Pac-Land (NES)

Game Review

Pac-Land Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Lee Meyer

Pac your bags, man

Never before released for the NES in the west, Namco has dropped its Pac-Man platformer Pac-Land onto the eShop to celebrate the announcement of Pac-Man in the new Super Smash Bros. games. A departure from the simple, addictive gameplay the Pac-Man series is known for, Pac-Land attempts to expand the scope and appeal of its iconic star, but it's held back by unimaginative level design and a general lack of exciting gameplay.

Pac-Land replaces the dark, ghost-infested mazes of earlier Pac-Man games and trades them in for villages, forests, mountains, valleys and other side-scrolling stages. Pac-Man, wearing a fairy tale adventurer's hat, travels through three stages, jumping over gaps, picking up fruits and avoiding the familiar ghosts who seem intent on chasing him for no apparent reason. Luckily, the ghosts are still vulnerable to power-ups, and one or two are available per stage for Pac-Man to eat and gain the ability to defeat them. This time around, the ghosts appear usually appear in hovering UFOs, airplanes, copters and other cutesy vehicles. The most dangerous ghost this time around is the purple Sue, who will appear if Pac-Man stays stationary too long. Although the ghosts appear regularly, it's never hard to avoid them; most players will have more trouble with the slightly floaty controls that make it harder to time jumps.

After three stages, Pac-Man arrives in Fairyland where he is given the infinite jump ability which must be used to overcome the next stage. According to the game's story, there is a fairy hiding in Pac-Man's hat, and when he returns her to Fairyland she thanks him with magic boots. Unfortunately, none of this is communicated in-game, so in our case the infinite jump was discovered by accident after falling into too many pits.

The stage format is clever, as travelling back home makes each four-stage trip feel like a self-contained adventure. That said, the level design is fairly uninspired, with few obstacles that pose much of a real challenge. Most gamers will be have no trouble timing jumps across falling bridges and large pits, and the challenge ramps up rather gently. Most deaths will feel cheap, as hit detection with the ghosts is finicky. Luckily, there are extra lives to be found throughout the stages by pushing tree stumps and other small obstacles. Levels are also timed, which adds a bit of urgency to the proceedings — especially in later stages. Occasional hidden warp zones will definitely make players look for secrets throughout each stage.

Visually, Pac-Land attempts a whimsical, childish art style and mostly succeeds, but it's unclear if the squiggly, lo-fi graphics are intentional or the result of hardware limitations — given that the PC Engine version of the game looks a lot better than this, we're guessing it's the latter. The music is largely forgettable, but the right-to-left stages have nicer, pleasant tunes that feel very much like codas to Pac-Man's adventures.


Pac-Land isn't a bad game, but it's not a memorable one, either. A fairly generic platformer, Pac-Land is best viewed as an interesting relic of the past and an early attempt by Namco to reinvent the wheel with one of its most beloved franchises. Like so many of the Pac-Man spin-offs that followed, Pac-Land brings to mind an age-old adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Stick to the mazes, Pac-Man.

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User Comments (36)



Olmectron said:

Was there a Super Smash Bros. new stage resembling some levels of this game? Or was I dreaming again?



unrandomsam said:

There is one really good Pacman platfomer but I cannot remember its name or even system.



0utburst said:

I couldn't wait for the review before I left. I'm glad I didn't buy it. Anyway, there was a pacman I've played on the PC back in the 90s. It was Halloween-themed with graves scattered in the maze. I did like it and the graphics looked similar to one of the pacman games in the GBA collection.



0utburst said:

I think there's another Pacland made which resembles the pacman on smash. Maybe that one is what they're talking about. I'm not sure.



TromaDogg said:

The PC Engine/Turbografx 16 port of Pac-Land was excellent, pretty much arcade perfect. I'd have much rather them released that on the Wii E-Shop, or somehow got it onto the Wii U E-shop rather than this mess of an NES port.

This review also fails to point out the horrific control set up on the NES version, with the A and B buttons being used to walk left and right and the control pad to jump. WTF? You can't even change these controls in the VC menu as you can't remap controls assigned to the joypad, only the buttons. The PC-Engine also has this but gives you the option of 'normal' controls at least.



Guybrush20X6 said:

An intresting History lesson if nothing else. Shows how much Super Mario did for the Platforming Genre.



Whopper744 said:

Thank you for letting me know why I never could make it past that pit after visiting the fairy thing. I had no idea I could do that... Yeah communication of these things in this game sucks.



NintyMan said:

I thought about getting this game just out of pure curiosity and also because of the stage based off of it on Super Smash Bros. Wii U, but I don't know if I will or not.

