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Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

Score: 70%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studio Inc.
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer/ Platformer (2.5D)/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Itís ironic that at one time, we were critiquing games like this for looking dated, but they now have some value at least for nostalgia. A reminder of classic 2D platforming titles doesnít mean that Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 is a great platfoming title, but it does capture all the key elements. In fact, itís a 3D platforming game that imitates the 2D style fairly well. We donít need to drop down to an actual maze with dots and ghosts because all those elements are present here.

The story is told through frequent cut-scenes and transitions, a series of short levels that make up a variety of worlds Pac-Man has to explore. The visuals do feel dated at this point, but not in a bad way. Itís the Wii-equivalent for Xbox 360, if that makes any sense. Kids will definitely appreciate the jocular and sometimes snarky Pac-Man, even if the plot is paper thin. The elements of the classic arcade game are all here to be appreciated by those of us over 30, most likely the parents buying this game for our kids. Flashing ghosts and the associated power-up sound effect are straight out of 1983, even if the rest of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 has been updated for a 21st century audience.


Gameplay:

Platforming is definitely the name of the game here although there are sequences that nod to other genres. If we had played this game 10 years ago weíd have been happy enough, based on the variety of gameplay. Most of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 plays out from a central hub that Pac-Man uses to socialize with other characters, pick up hints, but mostly just waste time between adventures. Levels are divided between a series of different worlds you can unlock, and the quantity of gameplay is great.

The quality is variable and hindered by some quirks that have been part of 3D gaming for as long as it has existed. Camera controls arenít an issue since everything is tracked and runs on rails. Pac-Man can move around freely with limits, snapping up ghosts, triggering switches, avoiding obstacles, and using his special abilities. There are not one but many forms of Pac-Man youíll use during the game, including some flying levels that feel like a nod to Space Harrier or a modern equivalent like Panzer Dragoon. The swapped Pac-Man forms include a rubbery Pac that can cling to walls and do a super butt-bounce, an icy form that freezes enemies and water spouts, and a metallic Pac that can use magnets to scale walls and ceilings. Writing it down makes it sound a bit more exciting than the reality; this is Platforming 101, so if youíre signed up for that, youíll be happy.


Difficulty:

Itís at least an accessible game for kids, albeit plagued with the kind of slippery controls and glitchy elements common to most games of this type. There are good tutorial levels and challenges specific to each Pac form, that help you learn how to use their unique powers. Since it almost always comes down to swapping out one power for another, mapped to the same button, a tutorial is almost overkill. Levels are filled with goodies, but almost all of the pick-ups are optional. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 treats each level like a gauntlet you must pass, but the bar is really that low. This makes replay value pretty great, if you love the game and want to work on beating your previous score.

There are moments in the game where the difficulty feels erratic or when challenges ramp up too quickly. Most of these come down to timed jumps, coupled with tricky edges. One section in particular featured a glitchy landing that resulted in restarting the level after watching Pac loop through all his available lives. Most of the game is generous and well suited to young players, and maybe weíre all just immune to 3D glitches at this point? Luckily there are a wealth of extra lives hanging around, including those you can pick up in earlier levels if you happen to get stuck.


Game Mechanics:

Translating Pac-Man to a 3D world has been a long journey, with many missteps. After all, the essential arcade experience involves racing around a maze in 2D gobbling dots and occasionally ghosts. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 interprets the maze thing liberally, but mostly gives you free reign over a tightly controlled 3D track. You can run around and even fall off platforms, but the game largely runs on rails. One button is keyed to jump and another to triggering a special ability. In the case of Pac-Man, your ability is just to scare ghosts, similar to what a power-pellet did in the original arcade hit. Other forms have unique powers, but the button mapping stays the same.

The only unique control scheme comes into play during the flying levels, and to some extent for boss battles. These were actually our favorite parts of the game, and left us thinking that a 100% flying/shooting version of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 would have been a big hit. Weíll even admit that the regular levels show a high degree of design and thought. Itís hard to gauge how a generation oblivious to Pac-Man should interpret this game, but weíll go on record to say that this feels like a real homage to the beloved original, adapted in a way that provides enough excitement to hook kids not raised on 8-bit entertainment.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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