By Jason Quinn / October 4th, 2016
|Title||Pac-Man Championship Edition 2|
|Developer||BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment|
|Publisher||BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment|
|Release Date||September 13th, 2016|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||ESRB E for Everyone|
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is the follow-up to Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. The game looks like it keeps the same style of gameplay, but many of the similarities are only surface deep. The general goal of the game is pretty much the same, eat ghosts to score points, but there’s a lot of tiny differences that give the game its own feel.
Dots are strewn around the board, and your objective is to gobble them all up, which spawns a fruit on the stage. Upon eating this fruit, you are taken to another board, where you repeat this process. While doing this, four ghosts go around the board as well, and you must avoid them. Contrary to other Pac-Man games, simply running into them won’t do anything to you, you’ll merely bounce off. However, bump into them three times in succession, and you will anger them. When they are in this angered state, contact with them will result in a loss of a life. There are also green sleeping ghosts strewn about the stage and buzzing by one will cause them to wake up and form ranks behind one of the main ghosts. Finally, the ultimate goal is the collection of a power pellet, which will allow you to gobble up all the ghosts, giving you a whole load of points. This is all done with a time limit of 5 minutes, where you must get as many points as possible.
Folks that have played Championship Edition DX will notice that most of this is the same, with some differences. The biggest one that probably sticks out is the fact that sleeping ghosts will form a train behind the main ghosts, rather than a train behind Pac-Man. This might not seem like much, but when the train of ghosts follows Pac-Man, this leaves the player free to look around at other areas of the stage and focus on the main ghosts. The train is rarely every a threat. Now however, you have four trains of ghosts zooming around the board. This really makes the board feel cluttered at times. It’s also easy to see then why they made it so that ghosts don’t kill on contact. On many occasions, avoiding ghosts feels impossible. There’s also a new mechanic, jump pads, which are little things on the map that will jump you to other places. These are useful, as ghosts can’t use them, so they can help with avoiding them.
Avoiding ghosts doesn’t feel worthwhile, however. You can just bump your way through them, as they jump to another part of the board when they get angered. This feels like a way to balance out the speed of the game, but Championship Edition DX had a better solution. The game would just slow down when you got too close to a ghost. It’s odd that the solution for making the speed of the game manageable feels a bit cruder in this game.
Eating a fruit in Championship Edition DX would result in part of the board changing, while your pellet-munching remains uninterrupted. In this game, eating a fruit transports you to a whole new board. This causes a pause in the action, and it also means you have very little time to get a good look at the new board.
The two biggest changes, in my opinion, are how bombs work and what power pellets do. Bombs in Championship Edition DX simply cleared the board of ghosts chasing you. It was a panic button for when you’re cornered. Press the button, and you can continue eating pellets. In Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, bombs just teleport Pac-Man back to the starting position. This does get you away from danger, but this also means that you have to work even harder now to get back onto the path of pellets while dodging the ghosts that are still out there. Bombs in Championship Edition DX let you take a breath, bombs in this game get you out of a sticky situation, but can make things harder for you in the long run.
What the power pellets do is the most significant change to this game. The way power pellets worked in Championship Edition DX was simple. You eat the power pellet, gobble up your train of ghosts, and that’s it. In Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 however, getting a power pellet marks the beginning of a game of cat and mouse. The four main ghosts and the trains behind them start running around the stage very quickly, and you have to catch them. They won’t make it easy either, they will dodge you in any way they can. You can only eat the lead ghost too. Running into the train behind them will result in you bouncing off. In a game that’s all about a timed score attack, having this sort of thing is rather frustrating. The most practical way of eating the ghost is to wait until they head down a path that only leads to one exit and cut them off.
When you do finally eat a ghost, you don’t even get the satisfaction of eating the other ghosts. Instead, you see a cutscene where Pac-Man automatically eats them for you. To try to give the player some advantage during this chase sequence, the game highlights the possible lanes that the ghosts can take. However, I have seen ghosts just going through areas that they shouldn’t have been able to, making these sequences even trickier. What was meant to be a rewarding sequence ends up now being very frustrating.
Considering everything I’ve said, the gameplay in this game is very stop and start. The gameplay in Championship Edition DX is totally smooth and you never have to stop for anything, and thus feels much more polished. Getting power pellets should be a reward for the player, but it results in a bad chase sequence. The game should involve skillfully maneuvering around the board, instead it’s best to just barrel through ghosts, as they’re only a threat when angered. This also presents another problem where angered ghosts can very easily blend in with the hordes of non-angry ghosts. To top all of this off, there are some fruit and power pellets that can run away from you, which doesn’t feel very fun.
There’re some other minor gripes, like how for a score attack game, it does a poor job of showing how you rank among all the other players. In Championship Edition DX, you could immediately see where you ranked globally and even among your friends. Now, the leaderboards are tucked away in other menus. The game has a forced tutorial segment, which is rather lengthy.
There is also a newly added “adventure” mode. This mode has several areas, 10 levels in each, and a boss fight. The only goal in each level is to get a certain number of fruit. Each level is barely distinguishable from the others. Pac-Man just doesn’t have the sort of variety in gameplay that lends itself to having a whole bunch of different levels. It all feels samey. The normal scoring method is also abandoned, instead using a “three star” mobile game inspired system. Each level has a strict time limit, which combined with the fact that you have to chase down ghosts or fruit, can make this frustrating. The ghost eating mechanic exists entirely to rack up points, yet this mechanic still exists in Adventure mode. It doesn’t lend anything to the mode out all. If anything, it simply wastes precious time. All of this adds up to the mode appearing rather poorly executed.
The boss fights are even worse than this. They play out almost the same, only the boss “attacks” the board, causing ghosts to become angered. This also spawns 1ups on the stage, along with a run-away fruit you need to collect. Trying to collect all these while the ghosts are angered is annoying at best and infuriating at worst. If you want the full six-star reward, you have to get all the 1ups and not die as well. The boss fights are probably the biggest new thing introduced in this game, and it’s easily the worst addition. This mode just feels completely tacked on. It wouldn’t be all that bad if it wasn’t for the annoying ghost and fruit chasing, but it would still be rather superfluous. The appeal of these games is to compete for high scores, not to go through a whole mess of levels.
The thing that saves this game is the fact that at it’s core, it’s still Pac-Man. The board design is amazing, and the music is still fantastic. Going through levels feels good, but then the game rips that away any chance it gets. Individually, most of the changes wouldn’t be that bad, but combined together, it results in a lesser experience. It feels like the developers kind of lost sight of what made the Championship Edition games so appealing. Quick, competitive arcade score attack, where you’re constantly looking for ways to improve your score. In Championship Edition DX, I was constantly thinking “I’ll play just one more round, I’ll get it this time”, but the frustrating mechanics of this game made it so that once I got an A rank on a stage, I didn’t really feel a desire to go back to it. I would only recommend this if you absolutely must have some new Pac-Man in your life. The game costs only $13, and I got about 10 hours of play out of it. If you can focus on the brilliant board design, amazing music, and feel you can deal with its shortcomings, you’ll probably have a good time.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
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