Posted by Marcel van Duyn
Pac-Man makes a rare appearance outside of a maze environment in Pac-Attack, a fun and quirky puzzle game!
Not even Pac-Man escaped the 8 and 16-bit eras without a spinoff puzzle game to his name. Pac-Attack was an obvious cash-in by Namco on games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, and Puyo-Puyo, but it's actually quite good!
The game is an edited version of the arcade game Cosmo Gang the Puzzle (based on the somewhat well-known Cosmo Gang). As in Tetris, the objective is to create rows of blocks, which will make them disappear. As with all other falling block games, you have to keep your screen from filling up as long as possible.
Together with the blocks, red ghosts will drop down. These serve only to lodge in between blocks preventing you from finishing more rows. That's where Pac-Man comes in: after every two sets of objects that drop, a set of objects that includes Pac-Man will follow. When Pac-Man lands, he heads off in the direction he is facing and gobbles up every ghost he comes across, removing them from the play field and thus opening spaces for blocks.
The falling objects are all two spaces wide by two spaces high. They can include ghosts, blocks, Pac-Man, and blank spaces (so not every set of objects has to include 4 things). Blocks can be rotated and any objects that stick out over ledges will drop down. On the left of the screen is a large fairy wand that fills up as Pac-Man eats ghosts. When it's full, a "set" of objects containing nothing but a fairy will drop down, making all of the ghosts on the screen vanish.
As with most other games, you can't just keep going on forever. The rate at which objects fall increases rapidly, with a "level" indicator on the right showing how far along you are. After every 20 "levels" the speed goes back to the slowest setting, but at a cost - the number of object sets between each Pac-Man increases by one! If you're not that good a player, don't worry - there's a difficulty selector with four levels to choose from. You can also choose to play with two players.
Of course, that's not all the game has to offer. There's also a Puzzle Mode, with a whole 100 levels. In each there are be a bunch of ghosts and blocks already set up. Your goal is to make Pac-Man eat all of them. Before he appears, though, you're going to have to drop some extra ghosts and blocks onto the rest! There is a limited supply of Pac-Men, but if you fail with the first, don't worry, as you have another chance. Puzzle Mode includes a password system so you can continue where you left off. This mode is one player only.
Accompanying this is a soundtrack which is quite nice. The main game theme is a largely expanded remix of the theme that played in intermissions in the original Pac-Man, while the title screen and Puzzle Mode themes are original songs that also sound quite good. There is also a suitably fast-paced, nice song for two player mode.
Pac-Attack may seem like a rip-off of other, more popular falling block games, but it's actually a pretty good game. It's a sort of strange mixture of Tetris and Puyo Puyo's gameplay mechanics, which blends together quite well. Don't ignore this one in favour of other puzzle games. In fact, this this should be one of the first to check out.