Pac-Man Museum+ follows Pac-Man Museum (2014), a collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This updated compilation includes some of the titles in the previous release, and adds several new ones, bringing the total count to 14 (although Pac-Man Arrangement is featured twice with arcade and home versions). It comprises the most thorough collection of the yellow, pizza-inspired dot’s exploits ever assembled, from the original arcade masterpiece, through to 2015’s Pac-Man 256.
Presented within a 3D arcade, you can move the camera, trotting Pac around, looking at various machines and deciding what to play, each game with its own menus for gameplay tutorials, special objectives, and a little history. You start with 500 virtual coins in your pocket, but there are no microtransactions here. You accrue more coins simply by playing machines and completing optional missions (presented like an achievement leaderboard) that add unique objectives for each title.
Coins are also spent on customisation of the arcade, and this aspect is rather detailed: you can buy everything from wallpaper and music for the jukebox, to new machines, plants, gashapon figures, and various other decor-related Pac-aphernalia. The longer you stay playing in your arcade, Pac-Man ghosts turn up to join you, although they spend all their time floating about rather than shooting for high scores.
As a presentational interface, it’s pretty neat, but sadly hamstrung by a really poor frame rate. Considering it’s one 3D room, and fairly basic, graphically, it seems the curse of Unity has struck again. Its choppiness seems more pronounced in handheld mode, although it’s definitely still present on the big screen, too.
If you like Pac-Man, however, you will feel very satisfied by what’s on offer. There’s a broad variety of arcade games and one ‘consumer’ machine for console titles that require no coins, its mini-library cycled with the shoulder buttons. Some titles, however, need unlocking to play. This is easily done by completing objectives, like playing a different, specified title twice, for example.
Beginning with Pac-Man (arcade, 1980) there’s little to say that hasn’t already been said. An undying classic, you frantically sweep up dots, cherries, and fend off ghosts with power pellets dotted around the grid. Scoring is the name of the game, and it’s as superb as it ever was to die trying.
Super Pac-Man (arcade, 1982) adjusts the formula by having you grab keys to open locked gates around the grid so you can collect all the fruit. It’s an enjoyable variation that fans of the original will enjoy when they want to mix things up a bit. It’s by no means as good as the original, of course, since a layer of simplicity has been lost, but fun nonetheless.
Pac & Pal (arcade, 1983) twists Super Pac-Man’s formula further, introducing power pellets with five specific uses, some based on famous Namco titles like Galaxian and Rally-X. These allow you to stun, freeze and confuse the ghosts. Flipping cards opens many of the gates, and a new helper, the green Miru — Pac-Man’s “Pal”, as it were — helps you to grab fruit but decreases your overall score in doing so. There’s some depth here, and it’s good fun to get involved in. It’s also notably the first Pac-Man title to have music playing over the action.
Pac Land (arcade, 1984) is one of the first true arcade platform games, appearing one year prior to Super Mario Bros., and it’s utterly superb. The theme tune burns itself into the brain, and graphically it holds up very well owing to its unique art style. You run Pac back and forth, jumping over obstacles and ghosts, through forests and across falling mountain logs, before powering up with flight and soaring back the way you came, all under the duress of a time limit. Complete the first course and you’re off again, now with new obstacles and increased difficulty. It’s an excellent title to have as part of the collection.
Pac-Mania (arcade, 1987) slows things down and goes graphically isometric, using the same maze, dot-eating formula, with the added bonus of being able to leap ghosts in a single bound. It’s visually superb, comparatively leisurely, great fun to play for score, and features plenty of maze variety. It takes a while to figure out the grid’s layouts owing to the zoomed-in view, but this is all part of the learning curve.
Pac-Attack (Super Nintendo 1992) is actually an adaption of the Tetris-inspired arcade game, Cosmo Gang: The Puzzle. Falling objects, now Pac-themed, can be stacked to avoid ghosts reaching the top of the screen. It won’t win any awards, but it’s an amusing diversion nonetheless.
