either easy to recognize or recycled from a game in the past. Perhaps it puts the game into a niche category of lifelong gamers in their 30s that can remember the past and present alike, but I feel confident this game is just as properly suited for younger audiences that enjoy the likes of New Super Mario Bros. and Skylanders. What these classic adult gamers will quickly note that younger gamers may not is that the game just delivers too little all of the time. I loved some of the late boss battles, but there are only like five in the game so you aren’t experiencing them much. Additionally Pac-Man has multiple hearts of life to assist him completing his task, but if he has a hat on he will lose that instead of taking damage. Since each boss requires a special hat to overcome, all you really have to do is pick up another hat as fast as you can to have infinite life. The same goes for collecting extra lives, something I feel the developers were well aware was an effortless task due to an achievement for having more than 50 lives. I accidentally unlocked that one. Each world only has a handful of levels along with a couple of bonus levels, which results in no more than 45 minutes of dedication to complete and an overall completion time just over 4 hours. There’s also a push to have you complete each level twice, but the reward is completely pointless. It just feels like a game where developers did just enough to consider it complete.
That doesn’t mean that this title lacks polish, just that the overall content is lazy. I never had any issues with glitches, errors, pop-ins, or defects, the game ran smooth as silk and looked quite good in the process. Load times were hardly noticed and all cutscenes could be skipped with ease. I mention this because too few budget titles these days – and even high caliber titles like Arham Origins – don’t seem to be getting the coat of polish that major boxed releases deserve. While Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures offers a more scant amount of content, it is at least properly tweaked and well programmed. Unfortunately any hardcore gamer that picks this up will breeze through it in a weekend (if not a day) and be left with little else to do. Well, I guess there’s multiplayer. What the Pac-Man universe definitely didn’t need is a 3rd person perspective of the original game where you play as the ghosts and screw each other over to avoid being eaten. It’s a stupid premise from the very onset and doesn’t work out all that well when you put it into practice. Most of the time standing still or getting lucky is the way to win and I don’t think players both young and old prefer a multiplayer mode like that (and even if they do there are plenty of free options). So for the record, this is not a game to be played in multiplayer.
I must say I am pleasantly surprised with Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures and found it an enjoyable campaign for the weekend. In fact, had it shared the nearly triple length that Kameo, a game that utilized most of the puzzle platform and elemental powers this game does, I would be giving it a much higher score. Even adding different difficulties or alternative versions of the original levels would do, anything to extend the gameplay I was enjoying. It doesn’t, though, and by the time your 4 hours are up, possibly a couple more hours for achievement/trophy farming, this game can be discarded. If you can rent it or find it on the cheap under $20, platformer fans may want to consider jumping at the opportunity, but as for the rest of the gaming audience it just doesn’t deliver enough to justify taking notice.
Final Score: 2 out of 5
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This game was provided for review from the publisher on the Xbox 360 platform. It was completed by the reviewer in approximately 4 hours, with an additional 2 hours given to single player replays and an hour with multiplayer both online and offline. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Wii U, and PC for an MSRP of $39.99.