When last I reviewed a Pac-Man game I made the blanket statement that I love Pac-Man. Well, Namco-Bandai is putting my fandom to the test by bundling together nine titles from the series’ history that range from well known to rather obscure. Dubbed Pac-Man Museum and priced at $19.99 on both Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, let’s see if this is a worthy collection or something that should’ve stayed buried in the past.
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way. Pac-Man remains a classic. As does its sequel, Ms. Pac Man, which is actually the 10th game in the collection — anyone that purchases Museum before the end of March gets to download it for free; after that it’s an extra $4.99. Both games are still loads of fun to boot up, and while I’ve always been partial to Ms. thanks to the evolving colored dots and mazes, you’d be hard pressed to hurl much criticism at either of these titles.
From the modern side of things comes the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition. It still rates as one of the best re-imaginings I’ve ever seen with slick visuals, pulse-pounding tunes and a truly clever twist on a timeless formula. Strangely, however, Museum features only the 2007 version and not the superior DX (or, obviously, DX+) build that was released in 2010. It’s truly a head scratcher that arguably the best title in the series’ history is absent.
Pac & Pal and Super Pac-Man are essentially one-offs of the original. In Pac & Pal you flip over cards to unlock areas where you can collect items. A ghost will try to steal said items, though, so quickness is a necessity. You also have offensive capabilities based on other Namco titles (such as eating a Rally X car to earn a smokescreen). Super Pac-Man also implements the “collect an item to gain access to part of the maze” gameplay mechanic, only its hook is that Pac-Man gets REALLY BIG. Ultimately, neither one is different enough from the original to make up for the fact that they’re not as good, either.
I’d never even heard of Pac-Land, and after just a few games I could see why. The game is a bizarre side-scrolling platformer where the ghosts travel around in bizarre vehicles, jump on pogo sticks and other general oddness all while a timer runs down. Pac-Attack also resides in the WTF files as this puzzler is pretty much a clone of Dr. Mario. Maybe you could get some co-op enjoyment out of Attack, but I can’t see anyone playing Land more than a couple of times as a curiosity.
Pac-Mania takes the concept of the original and moves it into an isometric, forced 3D perspective while also granting you the ability to jump over ghosts. The game is actually pretty fun in short bursts, though it does have one fatal flaw: you can only see a fraction of the screen at a time. That means if you miss a dot or two they can be tough to locate, and it also means that ghosts have an unfair advantage since you frequently can’t see them until it’s too late.
Of the more obscure installments, Pac-Man Arrangement and Pac-Man Battle Royale offer the most enjoyment. Arrangement takes the best elements of Mania, lets you view the entire screen and does a solid job of introducing new ideas while retaining the original’s spirit. And then there’s Battle Royale, which is probably the biggest selling point of the collection as this is the first time it has been available on consoles. Battle Royale allows you to play versus other players, dodging ghosts and eating power pellets that allow you to consume your friends (in a decidedly non True Detective kind of way).
Unfortunately, this multiplayer-centric entry can only be played locally as Museum doesn’t utilize any online components outside of leaderboards. Each game has a number of options to increase/decrease difficulty, number of lives, starting world and the like. There’s also a central hub to view collectables and a “stamp book” that challenges you to reach certain score thresholds, play for a set amount of time or other game-related accomplishments.
Even though there are 10 games included with Pac-Man Museum (counting Ms. Pac-Man), it seems doubtful you’d play more than half of them for an extended amount of time; and as great as some of the games are, only Battle Royale is truly new. It’s a strong collection for fans and nostalgia buffs, with the notable omissions of CE DX, but if all you want is Battle Royale you’re probably better off waiting for the inevitable sale to come around.