Friday, September 16, 2016

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Review (XONE)

Pac-Man has been able to endure as a franchise as long as it has because Bandai Namco has never been afraid to change up the formula to keep it fresh.  That philosophy is perfectly on display here in Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 as it drastically alters the gameplay formula of the fan-favorite original Pac-Man CE – a game that already was a departure from classic Pac-man – to create something new and different while retaining the essence of the franchise.  The result is a new take on Pac-Man that is fresh and fun and just as wonderful and addictive as the classic dot-munching, ghost eating titles that came before it.  See our full Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Xbox One review here for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Bandai Namco
  • Developer: Bandai Namco
  • ESRB Rating: “E” for Everyone
  • Genre: Arcade
  • Pros: Fresh and fun new spin on Pac-Man; great music; lots of options
  • Cons: Adventure mode
  • MSRP: $13

While the original Pac-Man Championship Edition was a sort of faster paced evolution of the classic Pac-Man gameplay, Pac-Man CE2 is a fairly major overhaul.  It is so different, in fact, that Bandai Namco makes you play through a tutorial to learn the new mechanics before you can even get to the fun stuff.  While it is helpful to learn everything you need to know right away, the tutorial is bland and boring and makes a pretty poor first impression that isn’t really representative of the full experience – hence why a lot of initial impressions from people were all “Eh, I don’t really like it.  It’s too different … whine whine whine”.  Once you get through the tutorial stages, however, the game opens up and is much more like Pac-Man CE1 in its progression and overall feel.  Just be patient, Pac-Man CE fans, you will be rewarded.

The gameplay core of CE2 is actually very similar to CE1.  Each level is laid out with a path of dots for you to follow and sleeping ghosts that wake up when you pass them and join the long “ghost train” that chases you around the level, and the level changes and resets when you eat a piece of fruit. 

Here’s where all of the new mechanics in CE2 come in, however.  First, you can actually bump into ghosts and not immediately die.  This just angers them, and if you bump into them in their angry state then you’ll die.  This mechanic lets you bump them out of the way if you need to in order to make a little space.  The second change is that you can now use a bomb, not to clear nearby enemies, but to quickly jump back to the starting point of the level.  This is useful because the fruit that lets you go to the next level, as well as power pellets that let you eat the ghosts, always spawns at that point.  Interestingly, you don’t always have to collect all the dots before the fruit or power pellet spawns, so it can be a strategic decision to go after them ASAP to move onto the next level rather than collecting everything on the current level first.

The enemy ghost behavior is the third major change in CE2.  Depending on the game mode there can potentially be multiple ghost trains moving all over each level.  On top of that, eating a power pellet and turning the ghosts blue makes them run away from Pac-Man in seemingly random directions (though still connected as a “train”) and you have to figure out the path they’re going to take so you can eat them.  Some of the fruit and power pellets will also similarly move away so you have to chase them down.  This mechanic makes the game even more fast paced and frantic and crazy than it already was and the difference between a high score or just missing your goal can come down to spending a second or two too long chasing down ghosts.

All of this gives Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 a decidedly different feel while also being familiar.  The core of classic Pac-Man is intact, and the gameplay flow of Pac-Man CE is present, but the way you have to play and the method you use to earn high scores is new.  I love that.  It is amazing how fresh Pac-Man can feel even after all of these years.

Similar to the original Pac-Man CE, CE2 has a number of different maze types, each with three difficulty levels plus a practice mode, that you unlock as you play.  Just changing the maze layout or including multiple ghost trains instead of just one makes the game feel totally different.  You also unlock an Adventure mode where each level has different requirements to beat it and there are even boss fights!  In practice, though, Adventure mode is just sort of bland.  The traditional score attack levels, which make up the majority of the game, are much better and more worth your time.

The final piece of the Pac-Man CE2 puzzle is the presentation and it is pretty well done throughout.  The mazes are brightly neon colored and easy to see and the game gives you a wide range of options for background images and even what Pac-Man and the ghosts look like.  I also can’t say enough about how great the soundtrack is.  There are several different tracks to choose from, and while they’re mostly thumping electronic beats they manage to cover a surprising range of moods and emotions so you can choose the perfect track to suit however you’re feeling on a particular maze.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is surprisingly different from the beloved original CE, but once you get over the shock of it all and embrace the change you’ll find you can love CE2 just as much.  While other 80’s game franchises are struggling to remain relevant (or have simply been neglected by their owners) Pac-Man just keeps on trucking.  Like the original Championship Edition and Pac-Man 256 before it, Bandai Namco has once again found a way to keep Pac-Man fresh and fun with Pac-Man Championship Edition 2.  Buy it. 
Disclosure; A review code was provided by the publisher.