Review: The Pac Is Back in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures But He’s a Shell of His Former Circle
Let me take you back to the 80’s: it was simpler time, a time when the arcade was the hangout spot, Space Invader was king and Asteroids was addictive. Oh yeah and there was Pac-Man. Over the next thirty years we’ve seen remakes, reboots and revisions of our beloved Pac-Man; some that made us scratch our heads (Pac Man Go Kart…remember that? No. Well that’s a good thing) and some to our joy (Ms. Pac-Man).
Pac-Man was one of the many arcade games that was ridiculously addictive. It also had a combination of competitiveness and hours of pure joyous fun. After all these years, I wasn’t exactly surprised the series would be rebooted so another generation can experience that yellow circle which has brought fun to so many generations.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was first introduced to us with a new television series on Disney XD. They gave Pac-Man a high school and friends, bullies and enemies and of course they made him a 3D character. He even has a plot: Pac-Man who along with his friends Cylindria and Spiral helps protect Pac-World from the threat of Ghosts after the seal that locked up the Netherworld was accidentally opened. Ghostly Adventures the video game is based on that TV series; it has the same plot and look.
I have not watched the show in its entirety. I did see the trailer and small snippets so I didn’t know much about this new Pac-Man aside from the catchphrase “The Pac is Back,” which needs improvement. However, when I first saw the gameplay, I’m going to be honest with you, I felt old and confused, while at the same time I was hopeful and excited. A better word would be conflicted.
Now that I’ve played the game I can report that these feelings…well they still exist. It’s really a mixed bag, like dealing with someone who is bipolar.
First off his appearance is jarring, he has arms and legs and poorly designed sneakers, he speaks and has frighteningly over-the-top-eyebrows, which hardens his image and makes him look completely unlikable. However, there’s more to this game than his upgraded image. When I first started Ghostly Adventures, I kind of fell in love with it…just a little bit. It is beautifully colored and shaded. The 3D environment felt welcoming, playful and just a joy to look at.
While it wasn’t as spectacular as DuckTales, it had its own feeling of pleasure. When you’re no longer confined to a square maze with one color, it’s the little things you can appreciate about this game. For instance, the various colors of the many characters featured, as well as the design of the fruit, which is no longer flat and boring. Instead it’s inviting and appetizing. The trees are plush and green like a spring day.
Then it came time to actually play the game. Remember how I said it looked different? Well it plays differently as well. Gone are the confining mazes. It’s 2013, why would anyone want to play in a 2D square maze? Pac-Man is a 3D character in a 3D interactive world. He’s an explorer of different worlds (formerly known as mazes), he roams around freely, and instead of chomping his way through a level, he furiously attacks objects with his 3D mouth, much like a toddler going through a horrid biting stage or someone aspiring to become the next Hannibal Lecter.
He really can chomp anything; they even give him these sound effects that make him sound like he’s eating through metal. On the plus side not all things have changed, aside from the chomping. He is still rewarded with special berries, lemons, and cherries; it’s just that instead of eating just these items he also eats hamburgers, pies, ice creams, cakes, and other foods at his disposal. It’s a really unhealthy diet, which would explain his much larger girth in retrospect and has you wondering if he has a food addiction. If you hit a vending machine or mailbox you may be rewarded with these delights.
What I found the most nostalgic was the incorporation of collecting those yellow dots, although now they look more like glowing orbs and sometimes when you’re lucky they come to you. Then there are the sound effects–every time Pac-Man walks the same sound is played from the original game when Pac-Man moved around the maze. My favorite inclusion is when Pac-Man dies. It makes the exact same sound as the original and even has the same image of Pac-Man’s silhouette opening his mouth all the way until that circle is no more.
Lastly there are the ghosts, those pesky annoying ghosts. This time they’ve been given an upgrade. Instead of just chasing you around the world, they can attack you by vomiting slime on you or ramming into you. They are Pac-Man’s high school bullies with apparently nothing else to do but to annoy you to the extreme.