I actually enjoyed a couple of Pac-Man's non-maze games such as Pac-Man World 1 and 2.



Mk_II said:

Pity.. the arcade original was quite a challenging game and sucked lots of coins from my pockets.



JCnator said:

@ToxieDogg The actual controls of Pac-Land were actually mimicking the original arcade version's one. Player 1 has the first two buttons to move and another button is used to jump. Player 2 maps the moving command to the last 2 buttons, with the very first served to jump. In the NES/Famicom conversion, you can actually use the second controller, which have mapped the move buttons to the Control Pad and the jump button to A. If you use the GamePad, you should try changing from Player 1 to Player 2 via VC Menu once the game actually begins. But still, this is a very odd design decision for a platformer that arrived before Super Mario Bros. came in.



Splashman said:

The original game is pretty fun, but of course they had to opt for this shoddy NES port that looks like an Atari title. Even the C64 version looks better than this!



GeminiSaint said:

That's the original arcade game. This is the NES port of that game. The arcade game is, unsurprisingly, better (it's more colorful, has more detailed graphics, etc.)



Olmectron said:

@GeminiSaint Then it's a shame we didn't get that arcade version instead. There were several arcade games for Wii VC weren't there?

I hope someday Nintendo will get even PS2 games as VC. Just kidding. XD



JJtheTexan said:

@ToxieDogg beat me to it — this game has one of the worst control schemes EVER. Though it does predate Super Mario Bros. and the controls actually mimic the arcade version, which was just three round buttons — jump, move left, and move right.



vicviper said:

Got this on Flea-bay for £12.00 brand new for the TurboGrafx-16 four years ago, so there's no way I'll be purchasing an inferior NES version! The TurboGrafx-16 version is pretty much arcade perfect I hasten to add and truly brings back nostalgic arcade memories.



BearClaus said:

Too bad the arcade version was never released on Wii VC. I'd buy the original Pac-Land, but not this fragly thang!



TromaDogg said:

@JCnator There's actually a couple of different versions of the arcade machine around and the one I'm most familiar with used a stick for left/right and a button for jump....probably that's a later revision of it, but surprising that Namco didn't offer that as an option considering that the (vastly superior) PC-Engine port does actually offer the option for stick or button controls from the menu.

That's one of the minor things wrong with this awful conversion though, the biggest problem is that it doesn't accurately portray the arcade game....having now struggled through it by spamming save states, I can now say that it only has 4 different trips before looping back to the start (as opposed to the arcade's 8), and the 3rd and 4th trips differ quite a lot from the arcade versions, with altered level designs and frustratingly precise jumps, a couple of sections actually require you to ride on the top of ghosts to cross areas too wide to jump. And that's on top of the inability to start on a later trip from the menu (as on the arcade/PC Engine port) or continue so if you die it's right back to the start.

I can see why the NES port was never originally released in the West.



AshFoxX said:

I'm honestly a little surprised. I appreciate Pac Man for the handful of games that helped sustain arcades in the early 1980's. But Pac Man has had more blunders in his career than even the likes of Sonic. I don't think I've ever played a Pac Man game better than Ms. Pac Man, except maybe the championship edition I used to have on 360.

Just goes to show that nostalgia has some pretty amazing power.



StarDust4Ever said:

@ToxieDogg You say the PC Engine port of PacLand has an option to use joystick/Dpad control?

I have PacLand for TurboGrafx. Assuming it's an identical port, where's the option to change the controls? I had quite fun with the Lynx port when I was a teenager (which had normal controls), but it's hard to play with inverted controls.

I also own the original Famicom port as well. Either way, the controls are very frustrating for what was otherwise a decent platformer.



shredmeister said:

I agree with most of the review, and a fair score. But, I didn't think that the music was forgettable. Being pretty old myself, I remember perfectly well that it was the same music that they used for Pac-man's Saturday morning cartoon theme song. I believe the game is entirely based on that cartoon.



TromaDogg said:

@StarDust4Ever That's strange. I don't have an actual Turbografx/PC Engine console or physical copy of Pac Land to test it out, but on the online emulator I used recently, the option is right there at the start screen...you press the Run button to start the game and Select to switch between 'Lever' or 'Button' control. You've got me wondering now if it was only an option in the Japanese version and removed for the US version maybe?



Magrane said:

I was waiting for someone to mention the connection to the Saturday Morning cartoon. I almost bought this game, which I never played or seen before on the Famicom, because of that connection......until someone mentioned the horrible controls. Ah well!



GrailUK said:

I would love the arcade version on eShop. I'm gonna have to pass on this version

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