Pac-In-Time (Super Nintendo, 1995) is a platform-action game where Pac negotiates scenery by jumping around, grabbing dots, and firing projectiles at enemies. Developed by Kalisto Entertainment, following their Amiga title Fury of the Furries, it’s utter garbage and you shouldn’t waste more than a couple of minutes on it. Its pun-tastic title is the best thing about it.
Pac-Man Arrangement comes in two versions, the 1996 arcade title and an arrangement of the Arrangement that first appeared on Sony’s PlayStation Portable as part of Namco Museum Battle Collection (2005). It’s graphically vivid, with coursing dots rippling around the place, and has a host of new features, like continuous gameplay after a death and dash icons that shoot you down lanes to snag vulnerable ghosts and strings of dots. It features two-player co-op and a cool final boss. Both versions are really good fun, and its new scoring tweaks will be especially enticing to fans of the formula.
Pac-Man Championship Edition (Xbox 360, 2007) is just fantastic. You have a limited amount of time, either five or ten minutes depending on the mode you choose, in which to score like mad. The grids have two active halves and keep spawning dots, all the while getting psychedelic with a bit of pumping house music and glowing lanes. Relentless, superbly balanced, and highly addictive single-player fun, it demonstrates how robust and flexible the original Pac formula is. When the timer gets to the last minute, survival becomes an adrenaline-fuelled race. If Lumines and Pac-Man had a lovechild, it would probably look something like this.
Pac n’ Roll (Nintendo DS, 2005) goes 3D, with you rolling Pac around zones, Marble Madness-style, collecting dots to open gates to advance further. There are candies that provide special abilities, and plenty of ghosts to avoid on your mission to defeat the nefarious Golvis. It’s a nice-looking game, beautifully enhanced in resolution for its Switch debut, and plenty of fun to roll, boost and bounce through its five worlds.
Pac Motos (Wii as part of Namco Museum Remix, 2007) is based on Namco’s 1985 arcade game, Motos, a top-down, single-screen action game where you need to butt assailants off the edge of a square platform by rolling into them, carefully managing your inertia. It’s a nice diversion, with five worlds and a total of 35 platforms to conquer.
Pac-Man Battle Royale (arcade, 2010) is a spin on the Pac formula that’s best with four players. The aim is to destroy your enemies by grabbing power pellets and chomping them down, avoiding ghosts, and accruing the most score at the end of three intense rounds. It’s certainly the best competitive multiplayer Pac-Man attempt, and while it only exists in short bursts, you can easily play for hours if you have a group of friends over.
Finally, Pac-Man 256 is mad, but brilliant. Originally an iOS game from Hipster Whale, the developer of Crossy Road, this is the later console port, which abandoned microtransactions and introduced a four-player co-op option. An endless runner, you power up the grid, outrunning an encroaching ‘glitch’ reminiscent of an '80s arcade kill screen, while grabbing various power-ups, accruing points with your dot-eating, and navigating an increasingly intense maze for as long as you can. As a single or multiplayer survival spin on the Pac-Man roadmap, it’s brilliant fun to play for score and see how long you can last.
While most of the emulation seems very accurate, with no major issues in terms of play, the CRT shaders for the old arcade titles like Pac-Land are completely useless, with very limited settings. Worse still, Pac-Land has a clear V-Sync issue on scroll. This is very obvious when the high score screen rolls left, and there’s a constant shimmer during gameplay. As most of the games are static, it’s not an issue elsewhere, but still slightly annoying. The arcade wallpaper is nicely done, and interestingly you’ll see all references to Ms. Pac-Man omitted from artworks she used to appear on due to legal issues regarding who owns the license to the character.
For fans of Pac-Man and his historical pedigree, this is the best round-up yet, spanning decades and featuring his most notable titles. It’s the kind of collection the current Wonder Boy release should have been. The arcade overworld is a nice touch, although the frame rate is a big letdown and really should have been ironed out. And, while you might spend a while tinkering and designing your arcade space, the attraction of the gimmick is ultimately short-lived. Presentation deficiencies aside, though, one can’t really fault the comprehensiveness of the collection, nor the quality of the titles themselves (well, except Pac in Time). It’s a Pac-festival, and while it certainly has limited appeal, it offers countless hours of gaming fun and an interesting historical insight into the yellow orb’s evolution.