What in the world has happened to Pac-Man? There is a plethora of games staring the spherical leading man on almost every gaming platform, yet with every reimagining he seems to become a worse version of his former self. Every now and again we’ll get a gem, like 2010’s Championship Edition DX, but that’s just a polished version of the arcade classic. We finally got some hands-on time with upcoming release Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures for the Nintendo 3DS, and it does its part to keep alive the tradition of shoehorning Pac-Man into genres where he doesn’t belong.
For those of you who didn’t know, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is based on a brand new television series of the same name. When we say that the series is “brand new,” we actually mean that it first aired just over a month ago, and Namco Bandai is already hard at work on a video game tie-in. From what we experienced with our time playing this game, the fact that its development was rushed is quite clear.
Gameplay consists of pretty basic 2.5D side-scrolling platforming, with Pac-Man’s motions limited to running from left to right and jumping over obstacles. He also has an attack that sends him lunging forward to chomp on a nearby enemy. This attack can be chained together, allowing Pac-Man to propel through the air, moving from one enemy to another, not unlike another gaming icon’s homing attack in the upcoming Sonic Lost World. Though this chain attack mechanic is great in theory in that it breaks up the otherwise uninspired gameplay, it is actually slow in execution, taking away from what makes it so fun to use in the Sonic games.
Beyond the basics, Pac-Man also has attack power-ups that can be activated via the 3DS’s touchscreen, also similar to those in Lost World. From what we saw in the demo, there are four different power-ups available that correspond to different colours. The red power-up, for example, allows Pac-Man to shoot flames while the green power-up has our hero donning what looks like a chameleon suit with an extendable tongue, allowing for eating baddies from a distance. While these power-ups could lead to satisfying puzzle solving mechanics in the platforming, in the demo they served no other purpose than to alter our weapons. They added variety, but they did not appear to be necessary. Now that we’ve had time to take a step back and assess the situation, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures played a lot like a worse version of the side-scrolling stages in Sonic Lost World.
As far as aesthetics go, this game is almost completely devoid. It was unclear where exactly the stage was set, but it looked to be on the inside of a factory. The environment was bland with generally solid colored grey walls that weren’t even remotely memorable. The obstacles in the stage were similarly uninspired, consisting mostly of grey blocks. The console’s 3D effect also added little beyond a slight depth adjustment, not much more than can be expected.
To be fair, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures may have gotten better further into the demo, but we weren’t able to play it to the end. We didn’t finish the demo for lack of want, but instead because the game crashed on us. At first Pac-Man refused to move on to the next screen and we thought that we had missed a switch that would allow us to pass, but then the screens eventually went black and we knew that the problems went deeper than poor level design. With any luck, the demo that we played was a very early build that will be consistently worked on and improved before release. With even more luck, Namco Bandai will abandon this altogether and instead make another improved version of the arcade classic.