While playing Pac-Man the first thing you’ll notice is that he moves around with a kind of ease. He can’t run, he can only jump, and he walks as if he has all the time in the world. It’s slow but that slowness is what is great. It allows the player to discover hidden items. However, when he faces the ghosts the game goes into hyper-speed, much like the original. Pac-Man goes into furious attack mode, chomping down on the ghost like a well-choreographed fight. If a ghost is in the air, Pac-Man doesn’t care, he’ll jump in the air and go after him. He moves from ghost to ghost so fast that even you would miss out on the action.
Then there are the mazes…I mean different worlds. For those who like creative originality with a side of variety, this is not kind of that game. The levels you’ll be playing are somewhat different from each other and range from bland to frustrating to head scratching to “why even bother.” Despite the claims that it’s different it feels the same. The ghosts will mainly come at you at random no matter which world you’re in and there will be vomiting–there is always vomiting. There really is nothing incredible or amazing about the worlds aside from the puzzles.
The noticeable difference between the worlds is the weather; it could be spring in one world and winter in the other. There are some interesting highlights in the levels themselves, such as Pac-Man traveling through tubes as a convenient way to get around. But, again, there’s not much creativity, outside of occasionally shifting platforms and small hidden areas every once and a while. The developers could have at least included in a collapsing cliff or something spicy and innovative but like life it was a missed opportunity.
Instead, it seems like they designed worlds only to go along with each suit Pac-Man wears. Oh yes, Pac-Man wears suits and each suit helps him in the game. It allows him to better interact with the world in both a cool and unnecessary way.
There’s the chameleon suit which grants Pac-Man a long tongue to help him combat ghost enemies by licking them to death so he can eat them from afar and swing on poles. The flame suit helps Pac-Man melt ice and turns his enemies into a crisp, the ice suit freezes water and enemies. Then there’s my all-time favorite, the magnet suit which draws objects closer to him and allows him to stick to metal.
While I can go on and on about each and every world, I won’t because it would be monotonous, since the worlds are technically the same thing and you spend time eating enemies and collecting pellets, coins, and fruit.
Even though I loved the upgrades and the Metal world, this game is far from perfect. Gameplay can at times be boring; watching the cut-scenes are boring and Pac-Man’s personality is boring. The best way to play this game is in small sections and not at once for that would be…well boring. You’ll quickly abandon this game for something else and most likely will never return. This game is not Disney Infinity folks. There’s no magic, no imagination; this game was made for children and mostly likely will only be liked by children.
Unlike other children’s game the gameplay can feel never-ending–or maybe that was just me wishing it would be over. After a while the 3D images and colorful settings become stale. Doing the same moves and chomping the same ghosts will no longer hold your interest. After a while everything that you thought you would like or did like fades away and becomes one blurry haze.
Then for one fleeting moment something magical happens but it only occurs if you finish to game, which is why I advocate not completing the game in one sitting. After collecting enough bonus pick-ups–like cherries, lemons, and coins–you unlock the arcade-style mini-games and get to drive and fly vehicles like the Cherry Copter and Pineapple tank that appears in the cartoon. Like I said I have never watched the TV show so I had no idea what was what and who was who, however, I did enjoy flying around without a care in the world.
There is also a multiplayer mode that’s kind of worth trying. This consists of taking on ghosts pursuing Pac-Man in a split-screen set-up. However, the development team managed to drop the ball on this very simple task by making it offline only, meaning you have to hunt down your friends and beg them to play with you.
Overall, Ghostly Adventures is bogged down by its simplicity and heartbreakingly inadequate opponents. I would compare it to a student that passed through the system without ever needing to try because no one really cared and by the time someone tries to reach through to them it’s too late. Its once former self filled with hope and drive now replaced with a fog of laziness. It’s a crying shame because so much could have been done to save it from itself. Just imagine a children’s game with real opponents, challenging puzzles, and variety.
The game does have its moments but it’s just not enough. I would only suggest this game if you have very little children or if you’re just looking to pass the time. There is nothing about this game that screams “run out and buy me pronto.” It’s just one of the many new releases that will get lost in the 2013 gaming shuffle.