Namco sure do love digging up Pac-Man every chance they get but they’ve actually got a good track record with the yellow fellow. From the classic arcade original all the way up to now, there have been so many good games. None more so than Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Champion Edition DX. These two hyperactive sequels offered something the original game never had. Excitement. Marry that to some fun neo-retro visuals and had two of the best modern arcade-style titles of the last decade.
Both games were different, albeit sticking to the original maze-running, ghost-chomping formula, and equally brilliant and so hopes were high for Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 and rightly so and finally it is here and well… I’m still not sure how to feel.
Seen from the usual top-down perspective, the game once again sees you running mazes, eating pellets and trying to avoid those pesky ghosts. As with DX, you activate sleeping ghosts by buzzing past them which adds them to the tail of the level’s current ghosts and eating an energizer lets you eat the whole ghost train. However, unlike the previous games, there isn’t always an energizer on a particular screen.
What you do is gobble up enough dots to make a fruit appear. Eat the fruit and the maze will refresh. Clear enough mazes and you’ll get to a screen where an energizer will eventually appear, if you eat enough dots. At this point you’ll be chasing down the ghosts, as expected in a Pac-Man game. Clear them out and you go through the same cycle again until the time runs out. It’s all pretty straightforward.
There is more to it but I found myself getting irritated by the tutorial as it flashed all the new information into my brain but you’ll figure it out as you go along and the game, while not as immediate as the others, is still pretty intuitive.
So what’s wrong? Well. This game is fast. I mean really fast. So much so that a lot of the time, most of the time even, your decisions have to be in that split second. Twitchy arcade gaming is all well and good but this is a bit much. Not that the game is difficult as such, rather that perfection is difficult maybe. Surviving a score attack level, even without losing a life, is actually pretty easy. Thanks in no small part to the reduced lethality of the ghosts. If you bump into a ghost now, you’ll just bounce off of them. Do it a couple more times, within a short time period, and it’ll turn angry and that’s when it’ll chase you. If it gets you, you’ll lose a life. The main effect of that is that it’ll reduce the dot value down to one (it maxes out at 500 and goes up each time you eat a dot without dying).
Nerfing the game in order to have it run at light speed isn’t what I wanted from the game at all. With it’s neon visuals and speedy techno music, it’s clear that the game is trying to be as hyper as possible and, yeah, there’s a rush to that but it’s all just a bit too hectic to be enjoyable most of the time. There’s still that Championship Edition appeal but it really is buried in the hyper-caffeinated gameplay. Also, the addition of the new bomb shortcut move and a brake button feel like unnecessary add-ons just for the sake of it.
Visually, things are much as you’d expect but I couldn’t shake the fact that the visuals seemed a little bit underwhelming. I’ve always considered the Championship Edition games quite decent to look at but something feels a little off about it. Like it’s trying to be exciting but it kind of feels a little cold. I even went as far as checking out DX again to see how that looked and it still looks colourful and gorgeous. This just feels a bit empty. Maybe a tad functional before being forced through an ‘add fun’ algorithm that’s been programmed by the band Muse or something.
It still plays okay and I’m sure I’ll keep plugging away at the various modes in an effort to earn those higher rankings but, like a Terminator sequel, you can see what they were trying to do but they’ve lost their way a bit. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is, without question, a good game but it should be great. If this was a mode in a Championship Edition bundle, it’d be an okay addition that you’d mostly ignore because the other games are so good and, as such, it’s hard to know who this game is for.
+ Decent pick up and play gaming
+ Some might find it addictive
- Visually, it's like a sterile hospital hosting a rave
- Is just a bit too fast for its own good