These days it feels like every popular mascot character has starred in their own party game. In the past ten years we've suffered through what felt like every Mario Party clone possible, from Sonic Shuffle to Crash Bash. If your favorite video game character has been used to sell game consoles, then chances are they've been forced to take part in a virtual board game. Perhaps that's why I'm shocked by Namco's newest mini-game collection, Pac-Man Party. It's not because this game is particularly good, but rather the fact that Pac-Man has yet to star in a party game.
Pac-Man Party is exactly what it sounds like, a mini-game collection starring one of our industry's oldest superstars. In essence this is nothing more than a variation on Monopoly, in which players move around a board claiming the different tiles. Of course, it wouldn't be a competent party game without a wealth of mini-games to play. Just about everything triggers mini-game, from figuring out how many spaces to move all the way up to settling land disputes. Beating your friends (or the computer, if you're a solo player) is the key to earning enough cookies to win the game. Wait ... cookies?
You know how it always looked like Pac-Man was eating floating yellow dots? It turns out that you've been lied to. Forget what you saw in the Pac-Man cartoon or those endless (and pointless) 3D reboots, Pac-Man has a series cookie habit that he's having a hard time shaking. At least, that's what Pac-Man Party tells us. One day, in a cookie fueled stupor, Pac-Man decides to take it upon himself to locate the original recipe and return it back to its rightful owner. That's easier said than done, as our favorite colored ghosts -- Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde -- stand in his way.
Embarrassing story aside, Pac-Man Party at least attempts to be a serious virtual board game. Players choose their character and prepare to spend a long, long time throwing dice and competing in mini-game battles. I'm not somebody who gets hung up on cheesy story elements and weird continuity shifts; just as long as the mini-games are compelling I'm ready to be fully invested. Unfortunately, Pac-Man Party's line-up of mini-games is a sad selection familiar themes with bad motion controls.
If you've played a Mario Party game, then chances are you've seen many of these mini-games. Remember that mode where Mario knocked everybody off of a large ball? That theme is used several times in Pac-Man Party. You also get mini-games that require you to shake the controller as hard as you can, paint a level and even play popular sports (tennis, baseball, etc.). There are a few fun mini-games here and there, but they are few and far between. Worst of all, almost all of these mini-games require motion control for no reason. While I understand that Namco is simply using what they're given, but most of these mini-games would have been improved with standard D-pad support.
What baffles me is what any of this has to do with Pac-Man. Outside of the name and the cast of characters, there's nothing in Pac-Man Party that screams "PAC-MAN!!!" Instead we get a bunch of levels and mini-games that could have been played with anybody and anything; they are simply generic stages to master. I understand that Pac-Man's universe may not be as fully realized as Mario or Sonic's, but it's a shame they didn't try to make this feel more like a Pac-Man game. The five boards are all perfectly lovely and include some fun twists (like the Spooky Hallows and the Mirage Oasis), but they don't have the slightest thing to do with our favorite dot muncher ... er, cookie monster.
Page 1 of 2