Once you've made the decision to update a classic franchise for a new generation of gamers, there are two perfectly valid ways of going about it. The sublime Space Invaders: IG demonstrated the first method by utterly rebuilding the experience from the ground up and turning it into something completely different. However, Namco have taken the opposite tack by adding a few tweaks to an otherwise familiar formula. You'd be forgiven for thinking that Pac-Man would taste stale after all these years (as well as a similar Championship prequel)... but after taking a tentative bite, I discovered something remarkable.
It's utterly delicious. And it tastes sweeter than ever before.
The creamy centre remains unchanged. Our ravenous spherical hero has to eat Pac-Dots and fruit to earn points and access new mazes, with an entourage of deadly ghosts hounding his every move. This basic concept has been spruced up with crisp, pixel-perfect visuals that provide a range of colour schemes for every taste. Whether you crave the classic blue and yellow, LCD retro green or insane pulsating brain candy, Namco has you covered. Three difficulty modes provide a range of game speeds meaning that you can take some time finding your feet before ramping up to ridiculous hypnotic madness.
So far, so good- but Pac-Man CE DX is infinitely more than just a graphical overhaul. This new edition drizzles a juicy coating of exciting new gameplay mechanics that improve upon the original without changing it beyond recognition.
Every gamer knows that Pac-Man can chow down on ghosts after eating a Power Pill. This was primarily a defensive measure back in the day... but our yellow friend has a much more predatory edge this time around. Blinky and the gang are still out for blood (and can use improved AI to cut players off), but a huge array of respawning sleeping ghosts will wake up and doggedly chase players when passed by. Collecting a train of ghosts causes even more to spawn until a maximum of thirty are snapping at your heels. This may sound terrifying... but in reality, this is exactly what you want. Ghosts yield exponentially increasing points when scoffed, meaning that the league of voracious pursuers suddenly becomes a delicious feast that delivers massive points, rumble and visual feedback. Furiously devouring these enormous ghost trains is as rewarding as it is satisfying, and you'll soon succumb to the obsessive lust for creating the longest entourage possible.
There are other more subtle tweaks to the formula. A limited number of smart bombs allow Pac-Man to temporarily get himself out of tight spots by knocking nearby foes back to the central lair, and time slows down to a crawl when disaster approaches. Dodging out of danger at the last second is absolutely exhilarating and unexpectedly cinematic considering the hackneyed source material. Another advanced technique allows players to lean into corners by pushing the thumbstick just before turning, allowing them to take a better line and widen the distance between pursuers. These all sound like small additions, but they add up to a game that feels new and fresh despite its ancient pedigree.
Numerous mazes, score attack modes and time trials deliver hundreds of possible permutations, providing serious value as well as quality. However, there's no denying that the premise itself doesn't change in any significant way between levels. There's quantity and quality in equal measure, but variety is fairly limited. Eating even the biggest and most delicious cake can become a chore after a while... but trust me, boredom simply doesn't set in. Pac-Man CE DX is perfect for quick casual sessions or entire mornings of high score hunting.
- And awesome
- Too colourful?
- Too fast?
- Too awesome?
The Short Version: Without a doubt, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is the definitive version of Namco's legendary eat-em-up. It's a perfect feast of classic gameplay and fresh new tweaks, garnished with eyepopping visuals and an obscene amount of content. It's delish. Go have a taste.