Back in 2007, Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani bid farewell to the gaming industry with a special creation for the Xbox Live Arcade. Hist parting gift, known as Pac-Man Championship Edition, took the gaming world by complete surprise. The new installment in the Pac-Man line of games introduced new gameplay mechanics and changed the game of Pac-Man as we knew it, breathing new life into a series that was over a quarter of a century old. I don’t think that anyone expected the game to be as well received as it was. Eventually, the game’s popularity led to it being ported to numerous other platforms including the iOs and Android software platforms. This year, to mark the 30th anniversary of the little yellow monster, Namco is mixing up the formula once again.
When it comes to Pac-Man C.E. DX, take everything that you know about playing the old games and throw it out of the window. This is Pac-Man for a new generation. What was once a game about pattern memorization and methodical pathfinding is now all about fast-paced decision making and precision navigation in an ever changing maze. Where the original Championship Edition felt a lot like the original game, DX changes the methodology and strategy behind the game completely. There are a lot of gameplay mechanics that have been changed in this game that require you to change “how” you play the game, but the base premise is the same as it was in Championship Edition. Players need to collect all of the dots on a stage in order to spawn a piece of fruit on the opposite side of the maze; once they pick up the said piece of fruit, a new maze of pellets is generated on the fly.
The biggest change, which should be evident to anyone who has seen a gameplay video of the game, is the removal of the limit of four ghosts on the stage. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde aren’t the only enemies that you have to worry about now; this time around they are bringing hundreds (literally) of friends with them. In DX, the ghosts are scattered around the maze in varying amounts and lie dormant, or sleeping, until you pass by them. Once you pass by a ghost, it will wake up and give chase directly behind Pac-Man. This introduces another new gameplay aspect in the form of stacking your pursuers. The ghosts will now form a line directly behind you and give chase, following your every turn and move throughout the maze. They enemies no longer have a mind of their own and will form “conga” lines behind the player that grow longer over time. Pac-Man die hards will be turned off at the sound of this as it changes the tradition of the game and eliminates the traditional challenge. Trust me, while this does change things, it creates a whole new feel and challenge for the game.
The game plays out like the classic cellular phone / Apple II
e game “Snake” which I am sure everyone has seen at one time or another. It is rather easy to navigate the maze safely with only a few ghosts stacked behind you, but once that number climbs into hundreds, your path options will become limited as you will run into issues with the space that you conga line’s tail consumes. When this finally does occur, and things get too hectic to deal with, players can then chomp on a power pellet and consume the entire line of blue ghosts streaming behind them, racking up an insane amount of points. This time around, the game also gives you a visible counter on the duration of your power pellet’s effect, which also changes your strategy. Thanks to the existence of the counter, gamers will find their selves pushing the limit (of time) in eating every last blue ghost on the screen until they return to normal.
Gamers have also received two new offensive tools to assist them in the game in the new version as well, one of them is player controlled and one of them is automatic. As for the automatic part, the game slows down time to a crawl when a player comes close to being killed by a ghost It is very reminiscent of the Matrix and allows players to adjust their course accordingly to stave off their demise. This allows you to make last second adjustments that you would normally struggle to make running at full speed and is incredibly helpful. The other tool players have is the new ghost bomb(s). When all else fails, players have a stock amount of ghost bombs that can be launched with the press of a button that send all of the ghosts to the center of the maze, giving you some breathing room and a chance to reposition yourself accordingly. As players raise their score higher and higher, the will earn additional bombs, along with extra lives, which are added to their stock.All of these gameplay mechanics create an incredibly fast paced and twitch-action experience that keeps players on the edge of their seat the entire time. You will put all of these to use over the course of a variety of gameplay modes including score attack, time trials, and ghost comb courses. These modes are exactly as they sound; score attack requires players to accumulate the highest score possible in either 5- or 10-minute intervals. Time trial gives players set amounts of time to complete mazes under benchmark times, which are added up on each level for a cumulative score that players are graded upon. The other mode, which is new to the series, is ghost combo which gives players a set amount of time to rack up the largest streak of eaten blue ghosts. The ghost combo mode plays completely on the new, and core, gameplay mechanic of DX in terms of stacking up as big of a line of ghosts as possible before consuming your power pellet(s).
The joy of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX lies in its leaderboard support and the replay value that it generates. The true value of the game lies in the competition that is bred amongst players and friends on the leaderboards. Every aspect of the game is tracked on the high score trackers which can be sorted in various ways. In addition to tracking every aspect and score of your game, DX allows you to view replays of the top scores on the leaderboards in order to help you learn new techniques and methods to playing the game. The result is a very old school feel that brings back the competition that many remember from the classic arcade scene when high scores were everything. It was a simpler time and the competition was seriously fierce. DX brings that atmosphere back in a major way and will likely breed some serious competition between you and your friends who are playing the game.
DX gives you a ton of customization options to cater your game to your liking, including the selection of a wide variety of visual styles. Players can choose between a wide variety of visual and character styles which span the timeline of Pac-Man form the classic arcade look to updated, neon / HD visuals. You can also choose from a variety of tracks for your background music, though all have a fast paced, techno feel to them. The game randomly selects a style, both visually and audibly, at the start of each match, so the look and feel is different with every match. This is a nice feature, but I would like to see a means of selecting a static visual style as there are a few that I prefer over others. Unfortunately, the only means that you have of doing this is to set the options to your favorite setting prior to each and every round. Its a small complaint, but honestly nothing major that will concern most gamers.
I think that Namco has created an amazing package in Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. Somehow, someway, they have managed to completely reinvent the series while still maintaining the charm of the original. DX mixes everything that was great about the classic gaming and arcade scene in terms of the generated competition and focus on score and performance with sleek visuals and fast paced action prominent in the current generations of games. I highly recommend the game to anyone who even remotely enjoys Pac-Man as this is a serious treat for gamers of all ages.