I had entirely too much fun with Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. Part of my addiction can be traced back to the hundreds of hours and token spent playing the original Pac-Man game in the arcade, but I think a big part of the appeal of his latest adventure is the simple fact that there haven’t been any good 3D platformers coming out as of late. And apparently our spherical friend has his own TV show, so you have that tie-in crowd going for it.
I just loved all the little attentions to detail in the game like having sound bits from Frogger and Dig Dug, as well as several callback references to the 2D maze origins of the yellow hero. Namco tries to build a story around Pac-Man and his friends Spiral and Cylindria trying to protect their world from the ghosts of the Netherworld, but it’s all pretty trivial and takes a backseat to the core platforming goodness that can range from kid-friendly casual to some levels that could prove challenging even for adults.
The game is presented as a series of levels, grouped by themed worlds that can all be accessed from your command headquarters, which is also your school. You have a classroom, lab, cafeteria, and a hallway with lockers and arcade games you can unlock. Once you enter a world you have several levels that link together like a flowchart, and completing levels will unlock others along the path until you have fight the boss and unlock the next.
Each world seems to take place on the same sprawling map, using different portions of that map and offering completely unique goals and objectives along with countless yellow dots to munch, dozens of ghosts to gulp and plenty of pick-ups to collect along the way along with a hidden coin. Find the giant fruit at the end of the level to record your score and move on to the next map.
Gameplay is pretty basic, but you’ll want to be using a gamepad for best results. You move around eating dots are you pass through them. Larger items like food, collectibles, and ghosts will require you to actually tap a button to much them. The cool thing about eating ghosts is that you can combo multiple ghosts by eating one then flicking the stick toward the next one and tapping the munch button again and repeat for as many ghosts as are in range. You can get some impressive chains going. While ghosts can be eaten at any time, you’ll find it easier if you scare them first, turning them blue and making them much easier targets.
There are also numerous power-ups that will grant you special temporary powers like throwing fireballs to stun ice ghosts or turning yourself into a kickball so you can bounce around doing ground slams and wall-jumping Prince of Persia style. You can turn into a frog munching ghosts and swinging around levels with your tongue, and you can even morph into a giant stone ball and crash around the level like an Indiana Jones movie. Despite what seems like a repetitive core gameplay element, the unique variety of locations and power-ups always keep the game fresh and exciting.
Despite having no real options to tweak other than resolutions the PC version looks amazing with crisp clean lines, no aliasing issues, and vibrant bright colors with simple textures to create the varied environments. The animations are adorable from simply walking with a bit of super-hero swagger to the blurred images of Pac-Man zipping around from ghost to ghost. There are also the amusing tube transport animations every time Pac-Man moves to another part of the map. It’s great having Pac-Man in 3D and the camera works surprisingly well on its own for the most part, but you do have full control over it if you need to get a better angle on that tricky platform jumping puzzle.
The sound and music are lively and perfectly suited to this game and arcade gaming in general. Older gamers who remember their arcade days will certainly pick up on familiar themes and sound bites from their favorites. Oddly enough, it looks like they didn’t use the voice actors from the show, but going over the credits Namco did secure some quality voice talent, which explains why all of the voice work is really well done in this game. They keep the one-liners to a minimum so things don’t get too annoying.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is the perfect family friendly game. Levels only take a few minutes to finish and there are numerous checkpoints to keep you from having to replay too much of a map. Kids will love the charming graphics and accessible gameplay while teens and adults will find some addictively challenging levels buried beneath all the cuteness.
I’m a few months from turning 50 and I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a blast with this game. In a world dominated with ultra-realistic graphics first-person shooters and violent action games it was a refreshing break to sit back and enjoy a quality platform title that evokes fond memories of my days in the arcade and some of my favorite classic console platformers.