I’m decent at Pac-Man. I’ve played many of the original games. Back when I could safely go to a place like Galloping Ghost Arcade or GameWorks, I’d play it on the official cabinets when there. Pac-Man Championship Edition is my favorite rendition, though I know I would never really qualify as some sort of master. Yet somehow, with Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle, I feel like I’m actually doing well.
Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle is Bandai Namco and Heavy Iron Studios’ exclusive contribution to Google Stadia. As you might expect, it plays into the whole “turn everything into a battle royal” fad. 64 Pacs go into the mazes, and only one comes out. It’s simple enough, with the Power Pellets that frighten ghosts and energize you so you can devour them (or other Pac-People). There are power ups that might do something like lock doors into your maze, scare ghosts away with your “smell,” make ghosts attracted to you, or give you a stockpiled key to break through a locked door. You have Challenge mazes, where you hop in and try to complete your three unique challenges. You have Elimination mazes, where 64 people all try to come out on top.
It honestly plays pretty well. Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle is Pac-Man, only on a larger scale and with the knowledge that the other people are definitely not your friends. You’re trying to stay alive and earn a high score, maybe leveling up the maze you’re in by eating all of its precious dots to cause its layout to change. I’ve found it more enjoyable to play with keyboard controls, though the Stadia controller works fine too. Ghosts have their own AIs and tendencies, which seem to increase as the maze level does, so Blinky is aggressive, Pinky is tricky, and Clyde doesn’t seem to really care I’m there. The maze layouts change, offering a bit of diversity to keep you on your toes. And, since I’m blessed enough to have adequate internet and this isn’t a particularly intense game, it mostly functioned fine. Coins earned can be put toward custom mazes and looks, which are fairly affordable. (The most expensive options are 5,000 coins, and there aren’t too many of them.)
But what I have noticed is, well, somehow I’m pretty good at it?
This isn’t because I’m actually great. I have no delusions of grandeur. Rather, it seems like the well isn’t that deep for Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle. Which is a shame, since battle royales live and die based on how many people are actually playing. At 8pm CT on November 20, 2020, for example, there were four games active when I hopped in for some matches. Each time I’ve come on, it never took too long to get into a game. But it also seemed like there weren’t all that many.
Perhaps it is also because Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle isn’t the most aggressive battle royale. This isn’t like PUBG or Tetris 99, where you might specifically attempt to target certain people for harassment. It feels relatively peaceful and perhaps more like Fall Guys, where people are more consumed with their own performance than hampering another’s. When I would die, it would typically be to a ghost and not because another Pac invaded my space to eat me.
Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle is novel, in its way. It isn’t as addictive as Tetris 99 and doesn’t feel like it has the same malice behind targeting as a game like Fortnite might be. The Challenge mazes feel more like a traditional experience, as your only goal is to last as long as you can while meeting objectives like eating a certain number of ghosts. Elimination works and is entertaining, but I never felt the same compulsion to keep playing it as I did Fall Guys. It is enjoyable enough, but feels more like a game I occasionally open when I get bored than something I dedicate myself to getting good at playing.
Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle is available for Google Stadia.