faePuck showed us a glimpse of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX back in November. The game came out on November 17th and passed right under my nose until I was home for the holidays. A good friend's younger brother was playing it...and I was enthralled. Dazzling graphics, dizzying speeds and a pumpin' soundtrack. I bought it via laptop before I even returned to Chicago to play it.
Click through for my review.
Pac-Man has existed since 1980 and has been reproduced, sequeled and mobilized countless times. However, through the modernization of its features it has emerged a shining example of how well a truly good concept can age.
Pac-Man Championship Edition back in 2007 was a hint at what has become a hurricane of features. For those not familiar: Pac-Man still munches dots, but now focuses on them in small sprints. Once he eats all of the dots on one half of the maze a bonus item appears, that changes half of the maze and distributes more dots to eat. Alternating side, you careen through the maze gathering up ghosts who form a massive train (see faePuck's above video) chasing you down. On top of that the game speeds up incrementally, leaving you whipping Pac-Man around corners and sometimes second guessing yourself...but always in control. Add bombs, a classy collision-detecting bullet-time and a myriad of game modes and you've got a deal. A very, very attractive one too.
The graphics are textbook "Updated Retro". What the hell does that mean? It means there's neon, High-Defintion, particle effects and spectacle. Players can choose between the LSD inspired visuals or several other styles of character and maze mixed and matched. I enjoyed a mode that turned the hallways into thin lines, emphasizing the path of the dots more than the size of the hero/ghosts. The sound is also up to you, with five pretty hip trance tracks that speed up with the game. I was tapping my toe and biting my lip in frustration as I tried to climb the leader board for a week of mornings.
The game hits one of the basics of game design right on the head: make the short term goals rewarding and fun. Every time you score a bonus item, every time you go through a line of ghosts like a hungry yellow velociraptor you get a rush. The long term goals are all taken care of: Do the best you can in 5 minutes, Do the best you can in 10 minutes...etc. Variations on that theme. If the game were to suffer at all I would say that it doesn't really add that much to what was there with Pac-Man Championship Edition. The train, combos, bombs and the style keep it up to speed with other re-re-makes like Space Invaders: IG and Galaga Legions, but it could have gone further. New ghosts, weapon types, one looooong level like a quest made of mazes...where's the beef Namco?
But I digress...the truth is it's a glorious thing. I love Arcade titles, they constantly delivers gaming experiences that are on par or better than the same 60 dollar experiences I expect from AAA titles. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is a must-have for Xbox and PSN fans alike. It improves and it delivers. What more could you ask for?
Song to play while playing this game: