We don’t know about you guys but we always have something of a mixed bag of emotions when we get into a Pacman title. The juxtaposed problem of controlling a soul forever destined to be tormented by demons and ghouls as he hungrily amasses as many ‘pellets’ as he can before his ultimate demise.
This unfortunate happy soul who finds himself endlessly chased around a manic maze of masochistic design eternally trapped in his Groundhog Day of Doom, destined to endure all manner of frantic endeavor’s as he desperately attempts to collect the ‘pills’, ( for what is anyone’s guess? Perhaps he some kind of cyber ‘doctor without a border’ and is delivering the much needed medication to sick and injured Pacmen and Pacwomen all across his brightly lit galaxy? we may never know? ).
One thing we do know, however, is that this melancholy memory of Pacman, forever tormented by his incessant pursuers, is still one of the most poignant gaming experiences from our childhood and to this day brings us warm fuzzy memories of arcades filled with cheerful kids all clutching their shiny coins as they waited their turn to deliver their own brand of mental torture to this lovable character.
With that you can imagine the unadulterated levels of glee that greeted the arrival of the latest Pacman adventure from Bandai Namco. Fever pitch comes to mind.
Leaping right into the action, after the mandatory PlayStation install, we are greeted with the sprawling urban cityscape of ‘Pacopolis’. This vast concrete jungle is to be the home of Pacman’ls latest outing as we kick off things at the young ‘pill poppers’ school.
To get you all up to sped on the games storyline, which is set prior to the massive fame of Pacman’s original outing, we take on the role of the happy yellow chappy when he is still a ‘teenager’ and pounding the corridors of Pacopolis High School. Of course, this also means that because these events are set before the madcap antics of the original title that Pacman’s one time enemies, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde – the four-pronged attack from the poltergeist brigade, are now actually Pacman’s friends and instead of trying to gobble you up, the foursome would rather engage in more mundane matters such as a chat. ( its good to talk )
Moving on we come to the point where we discovered, much to our dismay, that Pacman is still catering towards a younger audience, ( although it has to be said that the secret ‘big kid’ inside was thrilled nonetheless ), and whilst this is great for the kiddie gamers it does leave rose-tinted old fools like myself longing for the salad days to return. Alas, they cannot, and do not.
In some respects it is ridiculous to think that the game was going to be anything other than it has always been, a fun fuelled romp for the younger players, and though the fans who enjoyed the original game all those long years ago may well have grown into adults..well, most of us anyway…it is inevitable, then, that disappointment would abound for those looking for something more challenging.
The dialogue, whilst some may argue is a little light for the more adult players, is just interesting enough to hold a child’s attention without distracting it from the job at hand, and in that respect it does exactly what the developers set out to do.
The gameplay is extremely simple for adults but, ( again ), extremely entertaining for children. The 3D environments offer up excellent opportunities for free roaming styled exploration and enjoyable experiences gobbling down ghosties and ghoulies, and whilst there are, inexcusably from a more experienced adults point of view, a few glitches and hitches along the way it is still nothing that will put a dampener on a seven year-old’s enthusiasm. Though it has to be said there were a couple of apopleptic moments when we fell through the map during a frantic chase scene returning us to the games Pac Hub.
However, if you thought that this latest version of the munching machine was going to be just a top-down emulation of a thirty something year-old game, then think again. Ghostly Adventures brings with it a whole wealth of brand new features ( new to us ‘oldies’ but part and parcel of just ‘how the game is‘ for the new audience ).
Included in the new additions to the more traditional style of Pacman gameplay are the outstanding use of ‘morphing’ abilities that permit Pacman to transform his shape after ingesting a particular ‘pellet. The new found powers come in extremely handy when traversing the varied zones and environments. For example, after downing a certain tablet Pacman evolves into a giant ‘boulder’ which can quite literally crush his enemies and flatten walls and obstacles blocking his way. Then there is the chuckle-fest ‘chameleon’ which allows Players to alter the shape of their giant yellow ball so that he can use his elastic tongue to grab passing posts and signs in order to swing around them like some demented Tarzan…er, or not…?
Of course, the fun isn’t limited to merely tearing off ramps as a giant rock, rolling over bad guys or swinging on a lamp post like a big yellow Gene Kelly doing a digital rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain’.Not by a long chalk.
Pacman can now also inflate himself and float around Pacopolis as he is carried around the zones on the air currents gently blowing you here and there. He can also turn invisible to avoid being spotted under the ever watchful searchlights.
Naturally your new found abilities also play a vital role in the games combat system, and when you combine your new found skills and mix them up with a little of the fire and/or ice, which are used not only as weapons but as environmental aids, then Pacman sure does give those pesky ghosts a good pasting as he races, floats, bashes and dashes around the gameplay zones.
All of these new additions to the way that Pacman is played have their individual uses, and they are all necessary at some point or other during the games progression, but purists will not doubt howl and gnash their teeth at this ‘blasphemy’, yet nevertheless the kids will scratch their heads and look at them like they are crazy because, overall, they add new flavour and dimensions to the gameplay.
Level design has been constructed purely with the young, or young at heart even, in mind and if you cannot see that then you are in for a rough time of it as you breeze your way through the games simplistic puzzles, pitfalls and play.
With a definite learning curve that soon overtakes and races past the games opening painfully easy levels Pacman and his second helping of Ghostly Adventures, will soon be more than a challenge for even the most deft of younger gamers. Although, it has to be said, that accomplished players will find nothing too difficult. Make no mistake, however, as this is still an excellent platformer and the enormous fun contained within its coding, particularly in the Co-oP play, cannot be overlooked by pooh-poohing naysayers crying out for a more taxing trial.
Speaking of the platforming, and we were, the best part of the game going from 2D to 3D is the interactive world and the madcap races and chases under, over and around every kind of obstacle at warp factor 9. Seriously, if you love platform games and don’t find this enjoyable then you are dead from the controller up.
As hinted at previously the Co-oP mode, for you and up to three friends, is a real hoot with players taking on the roles of the hunters, ( and ultimately the hunted as the Yellow Peril grabs a power pill ),, before entering into 3D renditions of the classic maze game of the original title.
Playing this Co-oP with a family friend and their nine year-old allowed me to visit the Pacman I knew of old, and once again be mesmerized by the colourful graphics, interesting audio and catchy background music. Heady days spent funneling ten pence piece after ten pen piece into the slot of my local arcade machine, and then racing home to see what jobs I could do around the home to acquire some more after my exploration of the many mazes and zones was abruptly cut short by the chomping choppers of any one of the marauding ghosts.
It is quite surprising for me, personally, to fathom out why gamers who who enjoyed Pacman all those years ago, so much so that they enter into this new version with almost childlike anticipation of how it plays, are then disappointed enough to try and warn parents off buying it with poor reviews. Simply because, unlike the very embittered reviewers themselves, Pacman has remained 7 years-old whilst they, physically anyhow, have matured into adults.
If you are the proud parents of the odd rugrat or two, and you were considering buying Pacman The Ghostly Adventures 2 then please, follow my advice and make the purchase. You and your ankle-biters will be so glad that you did. You for the many hours of joyful bliss as they whizz their way around the many brightly coloured levels and zones, and your children as they get to sample the same kind of wonderment as you yourself did at their age when you first spent time with the lovable yellow funster. In fact, go one better: grab yourself a second controller, toss a third to Mum and get stuck in to some cracking Co-oP. You may find that you smile like you never have for 30 years. Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2 scores a fully justified 7 out of 10
AVAILABLE PLATFORMS: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360
SCORE OUT OF 10: 7 OUT OF 10