Pac-Man and Galaga have provided 30 years worth of entertainment, coin shortages, hit songs and waka-wakas across the world, and to celebrate Namco has cooked up a number of presents for fans. One such present is Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions, a six-layer cake iced with 3D. But instead of a tasty bakery delight, some dead bugs have crawled their way into the cake and the icing does little to sweeten the deal.
Included are ports of arcade originals Pac-Man and Galaga, ports of XBLA/PSN games Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions, as well as two new games for this compilation: Pac-Man Tilt and Galaga 3D Impact. Sadly these aren't hits across the board.
The XBLA/PSN ports are undoubtedly the stand-outs here and both provide gripping new spins on their respective elders, taking the core of each game (chase and power dynamics in Pac-Man, shooting ridiculous amounts of space bugs in Galaga) and rejiggering gameplay to maximize the excitement. Console players who got hooked on either of these in downloadable form may cherish the portable nature and irrelevant-yet-neat 3D of this package, and those who revel in fast-paced, arcade-style gameplay will have a tough time not adoring these two.
As for the new games, well, they're a bit mixed with regards to quality. Pac-Man Tilt is a platformer with Sonic-style level design, filled with flippers, springs and other contraptions riddled about as you munch dots and chomp ghosts. The gimmick here rests in the title: using the gyroscope, you need to tilt the handheld in order to manipulate and navigate the environment to gain speed, climb walls and whatnot. Tilt may sound interesting but playing it is anything but; the gimmick wears thin quick and gameplay is only tangentially related to what people like about Pac-Man. What you're left with is a mascot out of its element, floating about in an aimless platforming fashion.
On the other hand, Galaga 3D Impact at least has an idea of why people enjoy the series as it mostly comes down to shooting a bunch of stuff. You're essentially the gunner of a ship and follow a set path around each stage while blasting away the Galaga, only now you have a few more abilities at your disposal than standard blasters. Using the tractor beam on enemies allows you to absorb their specific power, and continually absorbing bugs upgrades said ability. Galaga 3D Impact isn't worth the price of admission alone, but it's miles better than Pac-Man Tilt and fills a certain shooter niche that Legions and the original overlook.
Speaking of the arcade originals, retro fans will be pleased to see that both Pac-Man and Galaga come complete with tabletop and cabinet art to fill in the sides of the top screen — although if you prefer a more pure screen then you can play without them too — as well as an optional stereoscopic presentation akin to 3D Classics on the eShop. That's all fine and dandy, but the one option we'd put money on that retro fans would have loved to see is the ability to play these games in their original tall aspect ratio — the screen is wide after all, and cradling the handheld like a book would appear to be an ideal solution. This option is sadly absent and the games are instead vertically shrunk to fit the height of the screen. In short, the games look tiny. It's almost comical how small the field is and unfortunately makes playing the originals a tough sell in this form. Of course, holding the 3DS on its side would ruin the screen's stereoscopic effect, but if Namco is comfortable disabling the 3D slider due to required movement in Pac-Man Tilt then we can't see why they couldn't make this work.
There are a few more questionable decisions about this package, including the meager local leaderboard that only tracks your one top score for each game. Online leaderboards that let you compare your standing among friends and the general player population are welcome, but it seems like such a silly oversight to only allow one local score since, for instance, you can't track your own skill progression or compete with friends on the one cartridge.
Also questionable is the inability to reset save data — had scores been the only data saved then it wouldn't be too notable, but several of the games include achievements and other progression that inexplicably can't be wiped. UPDATE: According to a Namco representative after this review was posted, save data can in fact be erased through a button combination upon booting the game.
Another issue of note is the framerate in the modern Galagas: the 3DS sweats when things get too hectic, and those games' very nature is hectic. It's not enough to ruin the games for you but it's quite noticeable.
And we'd be remiss not to mention the utterly bizarre Pac-Man 30th Anniversary CGI cartoon tucked away on the cartridge that really must be seen to be believed. It's as if Namco looked at the trajectory of Sonic and learned nothing.
Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is a decent stab at compiling a pleasant little arcade package, but a few iffy games and questionable decisions like squashed playing fields and meagre high-score tables drop this from "must have" to "it's complicated." There's undoubtedly a lot of fun to be had with about half of the games here, but your mileage may vary on whether that's enough to shell out for the whole shebang.