Review: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

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Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is the sequel to 2007’s original Pac-Man Championship Edition and 2010’s Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, both of which took the premise of the dot-chomping yellow circle munching through a static maze, avoiding ghosts when possible, and mixed things up by switching gameplay from a full maze of dots to a carefully crafted pattern of dots in an ever-shifting half of the screen. The object was to eat the dots, which also happened to sit next to sleeping ghosts, and whenever a ghost was passed it would become startled and begin chasing after Pac-Man. Forming a massive train as Pac-Man wakes up more and more ghosts, and then running over a Power Pellet and immediately reversing course to consume the train of ghosts, was what can only be described as the most satisfying moment in all of Pac-Man’s storied franchise history.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 changes up a whole slew of ideas, and because of it the game isn’t nearly as fun as the previous titles, in my opinion. This time around the entire board is visible at all times, and instead of clearing a pattern of dots to wake up a train of ghosts, a meter fills along the bottom of the screen. Once the meter is full, a piece of fruit appears back at the starting point of the board. The game is a leaderboard focused score chase, so players can still choose to collect all of the dots, but removing the board-ending fruit as a reward at the end of a chain of visible dots diminishes the whole point of trying to clear a stage.

Another tweak is the way that Pac-Man can now bump into the ghosts without first gobbling down a Power Pellet. Bumping into a ghost with a chain of other ghosts doesn’t immediately do anything except knock them back for second. Bumping into a ghost a third time sends it up into the air and when it lands, only then does it become enraged and chase after Pac-Man. In early stages, only one ghost collects the awoken ghosts. As the stages progress, the other ghosts can also collect the awoken ghosts. Before the other ghosts create their own trains, they simply move around the maze and get in the way. The fact that any ghost can be bumped into removes a large portion of fun from the game and essentially goes against the very core of what a Pac-Man game is.

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Once a chain of ghosts is created and Pac-Man has eaten enough dots to make a Power Pellet appear, the biggest change to the game design becomes readily apparent. In the previous titles, the ghosts formed a train and followed Pac-Man. In this game, the ghost train doesn’t follow Pac-Man unless you’ve enraged it, and once you eat a Power Pellet you have to chase and find the head of the train. Nothing happens if Pac-man runs into the middle or end of the train. Only by tackling the train head on does it trigger what once was a very satisfying sensation of chomping down a huge train of ghosts. Of course as the levels progress in speed, getting the head ghost is nowhere near as easy to do as it should be.

There are two modes to the game: Score Attack and Adventure. Score Attack consists of ten different themes, with mazes that follow certain patterns but also have different art styles. Dungeon has walls that look more like something you’d expect to find in a Diablo-like dungeon crawler. Junction mazes have walls that look more like LEGO bricks. Jumping has a series of pads that launch Pac-Man across the board. Aesthetically it looks pretty cool, but it breaks the momentum of moving through the tight winding corners while chomping dots. Score Attack features three levels of difficulty to each of the ten layouts as well, and I have to say that Extreme is just painfully unfair. Mostly I say this because the controls feel too squirrely when compared to the previous versions in the series. Although I’m sure there will be some who are able to master the Extreme boards, I can honestly say that there is so much going on and at such an intense speed right from the start, that it is complete sensory overload for me.

Adventure mode features a series of ten shorter boards with specific goals to complete to earn stars. Earning enough stars unlocks an eleventh “boss” board. Unfortunately, the boss battles are disappointing. Pac-Man must earn enough extra lives while chasing dots and to unlock fruit (that moves once Pac-Man gets close enough) while avoiding the enraged ghosts, all while trying to stay ahead of a clock that is constantly winding down. Once all of the requirements are met, the boss appears floating behind the maze, looming dangerously but never posing a real threat. The “battle” occurs by once again collecting enough power pellets to trigger all of the stored lives. An animation triggers but there is no satisfaction or feeling of accomplishment in defeating a larger ghost that was just hovering behind the mazes during gameplay.

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Sadly, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 just doesn’t scratch the hyper twitch itch that the previous two titles did. Between the squirrely controls, the unrewarding boss battles, and the fact that you can touch and bump ghosts as well as complete a stage without getting all of the pellets, I can’t recommend the game without some serious caveats. The speed of moving through the mazes is still exhilarating at times, but since the stages don’t split and change once one half of the table is complete, there just isn’t as much of a sense of wonder at what will come next. The music isn’t nearly as good in this game either; it feels too upbeat and clean whereas the music in Pac-Man Championship Edition DX felt grungy and dirty and added a weight to the game which reinforced the feeling that you weren’t playing a traditional Pac-Man game. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 isn’t broken, but with so many changes for the worse made from the previous games, there are too many missteps that remove all of the fun.

SkipIt

Pros:
+ There are lots of dots to chomp

Cons:
– Ghost touching without eating Power Pellets
– Squirrely controls
– Level design is revealed from the start
– Disappointing boss battles

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PlayStation 4, also on PC and Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Release Date: 9/13/2016
Genre: Action/Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Buy From: Steam, PlayStation Store, or Xbox Games Store for $12.99

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.