Pac N Roll Review
Posted by Thomas Bowskill
Pac's on a roll, with no self-control
Everyone knows Pac-man from his highly addictive debut arcade game, but for a while now Pac-man has been taking a walk on the wild side and venturing into the world of 3D. So it came as no surprise to see that the yellow gobbler has made it onto another DS game, this time 3D. And Thus starts the Pac 'n Roll experience:
For me, and many other gamers, Pac-man has always shown how simple games can still be fun games. So when it comes to putting the yella-fella into the 3rd dimension, I have some reservations. However, be glad that Namco at least tried a new approach to a 3D Pac-man game, rather than using the uninspiring Pac-man world franchise.
“So what kind of 3D adventure is this?” I hear you ask, what a superb question! Many people taking a glance Pac N Roll would assume that this game is a Super Monkey Ball clone, wrong. Pac 'n Roll differs to Monkey Ball because you directly control Pac-man's rolling, not the tilt of the level. This allows for precise control and maneuverability through use of the touch screen.
The story, as far as I can tell, seems to be set back in the past when Pac-man was new to the whole ghoulie gobbling genre. On the farm there has been a great harvest of power pellets (the pills that make ghosts go blue) and as a result there now is unease in the ghost community. So they do what is natural and unleash the all powerful ghost that their forefathers banished to the moon. Of course chaos ensues when the big ghost (Golvis- who, it seems, is suffering from his mid
life death crisis) comes along, takes away all your friends and, to put the icing on the cake, he takes away your arms and legs... just like any day in the real world. I found this story to be pretty uninteresting and this was not helped by the fact that this game has some of the most irritating sound effects to represent the characters voices. To be honest, games like these don't need stories, or at least they don't need irritating ones. I wasn't really bothered in finding out about Pac-man's childhood back story, I just wanted to play the game.
Putting the story aside, whats left is actually a solid game with addictive gameplay. Its objectives couldn't be simpler, you have to roll Pac-man around levels, collecting pellets, navigating past various obstacles, eating ghosts and finding as many jewels as possible. The levels are simple, colourful and last a few minutes each... perfect for casual gameplay. All levels are pretty linear, some of them do have the odd secret route, but they generally are not too hard to find. There are several themed zones in the game, this doesn't mean much except for the fact that they look slightly different.
Moving Pac-man requires you to stroke the touchscreen in the appropriate direction, you can also give him a speed burst if you hold the stylus on the edge of the touchscreen after moving. This control method not only is intuitive but it fits and gels with the game perfectly, its mastered within 30 seconds. You can change the camera angle with the D-pad as you roll and use the start button to pause. Its straight forward gameplay for a straight forward game, and if I had the option to change the control interface, there would be nothing I could think of to improve upon its fluidity.
Adding to this gameplay are such elements like new abilities for Pac-man, activated by eating chocolate. These allow Pac-man to become; Metal Knight Pac-man- he can resist strong wind and roll underwater & Winged Pac-man- this ability gives our guy longer jumps and faster movement speed. You also have the classic fruit appearing in the game to replenish your health, and pizza to increase it. Of course power pellets make a welcome return, having the same effect that they had for the last 25 years... thats right kids, pill-popping Pac-man is back!
In todays world of equality, it just wouldn't be fair to have the balance all in favor of good. So the ghouls now come equip with their own surprises... vehicles to be precise. It seems that they have been busy learning to drive since Pac-Pix, and now some of them chase you down in cars, boats and UFO's. What does this mean? Not a lot, thats what. All that is required to defeat the ghost in the vehicle is, finding a power pellet, then charging into the vehicle... its makes no real change to the gameplay but it is quirky. The only other ghost thats buffed up is the boss who requires Pac-man to
overdose on take three power pellets before he can defeat Golvis... “we need adrenalin, stat!”
After you complete levels in the game, you gain access to the time trial modes where you must rush through checkpoints to the end of the level within a designated time limit. You can also, later, unlock challenge mode where you are set objectives on how many jewels, ghosts and pellets you need to collect, or avoid, within the time limit. With exception to the boss levels, each level in the game allows you to play though it on all three modes. While progressing through any of these game modes, you will find that there are more jewels to collect, these help unlock further levels and such things as the original Pac-man game.
A nice additional feature to this game is the inclusion of said original Pac-man, while its nothing to have a party over, it still does provide for some amusement. I can't help feel however, that the main game should have been longer and richer in diversity, the stages are short and there are too few of them for one to get much in the way of new content from this game.
With regard to presentation, I would say that Pac 'n Roll provides a nice looking game without pushing the system to its limits. The cute and colourful levels seem to bode well with the style of the game, and thats always a good thing. The way the story is told by stills is simplistic, lacking any real vibrancy... its like Namco just shoved a story in there for the sake of it. You can skip these so it doesn't really matter too much at the end of the day.
The games sound fits in with the rest of it, cute and colourful, but lacking in variety. The music doesn't particularly captivate the player or annoy them, so its hard to give it anything but a neutral opinion. The character voices irritated me to no end, I think its due to the fact that they spurt out the same noise over and over... then again the DS does have a volume button so, if your like me and get irritated easily by these noises, you can get rid of them.
Pac 'n Roll is an example of how developers can get the DS working to good effect. It brings back the simplistic Pac-man gameplay while adding a bit of depth, the perfect stuff for casual play where you don't have much time to spare. You will be able to 'complete' it in a couple of hours, but to perfect everything you will need a lot more time. That being said, this isn't the game to get if you are looking for anything but short busts of simple fun, there are other DS games out there that will last you longer and give you a richer variety of gameplay.
This is a good solid game, a great foundation, but it hasn't got enough length and variety to make it a great game. If you can find a cheap copy I would suggest giving it a whirl, most people will enjoy this game for at least a few hours.