Pac-Man is somewhat of a known quantity. Before you even begin the majority of games in the series you have a relatively good idea of what you’ll be doing. Some entries have changed the formula slightly, but not significantly, but Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures takes everything you thought you knew about Pac-Man and throws it out of the window.
Gone is the traditional maze-based gameplay, instead replaced by a 3D platformer; gone is the silent and simple protagonist replaced a 3D character with a can-do attitude and gone, at least in part, is the fierce rivalry between Pac-Man and those pesky ghosts.
After booting up Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures you are introduced to the world and characters by way of a simple cutscene announcing that there are three globes that need power in order to gain access to some temples, and that Betrayus has launched an attack on Pacopolis. This is effectively as detailed as the story gets, the meager plot funneling you to various locations in order to grab different artifacts and defeat some of Betrayus’ minions. As the game is aimed at a younger audience the uncomplicated plot is understandable as a design choice, but even so the story is poor and the questionable voice acting certainly doesn’t help.
After the brief cut-scene you are dumped into Pacopolis with the task of reaching the piece of fruit at the end of each level. Each area is covered with the familiar glowing yellow pellets that are required to enter some levels. There is also Slimetanium to collect (which can be used to add extra hearts for Pac-Man), as well as eyes of the ghosts you eat, which can be redeemed for extra lives. Don’t worry, I don’t really see how eyes mean extra lives, either.
The platforming areas are solid apart from the first handful, although this is down to the power berries adding unique gameplay mechanics. If Pac chomps on one of the power berries he will change form; some berries change him into a giant ball, others a fire or ice Pac and one even turns him into a chameleon. Often areas will be impassable unless you are in a certain form, but fortunately the required berry is never far away. Some enemies, such as the ice ghosts, can only be defeated when Pac is in a certain form, which can be annoying.
The power berries change the game entirely, and some of them – such as the chameleon berry or the giant ball berry – are brilliant changes of pace, albeit slightly underused. Throughout the six worlds, two of which revisit previous worlds, you will only become a giant ball or a chameleon in a handful of levels, whilst the slightly less awesome transformations such as Fire Pac or Rubber Pac are much more common. If the adventurous power berries were more frequently used, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures would be a lot more fun.
Although the power berries increase the enjoyment of the game, the standard platforming sections with normal Pac are still tight and pretty decent. Levels are full of challenging platforming sections but will not be impassable for experienced players, although the younger market at which the game is aimed may struggle at times.
Unfortunately, the camera isn’t quite as tight as the platforming. Occasionally the camera will move to an angle that doesn’t show what needs to be seen, or is angled in a way that messes with the depth perception, leading to you try to make an impossible jump. This doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s enough to be noticeable and annoying. You can change the camera angle with the right sick, but often the damage has been done before you have a chance.
The ghosts that fill each of the levels could also use some work. The incredibly basic AI makes them predictable and none of them are particularly difficult to counter or kill. Strangely it was Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde who alerted Pac to the attack on Pacopolis, yet it is their ghost brethren that are attacking the city and being killed by Pac.
A throwaway multiplayer mode sees up to four players being ghosts and having to chase Pac-Man around a maze in the classic style, albeit in 3D. This mode is fun at first but quickly loses all sense of fun as the repetition creeps in.
Visually, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is what you would expect from an end-of-generation title. There’s nothing particularly amazing but there is also nothing massively ugly. The soundtrack is nice and upbeat for the most part but a lack of tracks means the same tunes pop up over and over again, and eventually become somewhat irritating as you hear them so often.
VERDICT: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a game that is clearly designed for the younger market yet may be slightly too difficult for many kids to enjoy. The platforming can be tough at times and the camera only makes thing worse. The poor story and voice acting, straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon, will alienate the older audience, too, which really leaves Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures with no real market – which is a shame, as some of the ideas and platforming sections made for some of the best fun I’ve had in years.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.
Review code provided by publisher.