I have never been a huge fan of the more anthropomorphic incarnations of Pac-Man, if I am brutally honest. It is a bit like when Tom and Jerry started to speak – it just doesn’t seem right. To me, Pac Man was always about the 2D waka-waka. It is often the same with time honoured two-dimensional classics making the transition into 3D – for every Super Mario 64 there is a horrible three-dimensional talking Sonic the Hedgehog. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 manages to combine both of the above conundrums, and also throws a dodgy television tie-in into the mix as its inspiration. The telly programme is as terrible as you would expect, and probably drastically over-estimates the popularity of the yellow gobbler in today’s climate of happy slapping, Flappy Bird and energy drinks.
The premise of the show is that Pac-Man is the last of his kind, a needy orphan consumed by guilt at having somehow released the vengeful ghost that threatens to destroy Pac-World. The ghosts from 1970s Pac-Man are present too, but here they feign allegiance to the baddies whilst secretly working with Pac-Man, in the hope that one day their souls will be redeemed and they can return to human form. It is some pretty dark stuff. But don’t let that upset you, kids – the first game based upon that sub-par cartoon was pretty good, and this sequel is more of the same, which is exactly what you would expect given that there is less than twelve months between the two releases.
Pac is once again in cahoots with his clunkily-named buddies Spiral and Cylindria, and once again the threadbare plot sees the happy-go-lucky trio face off against Lord Betrayus and his fiendish army of specters. The plot on this sophomore effort manages to avoid a lot of the separation anxiety and guilt from the source material and is another fresh, bright and breezy adventure that does not challenge your grey matter.
With mechanics straight out of Platforming 101, you explore your environs deciding on whether you look to uncover secrets and all of the hidden items, or simply get from start to fruit-piece finish without getting merked by a spook. Finding all of the hiding bits and pieces and waka-waka-ing up all of the glowing yellow consumables improve your end of level ranking score. In a nod to the games of yore, Pac has to hoover up pellets and fruit, can chow down on ghosts, and can access power-ups that give him special abilities. Some of these return from the previous game, but there are some new things to play around with, like the Ice-Pac, which allows you to create frozen platforms and stop enemies in their tracks with an icy blast, or the Magnet-Pac which allows you to access difficult-to-reach platforms or ensnare enemies using the baffling and impressive power of magnets. I searched desperately for a 2-Pac ability which transformed me into a doo-rag wearing gangster rapper, but this never materialised.
There is a lot to like about this Pac adventure. The simplistic nature of the platforming is very enjoyable, in a Skylanders or Ratchet & Clank kinda way. The way Pac Man can use a dash attack to chain together multiple ingestions of enemies and items is wonderful fun. It has excellent production values that elevate it beyond a lot of animation cash-ins, even if the voice acting is incredibly annoying. Some nice retro-y music, and of course the instantly recognisable noise when Pac Man gets killed, is present and correct. The new additions do not deviate it too far from its successor – there is an interesting rail shooter section, and an abundance of QTEs – and the new Pac-forms to experiment with.
This is another classic end-of-an-era title, the sort of thing that would have surfaced with regularity during the dying days of the PlayStation 2, albeit with a wildly inferior focus on quality control. Instead, Namco Bandai have produced another solid title that is an ideal distraction for the younger gamer, yet not insulting enough for an old timer to switch off and escape into for a few hours.
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.