Disclaimer: This review column won’t delve into RPGs much. However, I still feel that I should do these reviews for a reason.
Lots of people in our community have been obtaining 360s and PS3s as of late, and I still see remarks from various people about how there are few games that are any good on the platforms. I feel that this is not an accurate statement, and above all ignores a prominent sector of both console’s libraries: the digital distribution network. There are actually a pretty decent number of good games on both XBLA and PSN, which are easy to overlook if you’re not intimately familiar with both services. This review column was an idea I had to help alleviate this problem, to shed light on notable games on the service and hopefully convince people of what these services have to offer. I plan on updating this column once every two weeks, so that I can have time to ensure the individual reviews will be of quality.
Without further ado, here is the first review. This game I believe represents what both services are capable of, and that game is Pac-Man Championship Edition DX.
PAC-MAN CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION DX
Platforms: XBLA and PSN
Price: 800 MSP/$9.99
Genre: Pac-Man, high speed ghost eating and survival action.
Pac-Man. Everyone’s played Pac-Man at some point or another, so everyone knows how the game plays. You navigate a maze, eat pellets, avoid ghosts, and occasionally eat ghosts. The formula itself hasn’t changed in this game, but how it’s been presented has, through the usage of lots of game modes, high speed tension, and situations that might remind the player of hardcore shoot’em’up titles.
Story: What’s that? This game has no plot at all, but it’s Pac-Man. Nobody really expects for something like that, or cares.
Gameplay: The meat of the game. While the basics of Pac-Man are still there, the way it is presented to the player is very little like the original game. The most important changes come from the original Pac-Man Championship Edition, where they made it so that you would eat pellets until fruit appears, and then collect the fruit to make more pellets appear. Very unlike the original, you now stay on a stage for as long as you can, or until the timer goes down or you meet your challenge goal etc;.
But new to DX are some important changes. For starters, there are more than four ghosts now. In fact, there’s a lot more. New are the “Sleeping” ghosts in mazes, which stand still until Pac-Man passes by them. They will then proceed to follow Pac-Man with utmost precision until they catch him. This brings a risk/reward aspect to the game. You can try to avoid waking up ghosts whenever possible and have an easier time navigating, or you can be a daredevil and try to snake in 50 ghosts and eat them all at once when you get a power pellet for huge score. On top of that, the more ghosts you eat, the faster the game becomes, though it depends on your difficulty what the speed cap is. The starting speed level and cap depends on the stage as well. For example, on the basic Championship II stage, Easy has you start at Speed Level 1 with a cap of 30, whereas Normal starts at 10 with a cap of 40, and Expert starts at 20 with a cap of 50, though do note that some game modes have a fixed difficulty setting. These individual levels actually mean a fair amount, and Expert mode can be pretty insanely fast if you gobble enough ghosts. On top of this, after you spend enough time in a stage, the normal 4 ghosts everyone remembers start appearing in the stage, meaning you have to dodge the homing sleeper ghosts as well as paying attention to the other normal ones in the maze, which can make for very exhilarating moments.
“But wait, Xer, wouldn’t that make this game entirely too possible to screw you with bad luck?”
Well fortunately, the developers thought that too and added two entirely new game mechanics to Pac-Man to counterbalance this. One is slowdown. When Pac-Man gets close to a ghost without a power pellet, the game zooms in and slows down, giving the player time to react and steer out of trouble. It’s not always get out of jail free, but it does help a lot. The other is the addition of Bombs. Yes, like those silly shoot’em’ups where you can instantly vanish all bullets on the screen instantly at a cost. If you use a bomb, all ghosts get reset to the ghost spawning gate and begin chasing after you again shortly after, not entirely unlike shot-clearing in a shmup. These two additions, combined with the much faster pace, make for a very odd blend of Pac-Man and shmup mechanics that is equally strange and unique.
As for game modes, this game has a few. Score Attack is the most notable one, as its goal is to rack up as much score as possible within a certain time limit. There’s also ghost eating challenges[eat x number of ghosts in a row], survival challenges, and a few other modes to sink into. There are 7 stages in this game, plus one from the original Championship Edition, as well as a Free Mode and a Darkness Mode that adds fog of war to any of the existing stages. There’s also a pretty comprehensive online leaderboard, bringing back a little of that score-based competititon between other players, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Graphics: For a game with simple graphics like Pac-Man, this game is pretty. Very colorful graphics, the visual effects add a good amount of flair without being intrusive on the player’s ability to tell what’s going on, and to top it off there’s actually a lot of graphical filter options you can choose when selecting a stage, changing how Pac-Man, the ghosts, and even the stages look, letting the player decide what they think is prettiest.
Audio: The audio in this game is okay. It’s mostly background filler music with a techno vibe, but it does a good job of fitting the atmosphere of the game. The songs tend to have a sort of rush feeling, one that goes together well with how fast the action can move in the game. The actual sound effects and the like are mostly an updated version of the original sound effects, recognizable but at the same time different.
Who would I recommend this game to? People who like really fast action in their games, as well as the shoot’em’up fans in the group. You know who you are. My personal opinion is that this is a fantastic game that’s very much worth the ten dollars, but it may not be for everyone if you prefer your games to be a bit slower paced and not as nerve wracking.