If you were to download recent Virtual Console release Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures to your Wii U with no prior knowledge of what to expect, you'd be forgiven for anticipating a spot of maze-based pill-munching entertainment. In reality, this 'sequel' to arcade classic Pac-Man is a bizarre take on the point-and-click genre with its own quirks and niggles. Developed by Namco Hometek (AKA third-rate division of Namco) and known in Japan as Hello! Pac-Man, first impressions of this SNES game are fairly promising. Opening with a charming introduction to the characters akin to an old Looney Toons cartoon (although the Westernised graphic style seems out of place) you're subsequently dropped straight into a series of quests and tasks for Pac-Man to complete. These combine to form the basis of the overall narrative leading up to a showdown finale.
Pac-Land is the setting for the adventure at hand, played out across a 2D environment. Seemingly a nice place to live, Pac-Land is a colourful, cartoony town full of cheery-looking locations to explore. The first hurdle to overcome is the control system; unlike most games of this ilk, the player has no direct control of Pac-Man, instead you must guide the little fellow on his way by interacting or intervening with him in various different ways. You can command him to look, which hopefully prompts Pac-Man to go check out wherever you click the floating cursor. You can also fire shots from a slingshot to strike elements of the environment. For example, you might need to shoot a Power Pellet down from a tree, then make Pac-Man look at the fallen prize so he wanders over to pick it up. Shooting a neighbourhood animal may cause it to react angrily and chase Pac-Man into a different area. You can even shoot Pac-Man, which most of the time will cause him to become upset but occasionally prompts him to jump. Figuring out what to shoot and what to look at rapidly becomes the crux of the gameplay.
This being a Pac-Man game it stands to reason that there will be ghosts. Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde all make semi-regular appearances and the only way to combat them is by feeding Pac-Man a Power Pellet to turn him into Super Pac-Man. Most of the time clearing out the ghosts during an encounter will reveal an important item needed to progress the plot.
An additional facet to the gameplay are Pac-Man's ever-changing moods - keep him well fed and he'll stay happy, however getting him into bad situations or shooting him with the slingshot can make him unhappy, angry, sad or scared. Be wary of making him too happy though; he can get a little too big for his red boots at which point he'll be less likely to co-operate and more open to doing his own thing. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the gameplay; because you aren't controlling Pac-Man directly, you're reliant on him doing what you want him to and a large chunk of your time will be spent knowing what YOU want to do but unable to coax Pac-Man into doing your bidding. All too often we wanted to solve a puzzle but Pac-Man was more interested in wandering off the screen of his own accord. Some would say his personality is charming and makes the game unique, we'd argue it makes it incredibly annoying.
As well as the weird point-and-click hybrid gameplay, it's possible to unlock playable ports of the original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man, which is pretty cool, especially as on Wii U you can use save states to jump straight to them once found (if that's your thing). There are also a couple of arcadey segments featuring Pac-Man riding a mine-cart or hang-gliding; while not especially great these sections at least serve to break up the standard gameplay. You will also need a decent level of slingshot-based skill to get safely through.
Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is something of an oddity; in some ways it's really charming and the twee Saturday-morning TV soundtrack (along with Pac-Man's chatty exclamations) finish off the presentation nicely. However the gameplay can be frustrating, mainly down to the lack of control and many puzzles being tough to figure out (not all are logical). This can make for long periods of walking around shooting everything in sight in the vain hope of making a discovery that moves the plot forward.
We're certain there will be folk who remember this game fondly, but time has not aged the gameplay well and it's clear now that no amount of character and colour can hide the flaws in the design. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is one for nostalgia freaks only; we wouldn't really recommend this to anyone who hasn't played it already and loved it in a past life. If you're a Pac-Man fan, check out Pac-Man Collection for a better option. Failing that, load up Super Smash Bros. Actually, just load up Smash Bros. Go. Waka-waka-waka.