PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX Review

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX ps3 box art

Eye melting colors, great soundtrack and glorious gameplay featuring PAC-MAN and lots of bonus points to hunt.

Introduction

To celebrate PAC-MAN’s 30th anniversary, the legendary cultural icon has evolved and is back in a brand new edition of 2007 year’s hit game PAC-MAN Championship Edition. Now there’s new mazes, customization options, original game modes and an evolved online score- and ranking system.

The Game

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX brings back the dot eating, ghost dodging and fruit gobbling that PAC-MAN has always been known for – and does so with a fresh twist. The result is a fun arcade maze game that anyone can pick up and enjoy. You play as PAC-MAN and the goal of the game is to eat all the dots and fruits that appear in the maze, while dodging the hostile ghosts that try to catch you. Luckily there are power-pellets in the maze too, which makes all ghosts edible for a limited time – the more you eat, the bigger your final score.

Content

The original PAC-MAN from 1980 had you transfer from one stage to another when you had eaten every dot in the maze. This is not true in PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX. Instead, each maze is divided into two halves – a left- and a right side if you will. When you’ve eaten all the dots from one half, a fruit appears on the opposing side of the maze. When you eat that fruit, the empty half of the maze is updated with new content; that is, new layout and new dots for you to eat. This is the basic idea of the whole game and it keeps the action fresh at all times.

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The other fundamental mechanic has to do with how the ghosts affect the game. Eating power-pellets will turn all ghosts blue for a while. There is a time indicator for this at the top of the screen. During this time you can eat ghosts for huge extra points, but that’s not all there is to it. You will eventually discover patterns in how new ghosts appear holding additional power-pellets, which you can use to your advantage – maintaining your ghost eating flow for prolonged periods of time.

Another, rather new feature are the Bombs. Bombs allow you to clear the screen from ghosts, sending them back to their starting position (that is to say, the small room in the middle of the maze). You start with a limited amount of Bombs, but you can collect additional ones by eating ghosts that holds one.

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX does not employ a traditional, linear sequence of levels to play. Instead, there are ten different Courses, where each Course consists of a series of challenges divided into Score Attack-, Time Trial- and Ghost Combo- challenges. When you start the game for the first time, you’ll find that most of the game is locked, but it will open up more and more as you keep completing the various challenges.

Each Course (except the special courses Challenge I, Darkness and Free) have their unique maze layouts and visual themes.

Score Attack challenges come in two types; five and ten minute modes. Here your objective is to score your best possible score within the time limit. Time Trial challenges on the other hand, prompt you to eat a set number of fruits within the given time limit. As mentioned above, in order to eat a fruit, you’ll need to clear either half of the maze from dots – only then will the fruit appear. Ghost Combo challenges give you unlimited lives, time and Bombs. Your objective is to nail the longest possible streak of ghost eating.

Almost every Stage has sleeping ghosts positioned in the maze. When you travel by a sleeping ghost, it will wake up and start following you. An important strategy involves getting as many ghosts as possible to follow you, and through that maximize your score when you get a power-pellet and eat them all in one go. Note however, that there is a limit to how many ghosts there can be following you at any one time. If you wake up more ghosts than what are allowed, those woken up ghosts will simply vanish. While this may be a bummer for those looking to score easy Ghost Combos in the first few Courses, it becomes an important factor in later Courses where you must use this in order to reach dots guarded by ghosts.

Another game defining mechanic is the fact that the game dynamically goes into slow motion mode when ever you are about to get caught by a ghost. This gives you ample time to react to incoming dangers, and it also minimizes the risk of doing stupid mistakes such as fumbling with the controls or making a false move. What ever the case, you’re given lots of time to correct your error – at least if that error involves directly touching a hostile ghost.

For each fruit that you collect without dying, the game speed dynamically increases. When you die, the game speed goes down temporarily. But even with the game speed maxed out, the slow motion mode is incredibly helpful and a blessing to say the least.

The game has online Leaderboards which ranks your performance automatically against the scores from other players from around the world. The Leaderboards are quite unique in how they work – instead of just tracking each challenge individually, it takes into account all your top scores for each of the challenges from any given Course. This means that if you want to optimize your score, you must perfect each challenge within that Course. You are given a ranking grade on each of your completed challenges, based on how your score fares against the rest of the world. On top of that, there is also a Leaderboard that encompasses your total scores from all the Courses combined. Needless to say, there are endless opportunities to increase your score, making for a highly competitive game.

pacmanchampionshipdx8The controls are simple and incredibly easy to grasp and play with. When the game runs at its maximum speed, it requires high precision controlling from your part; making the exact right turn can be the matter of life and death here.

It should be said that you can’t adjust any of the game’s difficulty level on any grand scale. Sure enough, you can start some of the challenges on Easy-, Normal-, Hard- or even Expert-setting, but this only affects how many lives and Bombs you have, and at which game speed the challenge starts. Simply beating the Courses is easy, but competing on the global Leaderboards is a hardcore challenge for anyone. Thus PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX pretty much adapts itself to how you choose to play it. Also, Time Trial challenges have a neat little feature that allows you to compete against your own best time rather than the predetermined factory setting – perfect for optimizing your performance.

It’s nice to see that you can customize the way the game looks based on a set of different graphical themes from the get go. You can choose the graphical theme of the maze as well as color themes, how the characters should look and combine them in any way. There’s also a few different background songs that you can choose from, and they’re all great too. While this adds another layer of diversity, it further helps the game feel fresh and crisp for a long time.

The uploading and updating of ranking data is somewhat cryptic. It doesn’t show immediately which rank you’ve just achieved, and there’s nothing that tells you this either. Also, it seems that the game has a hard time taking into account scores that you’ve achieved while playing offline. There is an Update button on the challenge selection screen, but it doesn’t appear to do anything. Best guess is that the synching takes a while to perform, but it would be nice if the game could inform about that.

Graphics

The graphics themselves are delightfully colorful in a truly empowering way. There’s bright neon lights wherever you look, and the colors themselves beautifully mix and create interesting contrasts everywhere. This really is a color explosion and it’s mighty tasteful.

There’s lots of simple but neat effects going on as well – the ghosts come in various colors, leaving trails of fluorescent shadows where ever they go, and all the sparks flying around when you eat a bunch of ghosts is a super nice touch. There’s just no way around it, this game looks fantastic and if you have any nostalgia relating to PAC-MAN, you’ll love every single High-definition pixel of PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX.

Sound

Even the music is instantly lovable. The soundtrack mixes mind numbing bass-heavy techno beats with some energetic upbeat melodic touches, which makes for some really unique music overall. The music is heavily electronic in style and never lets go with its powerful basslines. It fits the game perfectly and it also has a tendency to get you in a special groovy video game flow.

Many of the sound effects pays homage to the source material and does so rightfully – rest assured PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX sounds genuinely like the PAC-MAN we all know and love, and it hits home both among arcade veterans and newcomers to the franchise.

Summary

PAC-MAN Championship Edition DX is an instantly gratifying arcade style game that has a simple enough premise, but manages to have both variation, challenge and spades of replay value. This is certainly a superb addition to the PAC-MAN family of games, and some would even say that this is indeed the best game in the series as of to date. There’s lots to do in the game, and comparing high-scores on the online Leaderboards with family, friends and complete strangers can be an intriguing activity.

Developed By: Mine Loader Software Co., Ltd.
Published By: Namco Bandai
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 3
Genre: Maze
Players: 1
Also Available On: Xbox 360
Released: 2010-11-24

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