Also On: PS3, Wii U
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures feels like someone found a design doc for a platformer in 2003 and just picked up where they left off. And that’s not really meant to be a negative statement. It just feels like a game that’s out of place with the current market, where mascot based platformers aren’t a monthly occurrence any more. It’s hard to shake that PS2 era platformer feeling that this game—based on the Disney XD cartoon that I didn’t even know existed—certainly evokes.
But it’s not a bad game, surprisingly! However, this certainly isn’t the Pac-Man that I grew up with, what with the high-school setting, lack of Ms. Pac-Man, and his friendship with former series villains Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde. Everyone is certainly a lot more talkative, and there’s a lot of Pac-Man like characters that resemble the rotund yellow hero in different shapes and sizes, all with cutesy names that play off of sphere based puns. The story elements aren’t the selling point here though, and thankfully they don’t take up a lot of your time either.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is broken up into series of worlds, generally themed around different environments, not unlike every platformer you’ve ever played. These worlds are further divided into levels, with a diminutive overworld map to explore with some optional paths to progress along that give you some limited options in how you tackle stages.
The individual stages see Pac-Man jumping and double jumping, along with chomping down enemy ghosts as his core abilities. Power Pellets litter stages as your de facto collectible item, with optional coins and other secrets scattered about. At the end of each stage you’ll gain a piece of fruit, which can be used at your hub location to unlock retro themed mini-games that are of questionable quality. Ghosts are generally consumed in a single bite, and you can chain chomps from one ghost to the next if they’re close enough. If you can eat five in quick succession, you can unleash a powerful yell that’ll put nearby ghosts into their familiar blue-hued scared state, making them easy pickings for consumption.
Most of this is basic platformer 101 material, which Ghostly Adventures does pretty well at. It doesn’t help the game stand out against better titles in the genre, but it certainly doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth either. It’s very average for the most part, but actually stands out a bit more simply because there’s not a lot of retail released, mascot platformers on consoles to pick from nowadays.
But there are some slight traces of brilliance in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures otherwise non-exceptional platforming designs. Most of this comes from the various power-ups that Pac-Man can consume, granting him new abilities that are necessary to overcome obstacles or defeat certain enemies. Some of these abilities are a little basic with limited uses, like the fire power-up that grants Pac-Man the ability to throw fireballs (gimmick infringement!), or the ice power-up that’s basically the same but with a different element.
But then there’s the stone power-up, which turns Pac-Man into a giant ball, and is usually featured in stages that feel like something smartly culled from Super Monkey Ball. Or the chameleon power-up that grants Pac-Man a sticky tongue to swing across precariously placed posts in legitimately tricky platforming sequences. The overall inventiveness of the power-ups is all over the place, but some of the more unique abilities help make an otherwise standard experience stand out more.
I can’t really call Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures a must have sort of game, especially in light of all the big AAA releases hitting this week, but I don’t think it’s entirely without merit either. I definitely had some fun with it, and if you have a hankering for old-school 3D platformers that don’t really see the light of day in favor of retro-themed 2D titles and art house projects that focus more on puzzles than actual platforming, you might see Pac-Man as a breath of fresh air. The nostalgia effect wears off quickly, but this isn’t a lengthy game by any means, and ends up being just familiar and charming enough to be enjoyable from start to finish.