Game: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
Platform: PC, Xbox, PS3, Wii U
Publisher/Developer: Namco Bandai
Genre: 3D Adventure
Describe This Game in Three Words: Weird, But Fun
Plot: Tying in with the new cartoon series, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures pits the legendary game icon against the evil Betrayus who plans on using his ghost army to take over Pac-World. There's more to it than that, but we'll talk about how weird this really is in a bit.
Up, Up: It's hard to be Pac-Man because he never really found his place in the world after games developed past not being able to animate things like eyes and a arms and stuff. His entire existence was arguably the most arbitrary collection of sprites and motivations ever conceived of, and he rarely got better by trying to add more depth to the mix.
This go-round, though, it's actually pretty damned fun. Though the basic 3D adventure lacks the polished brilliance of something like Super Mario Galaxy, it's a very solid game that is honestly fun to play. Pac stays true to his roots by eating ghosts, and that attack never, ever gets old. It's like Kirby on meth, with Pac launching himself headfirst at his opponents and consuming them with a satisfying chomp.
The worlds are lovingly rendered if somewhat simplistic, and the play is childlike and linear. In many ways it is the most impressive update of the character ever, at least as far as gameplay goes. You dive in effortless, and if it doesn't offer all that much of a challenge it is undeniably cute and engaging.
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Down, Down: Let's talk about Pac's special abilities. By eating special berries he gains special powers. Ice berry = Ice Pac, Chameleon berry = Chameleon Pac, etc. These are a scream to use, and they seem to always respawn when you need them which makes having the right tool for the task less annoying than say, Puppeteer, but it does take a little of the risk out of their use. The powers are also largely situational rather than useful, not to mention they disappear with each hit. I personally would have preferred a bigger bag of standard tricks than random, incidental power-ups.
The game also has a frankly insulting way of padding the game time. You get fruit for beating a level, and tokens for beating it a second time. These are used to unlock mini-games at the homebase, but there's no real difference in the playing the level once than twice. They could have easily just opened the levels up a bit more and hidden the token in a clever spot like literally every other game in this genre instead of the easy way.
Left, Right, Left, Right: Pac-Man uses the same controls that have been standard since Mario 64 because when something isn't broke don't fix it. You're not going to have a single moment of trouble getting him to go exactly where you want, though the timing while using the Chameleon tongue to swing between posts can be a little arbitrary at times.
B, A: I cannot express how weird this game and the entire modern Pac-Man mythology is. Your mentor character honestly says the line, "When you eat a ghost, YOU GET THE EYES!" and no one mentions how that bit of dialogue is creepy as hell! Plus, at the end of the level Pac burps up all the ghost eyes, which sounds like something you'd see on mushrooms.
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I dug into the plot of the show a little bit for this review, and it turns out that Pac-Man is special because he is the last Yellow Pac-Man, and that gives him super strength and other abilities. It's a little late in the game to be teaching kids that skin color is equal to physical superiority, isn't it? Then there's the original ghosts from the first game, who are secret agents helping Pac against Betrayus. They hope that by doing good they will get to live again.
Wait, what? They allow all their friends to get consumed by Pac-Man in order to win some hypothetical redemption? This... this seems like extremely fuzzy moral ground.
Start?: If you're willing to set aside the utter insanity of the game's world, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures can be a pretty fun, light play that gets the old hand-eye coordination up and running without ever really asking too much of you. It's perfect for younger players just discovering 3D platformers or who aren't real familiar with the icon that is Pac-Man. Folks looking for deeper play along the lines of a Nintendo entry will want to stick to Mario and Zelda.