Review: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures

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Pac-Man is back, y’all!

The smiley yellow fellow with an insatiable hunger for pellets, produce, and poltergeists, is now the star of his own animated TV series and, more importantly, a new video game based on said TV show, both carrying the title of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.

On his quest to reclaim the Frigidigitator (cute-speak for a freeze ray device) and rescue the citizens of PacWorld from the clutches of Betrayus and his Netherworld minions, Pac-Man runs and leaps through a series of vibrant worlds with a gaping grin on his face as he chomps up yellow dots, ghosts, coins, and a wide variety of local fruits and veggies from the Pacopolis farmer’s market. Ghostly Adventures is a by the book platforming romp, chock full of the precision acrobatics, enemy munching, and collect-a-thon spirit one would expect from a 3D platformer this side of Super Mario 64. What the game lacks in fresh ideas it makes up for with sound play mechanics, colorful graphics, and expressive characters evoking the cartoon charm of the companion animated series. The camera can hang up in spots like any other 3D third-person game, but overall the controls are tight and responsive.

In his standard form, Pac-Man can “Boo!” ghosts to make them easier to swallow. His stock platform-hopping repertoire has now also been expanded to include a variety of power-up abilities obtained by gobbling down special power pellets. Each level typically emphasizes the characteristics of a particular power-up, for instance Pac-Man’s ability to morph into a giant granite ball and roll along narrow pathways, sort of like a Super Monkey Ball game, or a pellet that puffs him up into a balloon so he can navigate a series of shifting jet streams high above the ground.

At other times, Pac-Man gets to turn into a rubber ball to do a little wall hopping. A chameleon form allows him to launch a retractable tongue to snatch up enemies from afar or swing from horizontal poles to cross extended gaps between platforms. This costume comes with an invisible camouflage mode as well, but it is altogether useless. Customary platformer powers further imbue the Pacster with the elemental properties of fire or ice so he can spit out fireballs to light torches or melt frozen obstacles or enemies, or launch ice balls to create platforms out of frozen fountains or streams of lava.

So no, these power-ups aren’t particularly unique either, but there are a lot of them, and they do at least keep the gameplay varied from stage to stage. I guess my only comment would be that the game sort of blows its power-up load early and often, so that by the latter stages surprises are few and far between, only more levels that retread the same abilities in slightly more challenging scenarios. I also found the inability to switch off power-ups kind of annoying. The current power is deactivated whenever Pac-Man takes damage, but there is no manual input for returning to regular form. This isn’t a big deal most of the time, but there are scenarios where having a certain power-up limits your ability to reach areas of a level. Having to let an enemy hit you in order to lose a power-up smacks of lazy game design.

Pac-Man’s ghostly adventures consist of six worlds and a little more than 30 stages, all of which are easy to finish within around four hours. The collection of fruit and vegetable pick-ups will eventually unlock a few mini-games which blast Pac-Man into the past for a variety of retro challenges reminiscent of old arcade classics like Defender and Gradius. Namco Bandai even tossed in a local multiplayer mode for kicks. Up to four players are dropped into a 3D arena recreation of the series’ traditional maze-based gameplay, only in this mode the competing players are the ghosts in pursuit of Pac-Man, attempting to achieve the highest score total after three rounds.

I give the developers credit for trying to find clever ways of introducing replay value, but unfortunately none of the effort pays off. The arcade games only take a few minutes to complete and aren’t interesting enough to return to after a single playthrough. As for the multiplayer, perhaps a group of youngsters might enjoy chasing each other around the eight mazes for an afternoon, but I just don’t see it holding anyone’s attention beyond that. Even though matches generally only last around five minutes or so, boredom began to sink in well before I managed to finish a game on all of the maps. Achievement and trophy hunters should be able to wring out another hour or two of play time in order to earn 100% completion, but that’s the extent of this game’s replay value. It sure doesn’t help that the ending does little more than set up for a continued story in a future game without first providing satisfying resolution to the story at hand.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a fun, easy-going game with neat power-ups and a delightful presentation matching the personality and production values of the animated series. If you’re into platformers, I see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this one. I can’t find much to criticize, but at the same time I can’t find much to praise with any level of exuberance either. It is a good, safe game ideal for family game time and young viewers of the TV show, as well as absolute diehard Pac-Fans. Take it or leave it.

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Pros:
+ Matches TV show production values with expressive characters and cartoon-quality voice acting
+ Wide variety of power-ups and play styles
+ Solid all-around 3D platforming

Cons:
– Mini-games and multiplayer fail to add much needed replay value
– Level designs turn fairly bland once all power-ups have been gained

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available for 3DS, PC, Wii U, and Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 10/29/2013
Genre: 3D Platformer
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-4 (local multiplayer)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!