By Dan Zuccarelli . June 8, 2007 . 3:02pm
When Pac-Man Championship Edition was announced earlier this week for the Xbox Live Arcade I was less than impressed. I think I uttered an audible "meh." Then I saw it in action and had a bit of a change of heart. You see Pac-Man has a special place in my heart, and upon hearing that Iwatani designed the new maps to be included in the game I decided without much hesitation to purchase it.
The game has been overhauled and wide-screened for the 360. It looks like Pac-Man and Geometry Wars had a kid. It’s flashy and all neon’d out. Of course all the razzle-dazzle in the world won’t matter 1 whip if the game’s not fun. And with the exception of a few minor hiccups, the game delivers the classic Pac-Man we know and love and puts their own little mark on it to improve (but in no way replace) the original formula.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a full size Ms.Pac-Man arcade cabinet in my living room. So when I say I’m looking for the pure classic Pac-Man experience, I mean it. I never bought the other Pac games on XBLA because there’s no proper joystick to use. The 360 analog stick is great, but it’s Pac-man… I don’t need an infinite array of directions to choose from, I need 4. And the classic joystick provides it. The Mad Catz joystick for XBLA games was a nice attempt but a poor substitute. So for me, I had issues with using the analog stick for control (cross pad wasn’t much better). It’s something I’ll probably get used to but it’s nerve-wracking to miss a turn and run right into a ghost when you were trying to turn.
But I was able to suspend my arcade snobbery this time because this really wasn’t Pac-Man, it was a re-imagined Pac-Man (kinda like the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica). Here the maps morph and change, power pellets shift places and the fruit are necessary to keep the game moving instead of just for points. The larger map is essentially split into 2 sides, which will be populated by different patterns of pellets. When you gobble them all up a fruit appears on the opposite side. Get to that fruit and eat it and the pellets re-populate in a different pattern (and depending on the game mode, the maze will sometimes shift as well). So it’s a back and forth dance, where you need to survive for a set time to win (5 or 10 minutes). As time ticks down everything gets faster and faster, till it’s a mad race for the final few minutes and you just try to survive.
The ghosts are much smarter than they used to be. They must’ve been taking correspondence classes or something, cause these boys have definitely been thinking about the best way to catch the Pac. This alone made the game exciting, as my usual play style had to be thrown out the window in the face of the MENSA-member ghosts. But that all being said, I wish the game were harder (or had the option to be harder). I was able to unlock all the achievement points in the game in about 2 hours. Either I’m a fantastic Pac-Man player (doubtful) or these achievements needed to be harder. Even the mode with the invisible maze wasn’t hard enough.
It’s a fun game, but I’m not sure if I’ll be entertained long-term. But in the short-term it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and looks fantastic. This goes to show you can update something from our childhood and not ruin it (Transformers the movie I’m looking in your direction).