PAC-MAN is one of the most iconic and oldest Video Game characters ever. First introduced as an arcade machine back in 1980, he has been a part of gaming on every platform and every generation ever since. From sweets to mugs to clothing to animated TV shows, PAC-MAN has evolved over the decades and is instantly recognizable. In 2013, a new CGI based animation TV show was shown on the Disney Channel and was well received by its audience. It was no surprise that a video game based on that very TV show and sharing the same name ‘PAC-MAN and The Ghostly Adventures’ wold be developed and released, but does it have a place in the PAC-MAN legacy, and is it actually any good?
First released in the US in October 2013, the game if finally being released in the UK and Europe in 2014. Developed and published by NAMCO and Bandai Namco, PAC-MAN and The Ghostly Adventures is a 3D platform based video game which has the player taken the main title role of PAC-MAN from the TV show. The other characters from the TV show also appear with the same voice cast so if you are a fan of the TV show, or most likely looking to get this game for a younger fan of the show, then the game does a great job of recreating the same world for the player.
The story sees PAC-MAN and his friends trying to stop the forces of Betrayus, as he and his menacing ghosts having escaped from the Netherworld to invade PacWorld. The opening introduction to the game has PAC-MAN being told he must venture out into the city of Pacopolis in search of energy orbs to power up the globes needed to put an end to the danger of Betrayus and his army of invading ghosts. Now, I understand that this game is aimed for the much younger audience who would be fans of the TV show, but the dialogue and how its voice acted is so woeful that it really questions why they even bothered at all. A school is used as the home base of the game, which the other characters inhabit and can be interacted with but because of just how bad the dialogue is with repeated conversation pieces that really adds nothing more to the game experience other then to fans of the TV Show possibly to see them.
Once you do actually go on a mission then you see that there are six worlds that will need to be explored. The only way to unlock a world is to complete all the levels in the previous world. Levels are broken down and the first few can be played in any order but all must be completed before the remainder levels will unlock with the final level containing a boss battle. Level design is what you would expect from a 3D platformer game. You follow a set patch collecting orbs and eating the food from destroyed vending machines, which at no time do any of the other characters have a problem with you basically causing more damage to the city then the naughty ghosts you gobble up like candy, moving through check points to reach the end level goal and collecting the final piece of fruit.
The gameplay is fun even if very basic at first. The ghosts you come up against do not pose a challenge and you will find yourself easily dealing with them. Moving around the levels is straight forward with PAC-MAN having a double jump needed to move from platform to platform. The way the game mixes this up is in the use of Power Pellets. Power Pellets give PAC-MAN special powers which can change the combat of the game and also how you navigate the map. Ice PAC-MAN can freeze his enemies and water in order to create towers that can be used to get to higher points. Chameleon PAC-MAN has the ability to turn you invisible so you are undetected but has the special ability of a super tongue which can lash out and grab far away ghosts to be gobbled up or to swing between posts to cross between gaps.
The levels are very clever in making use of these Power Pellets to change the way in which you play. It does break up the samey jumping from platform to platform rather nicely and is fun to use different abilities to take out the pesky little ghosts. For the first world, these powers blend in quite nicely as the requirements of their use for exploring the levels are very simple but I found once I moved on to the second world “Ruins” that the use of those powers and some very sluggish controls became a frustrating hindrance at times which spoiled the game play. Turning into a massive rock boulder and rolling around can be great fun, but when the level requires you to use the Dash attack, which sprints you forward at speed, against an enemy but then has you facing the hazard of falling off a platform to your death as you have no real way to stop yourself, and the gameplay becomes clumsy and ugly.
The game also has multiplayer in the form of up to four player games which uses the traditional PAC-MAN maze gameplay but this time has you and the other players taken on the roles of the ghosts vs an AI controlled PAC-MAN. Now on paper this looks like a great nod to the original PAC-MAN games and a great juxtaposition as you play as the ghosts being hunted down by PAC-MAN. In reality it sadly is not that fun, well not for me anyway. I found that at times you would find yourself about to corner PAC-MAN and take him out using the Ghostly version of his Power Pellet only for him to suddenly get one, chomp down and gobble you up and you find yourself as a floating pair of eyes returning to the centre of the maze to do it all again. I would say for a younger audience this game mode might be more fun, but for me it did not quite live up to expectations.
Bearing in mind the very young audience this game is aimed at, PAC-MAN and The Ghostly Adventures is a typical TV/Film tie in game. It does just enough to get you in the mind frame of the source material and it has some nice gameplay moments but overall it fails to do anything really special or enough to stand out from the pack. The levels are well designed but the clumsy controls can lead to some very frustrating times as you find your button presses fail to deliver then they need to. There are much finer examples of how to do a 3D platformer game out there but this is far from the worst. It is just ok at what it does. It will appeal to younger fans of the show but does not really make the effort to do anymore then that. It feels like it should have been more special but sadly it sticks to doing what was required and leaves it there.
PAC-MAN would gobble this up and find himself not feeling the need to go back for seconds. Thanks to XBOX for providing thisisxbox with this game for review.
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