Normally I would open this review with a bit of a back-story to the game and the developer. But Pac-Man is as iconic as they come, having been around since 1980, and even recognised by people who wouldn’t associate themselves with video games. In essence, gaming wouldn’t be the same without Pac-Man, just like the BBC won’t be the same without The Great British Bake Off. Too soon?
In actual fact, this is the third Pac-Man game to release on the Xbox One this year alone, the other two being the original re-released as part of the Namco Arcade Game Series, and an endless runner called Pac-Man 256 which was ported over from mobiles. Both existed before however, and Pac-Man CE 2 is the first ‘original’ Pac-Man game to appear on the console, which itself is a sequel to Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, released in 2007 and 2010 respectively. It’s about as original as a game based on a 36-year-old arcade machine can get.
There are three modes in the game: Tutorial, Score Attack and Adventure. Upon first loading up the game, only Tutorial is available. Here you will learn the basics of the game in a series of challenges, all separate from each other and without any indication of when you would need to employ the tactics. It’s a little bit confusing and only when you get into the main chunk of the game will it start to make any real sense. This may be because the tactics the tutorial teaches you goes against everything you know about Pac-Man; Ghosts can be provoked into attacking you by barging into them (you don’t have to avoid them if they are in your way) and Power Pellets will only appear when you have eaten the requisite number of regular pellets, indicated by the bar bottom middle of the screen. For those looking for an Xbox One version of the classic Pac-Man gameplay, this is not the game for you.
Once the first section of the Tutorial is complete, the game opens up a bit more in the Score Attack section. This still is not the main ‘game’ so to speak, but a selection of different maze designs with varying difficulties for you to achieve high scores on. The high scores are graded at the end of each five minute session, or less if you lose all your lives before, and yes, being a Japanese game the highest grade is not A, but S. After achieving at least C grades on a set series of mazes, you then finally unlock the main bulk of the game, Adventure mode.
Adventure mode sadly, is not in the same vein as Pac-Man World (though with a name like that you’d be forgiven for thinking so) It is instead almost identical to the Score Attack mode but after unlocking the required number of stars for each level, there is a ‘boss’ level. The boss level is again identical to the other modes except after eating the Power Pellet at the end of the mazes, the boss is automatically defeated. This would have been far more engaging if you had some manual control over defeating the boss, but unfortunately all you get is a very basic cutscene of a number of Pac-Men (based on the amount of lives you’ve stored up throughout the final level) chomping on the enemy before exploding and bouncing off the sides of the screen like a Windows 95 screensaver.
Whilst having three game modes to disguise the fact that the gameplay is very repetitive, it can get quite addictive. The Adventure mode offers a more fast-paced experience with attempts lasting less than two minutes at a time, providing you are successful. On a failed attempt, and after unleashing a barrage of expletives at the game, a simple push of the Y button gets you straight back in the action. It’s frustrating, fast, and fairly addictive. Which is exactly what you want from an arcade game like this.
The game has a neat little feature whenever you pause the action. After resuming there is a slight delay (whether intentional or not) before the game resumes. In later levels where the speed increases to around Mach one, this is an absolute god-send; it allows you to find where Pac-Man is, what’s around him and where you need to go. It really makes a huge difference between a life lost and a new highscore.
For the slightly higher than expected price, you are getting a decent little spin on the Pac-Man formula. The Score Attack mode has leaderboards to satisfy the competitiveness in you, but crucially there is no multiplayer at all. Pac-Man games have had multiplayer before and for a game that attempts to update almost every aspect of the original, missing this out seems criminal. Even keeping the multiplayer co-operative would have been something, allowing both players to chomp away at the pellets and tackle Adventure mode together couldn’t have been that difficult to implement, and it makes no sense why anything like this isn’t included.
One thing your friends can get involved with is the obligatory rave that will occur every time this game is fired up. You are able to select what BGM to accompany you through the maze and each one feels like it was produced around the late 90’s when arcade dance machines were on every street corner. The whole aesthetic is dripping with neon and the future retro vibe. If anything else it will certainly perk you up.
In total there are 18 achievements split across the modes. They are all for getting high scores or completing certain levels in the Adventure, none are necessary skill based in terms of completing set actions or fulfilling certain quotas.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is a fun little arcade game that channels the inner spirit of old school Pac-Man, but manages to create its own little niche. It’s overpriced for the amount of content, but those with the patience of a saint and a compulsion to top leaderboards will certainly get their money’s worth. For anyone else, the fun factor may be exhausted before the euphoric beats of the soundtrack subside. And it’s all a bit of a shame really, because it’s an interesting and fresh take on an age-old game. There just isn’t enough of it.