Jumping! QTEs! Rail shooting sections!
Call me crazy, but I don't think I'm in Pac-Man & The Ghostly Adventures 2's target audience.
As far as I can tell, it's aimed at fans of an animated television show that turned Pac-Man into a totally radical 90s mascot even though it's now 2014. Whoops. Our spherical yellow pal now has arms and legs, lives in a town called Pacopolis, fights the evil Betrayus and hangs out with a disposable cast with names like Spiral and Cylindria. He's basically Sonic, then. You'd therefore expect a tie-in to be a fairly simple 3D platformer with a basic hub town and some rail shooting segments, but in an incredible twist that's exactly what Pac-Man & The Ghostly Adventures 2 is.
However, never let it be said that I won't give a game a fair shake. It's not going to set the gaming world on fire and we've seen the same licensed template hundreds of times -- Scott Pilgrim this ain't -- but it does at least make eating things really, really satisfying.
Like the original games and the utterly superb new Championship Editions, Pac-Man's signature ability is scoffing stuff. Food, dots, enemies, anything stupid enough to get close enough to his gaping maw. Ghostly Adventures 2 reimagines this skill into a homing dash move that allows Pac-Man to lunge several metres towards his target, devour it and then chain subsequent chomps together, with each successive snack resulting in bonus points and a slow motion pause. It's actually a lot of fun and feels tremendously cathartic, not to mention a surprisingly versatile way of quickly traversing around the levels or gaining vertical height.
The levels, accessible from a fairly deserted and simplistic hub zone that allows you to interact with the characters ("Did you figure out why Betrayus sent Grindertron to attack Pacopolis?" No, Spiral. Also, who are you?), are your basic platforming gauntlets. You've got various platforms (some of which move!), a few varieties of ghost (some melee attackers, some ranged foes, a few dashers and AoE types), the occasional boss requiring quicktime events and a rail shooting minigame courtesy of Cylindira, who apparently has a gun and a hoverboard. To be honest, I sort of wish that the game was about her.
So you'll jump and chomp and chomp and jump. Find a few hidden secrets. Eat some pies to gain lives. Occasionally find a 'maze' that references the classic games of yore, even though you can just jump over the walls (curse you, third dimension!). Interestingly, though, some stages allow our ravenous pal to change into new forms with an extra action ability.
Ice-Pac can freeze enemies or even scenery objects to create new platforms or get out of a jam. Rubber-Pac loses his limbs and gains incredible jumping ability. Later levels grant the ability to turn into a rolling rock ball or even a bizarre aquatic lizard with a long-range tongue. It's a fun system that will switch up the pacing on a regular basis, and facilitates a number of optional challenge rooms.
I was also admittedly quite impressed by the production values, at least in strictly relative terms. Having witnessed all manner of hellacious tie-ins over the years, I was pleased to see that clear effort has been spent on the visuals, not limited to several unique jumping and idle animations per form. The voice actors don't hold back either, even if, frankly, I wish they did.
Will all this make Pac-Man & The Ghostly Adventures worth a punt? We'll know next month, but if you enjoy very basic platforming and love the TV show, I suppose that it might be worth keeping an eye on. Or don't and say you did.