Pac-Man has had a volatile history. When he was king of the marketplace, the times were good. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and even Pac-Man Championship Edition are testaments as to how much of a legacy this one character has. Then there are the games in the middle. The 3D Pac-Man games as well as the sequels that just never sort of fit in with the masses. Now there is a new TV show and this brings with it the opportunity to tap back in to the brand.
Most games that live under the banner of a children’s hit TV show and are targeted exclusively at demographics under the age of 12 are a bit of a tough sell among reviewers. Fortunately for me, this time we have a game that has made an attempt to be a proper game first, and a targeted advertisement second.
We have another attempt at a 3D Pac-Man and it works surprisingly well. If you haven’t had a chance to catch the new show on Disney XD, it is about a school aged Pac-Man saving the world from a menacing but ultimately bumbling ghost named Betrayus. Now let’s not dwell on whether or not this Pac should be called a man. The idea is that Pac and friends (which now include his classic enemies Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde) attend school during the day and fight Betrayus whenever he goes out of his way to ruin their day. It is formulaic, but it works.
In the game however is another story. Pac-Man’s allies are relegated to their school where you can speak to them, and well that’s about it. They don’t have anything interesting to say, nor do they add anything other than to bring out the setting that Pac-Man does hang out with these people. This is fine because all that matters is the platforming, and interacting with those other characters isn’t mandatory. They are there to tie Pac-Man’s cartoon in to the game and little else.
The meat and potatoes of course is level-based platforming, and The Ghostly Adventures really did surprise me.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is an action platformer in the same style as Sonic Adventure and the like. Pac-Man will travel across six different realms to chase after Betrayus and save his friends. Since Pac-Man isn’t as fast as Sonic or as destructive as Mario, he’ll have to use his ability to chomp down almost anything to save the day. Fortunately, this works out quite well for our hero.
Since Pac-man has to lunge to chomp his enemies, as both a regular attack and even a homing attack could have spelled disaster for the game if not implemented properly. Fortunately it is and honestly it worked a lot better than I thought. Not once in the hours I played did I ever fall off one of the many ledges in the game because the game misread my chomp attack. As somebody that has grown up on games like Sonic Adventure, I was paying special attention to trying to find some way to break the lunge and I couldn’t. It works and seeing as how there are plenty of ghosts on small ledges, this surprised me.
The concept behind the level designs is to work off of Pac-Man’s power-ups. Little orbs litter the levels and change him in to anything from an iguana that camouflages himself to a giant rolling boulder of death. These power ups are key pieces to the design structure as they are the only real means of pushing forward. For example, when Pac-Man uses his ice power up, he can shoot beams to freeze enemies and lava towers. The only means of forward progress in the lava-covered Netherworld is by doing this, so these power ups are littered at every new junction; more so than checkpoints anyway.
The puzzles never get too intense and this isn’t a thinking man’s platformer. For the target demographic it seems perfectly balanced, and even as someone a bit older, it was a good bit of fun and looks really interesting. Power-ups like the giant boulder or even the bouncy ball break up the similarities by changing how the game moves forward and how you look at the platforms in the levels.
Where this game sort of lags is in everything that was an afterthought. There are mini games disguised as arcade games, that are built similar to classics like Airlift Rescue and other vehicle based games that aren’t all that good. These mini games add nothing to the core experience, and thus really don’t distract from them either.
Likewise the Multiplayer is just not all that fun. While it is nice to see a local split screen game on a console these days, there just isn’t much to 4 ghosts running around a 3D maze in a race to find Pac-Man. The concept of becoming ghosts that hunt Pac-Man is pretty novel, but it is tricky to really know where you are going, and what you are looking for in this rat race. I also encountered glitches with this and it just wasn’t all that rewarding to try and run around in circles searching for Pac-Man.
So in the end, Pac-Man is a surprisingly good little game with a ton of puns that will make your kids laugh while you sit in the corner rolling your eyes. As an intro level 3D platformer, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a great starting point for kids. The gameplay is solid and while the extras are a bit shabbily put together, they will not distract you from your main game.
For fans of the show there is something really fun here.
[+Good Use of Power Ups] [+Solid Platforming] [+Interesting Level Designs] [+$39.99 Starting Point] [-Additions Feel Like Additions]