Pac-Man is one of the most recognisable characters in gaming, with dozens of spin off games for all manner of formats released since the original hit the arcades.
Indeed, you can even buy the original game for WP7 already, albeit at an extortionate price and with little incentive not to just play a free version instead.
So, here we have the Championship Edition. Looking at the game, you could be forgiven for thinking this just looks like another pointless update of an ancient game to try to tempt yet more cash from your wallet.
However, this particular update is actually the best example around of how to successfully update an aging franchise, and it turns out to be a fantastic game, one that is not only worthy of the Pac-Man name, but genuinely feels like the spiritual successor to the original title.
The basic gameplay is the same as it has ever been, with you guiding the little yellow blob around mazes filled with ghosts, collecting pellets and power pills. Ghost kill you if you touch them, but collect a power pill and the tables are turned, and they scuttle away from you.
The basics my be the same, but everything else has been upgraded in every way possible. This time, most levels end when the timer reaches zero, and pellets appear in patterns all over the map, and you can be chased by dozens and dozens of ghosts at once. Many ghosts are asleep around the map and only wake up when you get too near, at which point they join the chase. Others appear from the middle of the screen in a more traditional way, but they all end up on your tail, and there can be a screen filling amount of ghosts chasing you.
Finding a power pill changes all of this, and you can tear into them, with the score bonus going up for every ghost you eat. Once you kill a few in one line, the speed of the game is increased by one factor for every ghost destroyed, which means the game ends up going ridiculously fast. You also have a few bombs you can use to clear ghosts, but these should only be used in an emergency.
I know what you are probably thinking, that, despite all these extras, you are going to still end up in the same pattern of play, dodging and getting trapped in the same old way and knowing you are totally trapped a long time before you die, but one important addition makes all the difference here. Swiping Pac-man in the direction you intend to turn him before you actually get to the corner makes Pac-Man spark against the side of the wall. This means that, if you meet a ghost right on the corner, the game goes into a cool slow motion move and slides around the ghost, enabling you to survive when you otherwise wouldn’t.
The excellent slow motion feature comes into play when you get too close to any ghost, which is great as it gives you just a little bit more time to get yourself out of trouble, and gives the whole thing a fairer feel.
The music and graphics are great, with neon visuals and plenty of special effects, and they all really come into play when the bonuses are racking up. It’s actually a gorgeous game, and that fact it still keeps the classic startup tune really reminds you that you are playing a Pac-Man game.
There are three visual themes available, the normal neon, a pixilated classic style and a 3D Pacmania theme. They all look great, but the neon one is so strong you will find your self selecting that one after a while.
There are a lot of game modes and levels available, such as time trials with different lengths, where the aim is to score as highly as possible within a certain time, and other modes that become unlocked the further you play. As it’s an Xbox Live title, there are achievements and online leader boards included, always a nice extra.
It’s the neat little touches that make me love this game. The fact that you can watch a full replay of your last performance is brilliant, as is the little graph screen after you finish a level that uses Pac-Man being chased by ghosts to trace the line on the graph.
It’s not all perfect, as although the swipe control method works well I would have liked an alternative, and the tutorial is hopelessly lacking with confusing continue/exit messages.
Despite those minor niggles, when Pac-Man: CE is at it’s best, it’s a wildly dazzling, rampant action game with fantastic sound, graphics and cool, reaction based gameplay. Imagine if you dropped Pac-Man into the Matrix and you might have some idea of the feel of the game when it’s going full tilt.
It is expensive at the moment, but I think it’s worth it and comes with a hearty recommendation.
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