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Everyone knows Pac-Man – Everyone has played some iteration of it, on just about every platform imaginable; the titles’ protagonist and antagonists are readily recognizable; Pac-Man’s imagery is being used anywhere from merchandise, pop culture, to movies and television. Bandai Namco recently released their latest iteration of the classic franchise, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 delivering a fun and addictive experience; but it might not be the Pac-Man that you remember.
Nuts and bolts
This version of Pac-Man iterates and refines on ideas found in its previous releases of the Championship Edition and its DX variants. Generally, the game now works on a linear path for chomping down pellets and antagonizing ghosts into following you and forming up in “trains”, for munching down later. The bomb feature from the previous Championship Editions is still present, but rather than the bomb resetting the ghosts to the starting dungeon, Pac-Man gets reset to his starting place on the map, usually where the fruit spawns.
This makes for an interesting new mechanic, as the fruit spawn and power pellet will appear in the same place; and eating regular pellets in the maze now act as a power-up for the fruit to appear. The mechanic allows the player to advance to the next maze in the level by using bombs that they have acquired, with big scoring to occur when the power pellet spans instead of the fruit. Once the power pellet has been activated, the ghost trains will start avoiding you and being eaten; chomp down on the lead ghost for a huge score injection.
One of the major changes in gameplay is the ability to touch ghosts and not die. This makes for a massive departure from previous game-play systems and plays into the mechanics of creating ghost trains as well as pathing, as you can now push the ghosts out of the way if you need to take a path in the maze that the ghosts is blocking. However, touching the offending ghost three times in rapid succession will make the ghost angry – he will become aggressive and hunt you down relentlessly for a short time, before cooling down and pathing normally.
The skidding mechanic from previous games has now been altered from a chance to not die if you’re too close to a ghost, to a braking system; you can simply make Pac-Man stop dead in his tracks. This would have been supremely useful if I had actually finished the tutorials! (yes this game now has a tutorial!) Skidding around corners is also a thing, whereby you indicate ahead of time when you want to take a turn, and Pac-Man will take the corner a bit quicker – this replaces the old sparking mechanic from the CE DX Edition.
Jump pads are also a new to the mazes. In addition to warp tunnels in the mazes (e.g., exiting the screen on the right makes you appear on the left again), you now have in-maze jump pads which will move you to a pre-set section in the maze. You have to see this in action to “get it”, but if you loved playing Valve’s Portal series, this will make sense.
Now you're thinking with portals… err… jump pads!
An interesting note on catching ghosts – when the power pellet has been activated, the ghosts will start to avoid you as per normal, but they will follow highlighted avoidance paths – the trick is to herd the ghost trains onto a particular path and short-cutting them as they follow these paths. If the game actually played a bit slower, the mechanic would be very easy to see.
Most arcade games have boss battles, and Pac-Man is no exception. Boss battles are a series of short-term quests to eat pellets and fruit in a very short amount of time. This plays like a very fast-paced mini-maze and the visuals are super-trippy.
The game is divided into three sections – the tutorial, Score Attack and Adventure mode. The tutorial part is self-explanatory: play this to find out how this game works. You’ll learn about all the features I described earlier as well as getting tips for not dying like an idiot (something I should have ACTUALLY completed!)
Score Attack mode hits you with various levels and some variations thereof, include Champion II, Hexagon, Dungeon, Spiral and more, with the variations being standard, single-ghost train (easy mode, ranked play), Extreme (ghosts get angry after a single touch and no 1-ups) and practice mode (10-minute score attack, not ranked – relaxed settings). If you're looking for a straight-forward game, this is where you want to be.
Adventure mode is exactly what it sounds like – perform a series of objectives within very tight time-frames to complete the level. This usually includes eating a number of fruit (only appearing after all the pellets have been consumed), with variations for example where the fruit becomes evasive and starts avoiding you in the maze.
Visuals and sound
There isn’t much to say on this topic – it’s simplistic, exquisitely styled and gorgeous. Like its predecessors, you can leave the setting toggles to automatic for ghost and Pac-Man designs, maze visuals, background visuals and music selection. As you progress through the score attack and adventure modes, additional options for all the above settings can be unlocked and applied as relevant.
Ghost train chomping has received a wonderful little upgrade, where the camera focuses on the process, and the final ghost train receives a complete out-of-level munching spectacle. Switching mazes is a key component, with a fade-out, fade in transition, and everything works to the beat of the tune currently playing – sleeping ghosts, text highlights… everything.
The specs listed to play the game are a little steep, being in the region needed to play Skyrim, but before I loaded this on my home rig, I did try it on my boring work machine, loaded with an i3 and its on-board Intel <series> graphics, it was playable, albeit with a noticeable frame drop.
Specifications and pricing
PC minimum requirements:
- OS: 64Bit Windows 7/8/10
- CPU: Intel i5 2300 / AMD Phenom X4 945 or similar
- RAM: 6GB
- GFX: Nvidia GTX 550ti / AMD Radeon HD 7870
- Drive space: 3GB
Platforms and price:
This is Pac-Man. It isn’t the Pac-Man your daddy used to play, but it is still Pac-Man. If you’re looking for high-speed pellet munching, ghost-basing; all timed with trippy base-banging beat music, then this title is for you.
There are a few games I really, really, REALLY like. GTA V is one – I bought it for both PS3 on launch and later for PC when it launched there. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX – I got it for PS3, mobile and PC. It’s that good. And I need Pac-Man in my life… like all the time…
The only problem with this version of Pac-Man is me. I wish I could slow it down just a bit, but it is so $#%#$% fast that eventually I’m just making mistakes; but I suppose a bit of practice will help. That and lots of coffee…