Posted by Liam Doolan
When worlds collide
Originally a multi-platform release in 1993, Pac-Attack – otherwise known as Pac-Panic – was derived from Namco's arcade game released in the previous year, Cosmo Gang the Puzzle.
On first glance, Pac-Attack may appear to be an average run-of-the-mill puzzle game with one of the prominent videogame characters of the time leading the charge, but there is a lot more to it than that. By incorporating trademark Pac-Man elements and gameplay, Pac-Attack puts a refreshingly unique spin on a classic genre.
Pac-Attack pays homage to Tetris by featuring falling blocks, but twists the flawless concept on its head in a similar fashion to Dr. Mario and Puyo Puyo to create both a functional and enhanced experience. Instead of navigating Pac-Man through a maze and eating dots, or simply creating lines in Tetris for a high-score, Pac-Attack draws inspiration from a number of concepts, requiring the player to join clusters – three space combinations of blocks, ghosts and Pac-Man (who appears after every two drops) – within the confines of a vertical shaft.
The primary goal is to assemble a pathway for Pac-Man to devour the ghosts. The eternal struggle here is simply a perfect assembly of clusters so Pac-Man can eat all the ghosts in one go; this doesn't always happen, though, with falling blocks and ghosts often misplaced, and Pac-Man not always moving in the right direction.
The combination of Tetris style gameplay by lining up six blocks horizontally to clear a row, mixed with constant management of ghosts and consideration of the path Pac-Man will take, results in an added depth a lot of other puzzle games do not have. The level of complexity means players are required to actively think ahead of the on-screen play in order to devise a route for Pac-Man and ultimately extend the life of the current play session.
The fundamental gameplay of Pac-Attack is supported by three modes that add much replay value and cater to all levels of experience. This includes a normal mode with four separate difficulty settings, a puzzle mode featuring 100 levels, and a two player mode which is the first to three wins. The normal mode provides a classic puzzle experience with the focus on high scores, whilst the puzzle mode is helpful for players starting out with challenges which must be completed in a set number of moves and grow in difficulty over time. This mode even features a password system, although it's not that important with the Wii U Virtual Console save state ability. The last option, two player mode, can be extremely fun. If you've got a sparring partner of equal skill, the matches can last for a rather long period.
In addition to this are extra elements across all modes further enhancing the overall experience. This includes ongoing changes in game speed based on level – adding a greater challenge – and bonuses such as fairies, who appear in both normal and versus modes and clear all ghosts seven lines below them when the fairy meter on the side of the screen is filled; there are also special blocks to deal with including some that are super-strength or suspended. This is all supported by a catchy soundtrack, well-suited to the nature and intensity of the average play session, and visuals that channel the Pac-Man theme and fit the overall game design.
There are admittedly more refined puzzle games available on the eShop, not to mention the slightly cheaper GBA title, Pac-Man Collection, which includes Pac-Attack; yet if you happen to be seeking a refreshing twist on a classic genre in a more original form, and one that includes two player, the standalone Pac-Attack on Wii U guarantees to offer a unique puzzle experience that is sure to please.