If there was a popular arcade game from the 1980s, odds are it has received some sort of modern reboot: Galaga, Q*Bert, Elevator Action, Rush N’ Attack, Tecmo Bowl, etc. While there have been highs and lows among this sub-genre, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX remains the standard bearer by seamlessly blending what worked 30-plus years ago with a wholly unique vision.
Six years later, Bandai-Namco has brushed off its most beloved character for Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, the true sequel to the 2007 release that preceded the superior DX version. Could the dev team find the right tweaks to make an amazing game even better? Or does the latest version push the series too far from its roots? Let’s munch some dots and find out.
Small adjustments have been made to the control scheme, most notably that, rather than bombing the ghosts, your bombs now send Pac-Man back to the home point of each maze. It can be used either to escape trouble or save time since the fruit or power pellet you need to consume to advance to the next board spawns there.
It’s easy to get used to the change, though the game rewards you for not using your bombs via some bonus points when tallying your final score. You can also brake to stop quickly; though at the speeds you’ll be going it’s tough to see opportunities to use it. The pace actually feels a little too fast, and I found I missed far more turns than I did with DX.
Graphically, Pac-Man CE 2 feels busier than its predecessors — particularly on the new “boss stages” — and not nearly as colorful or endearing. It’s still interesting, but perhaps it’s the overuse of neon colors that keeps it a notch below. The pulse-pumping soundtrack works, though, and the modern twists on Pac-Man‘s iconic sound effects are great.
Action in split into two primary areas: Score Attack and Adventure. Of the two, Score Attack is the stronger option. As the name suggests you chase high scores across a series of 10 level types, each of which has three difficulty settings that alter things like number of ghosts, how aggressive they are and your ability to earn additional lives.
Within Score Attack you are given five minutes to rack up as many points as possible through a fairly straightforward formula: eat dots until you fill a meter to either spawn a fruit or a power pellet. You do have a couple of options, though, as the game rewards you for eating all the dots in a level by giving you an additional bomb. A score multiplier also builds as you progress, resetting after losing a life.
Of course, eating ghosts is where you really rack up the points, and the longer the train is trailing behind the ghost the more points you stand to collect. You’ll need to grab dots near the small sleeping ghosts to awaken them and add them to the train, but as it grows you’re more likely to collide with it, which brings us to one of Pac-Man CE2‘s biggest changes: ghosts don’t automatically attack.
Instead, bumping a ghost once will more or less alert them, but it’s the second bump that launches them off the board, and when they land they’ll go after you. It can actually be utilized as a time-saving tactic to clear the path; plus, all ghosts revert to their base form each time a board gets cleared. It’s worth noting that on the highest difficulty all it takes is one bump to trigger them.
Each of the 10 setups feature a different focus, such as lots of jump points that send you springing across the level or more enclosed mazes that make avoiding ghosts more difficult, and it does a good job of tweaking the core experience just enough to create significant replay value — beyond the obvious allure of bettering your score.
Unfortunately, Adventure isn’t as interesting. Here you’re usually tasked with eating a specific number of fruit or something similar under more stringent time constraints. So rather than focusing on the score you’re simply trying to rapidly eat enough dots to summon the fruit and then eat it to move on to the next; we’re talking about a matter of seconds for each one.
These are interspersed with mazes where you need to eat all the ghosts, which will flee along set paths and can be tough to wrangle before time expires. Fail and you start over. Succeed and you’ll earn a star — there are actually three starts per level awarded based on the difficulty setting, which reduces lives and time allotted. Earn enough and you’ll unlock a boss fight.
Yes, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 has boss fights with a massive vision-impairing ghost hovering in the background. Again, you’ll be asked to collect a set number of fruit or extra lives or whatever, and fulfilling the request will result in defeating the boss. It’s OK, but it falls short of the other innovations Bandai-Namco has made with the series.
As much as I enjoyed Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, it’s not as good as the original. Thus, while it’s a smart buy for those that loved the first one, anyone that missed out and is interested in the series would be better off buying the DX version instead.