Waka, waka, waka, waka – PAC is back and this time he’s ditched the small mobile screen for a somewhat more powerful experience.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last year or so, you would probably have heard of the endless maze runner that is PAC-MAN 256. It blasted onto mobiles in such a way that whether you were a fan of the dot munching yellow guy or not, you just wouldn’t be able to ignore it or indeed keep away. Now, Bandai Namco have decided it’s probably for the best that we stop straining our eyes with a small 5 inch screen, and multiply that by ten as we get to experience the phenomenon that is 256 from the comfort of our sofas and with the power of our newest consoles.
If you hadn’t already guessed, PAC-MAN 256 is a vertically scrolling endless maze in which you must send Pac on his merry way, munching dots, dodging past ghosts, eating pills, hunting down fruit and making as much progress as possible before dying. You have one life and if you get caught by any of the usual ghosts, or the ever encroaching super villain, the infamous 256 Glitch, then you’ll be sent straight back to the start again, ready to go once more.
That in itself could prove rather tiresome, especially as the maze is pretty similar throughout, but with a slight variation in pac dots each time, and some random placements of ghosts, fruit and power ups, the huge ‘one more go’ draw hits home every time…if not as you attempt to beat your own previous best, but as you show who is top dog amongst your mates. With coins and XP delivered with each go, there is always something to play for and the well delivered unlocks urge you to keep playing. If you like a bit of grinding, then PAC-MAN 256 is definitely for you.
The addition of a number of power ups, all of which can be upgraded from those coins which you’ve earnt from playing, ensures that, if you’re a clever cookie, will find 256 gets a little easier each and every time you play. Much of this may be down to you picking up on a strategic way to mosey on past the ghosts – and learning the way each of the bad guys work is most definitely key to your success – but to help you in an even bigger way are a number of special powers. These range from laser beams which blast ghosts to smithereens, to multiple Pacs who hunt down and destroy the ghoulish ones. A stealth pickup lets you sneak by without an issue, whilst the tornado and bombs happily cause havoc. Throw in the odd pickup that allows easier collection of those all important pac dots, and you’ll find plenty of variations in play throughout. There are more than 20 to grab, unlock and upgrade in total but will find that you can however only call on three in any one game. Choosing your loadout is therefore critical to seeing you best your scores, but should you find yourself struggling, each are able to easily swap out after each death. The combination of the ‘shop’, ‘XP points’ and multiple power ups just urges you to keep going in order to get everything unlocked.
There are also ten stunning skins that you can play around with as well. Whilst PAC-MAN 256 looks brilliant, plays utterly smoothly and runs at a pace that is near on perfect, the option to run through proceedings with a delightful Crossy Road skin, the old school classic Pac, through the office or at the race track with the ghosts strangely substituted for racing karts is brilliant. Yes, they don’t bring anything particularly new to the game, and on a personal level I’d have been more than happy with the main default designs, but for those who like to mix things up a bit, will see these as a perfect solution.
So, whilst PAC-MAN 256 works wonderfully as a single player experience in which your sole aim is to beat the scores of your online friends, you can also check things out with up to three other local players. All running with PAC, or any of the skinned alternatives, at the same time and on the same screen, you may think that four times the players would equate to slowdown and confusion. But you’d be wrong. It works brilliantly and cares little for the skill levels of each person. Instead, you’ll find them battling it out to become top dog whilst at the same time needing to work together, ensuring enough power pellets are chomped in order to save each others skins. If you need a local player party title, PAC-MAN 256 is most definitely it. It’s a huge shame however that we can’t replicate this fun with an online friend or two. Seriously, PAC-MAN 256 with online multiplayer support would have been nothing but absolutely stunning.
There may be a few of you out there who are looking at the Xbox One release of 256 and wondering why on earth you have to now pay for the privilege of sending one of video games most iconic characters through an endless maze. You see, the mobile version is completely free to play (albeit with in-app purchases and a ton of ads) but that is the case with many mobile variations of games. £3.99 though is a more than doable price for an Xbox One owner to think about getting involved and whilst having to pay for something that was previously free, should initially be high on your list of negatives, in reality, it delivers an experience that more than belies its price. Especially when we no longer have to deal with those pesky adverts every time we die!
In summary, PAC-MAN 256 is the ultimate grinder, but for the stupidly low price, should ensure that it is one of your first go-to games when you next get a spare five minutes to waste. After an initial flurry of wanting to better yourself and your friends, you may find that things start to wane a little – especially once you’ve unlocked all the power ups – but should you have a number of real world friends on hand, will find little that beats it.
Forget about grabbing for your phone, this is the best PAC title for years – and it’s on your console!
Related: Let’s Play PAC-MAN 256 on Xbox One