If the original Pac-Man wasn’t enough to hook players from this generation, I think Namco Bandai should have hung it up. The excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition DX went to great lengths to strengthen and refresh the license, as well as update it so that it might appeal to newer audiences. It’s an awesome riff on the classic game, tweaked just enough so that a whole new generation can become addicted. And then we have games like Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, an example of what happens when too much attention is paid to “revamping” a series and making it “modern” rather than preserving what made a franchise great in the first place. It’s also an adaptation of a terrible cartoon. In short, it’s bland, cartoony, and not worth picking up.
Players follow Pac-Man as he goes after the evil emperor Betrayus (go figure, he’s a ghost) who’s taken the mythical Tree of Life all the way back to the Netherworld. The Tree of Life provides Pac-Man with spiritual power to tackle the ghostly enemies he’s been tasked with quelling, so it’s up to our hero to go after Betrayus to retrieve the berries that do such. This is all spread across generic side-scrolling levels that you can choose to tackle in any order. While most drum up little other than feelings of “oh, I’ve seen that before,” like frozen tundras and forest levels, there are some niceties like a throwback Pac-Man stage that looks just like the old game. You’ll chomp on ghosts to clear out each level, and then top the stage off with a boss encounter. It’ll be old hat for platformer enthusiasts, and that’s just about all you can say for its uninspired level design.
Pac-Man can eat special berries to earn additional powers beyond gobbling up enemies, which includes the Ice Berry to freeze ghosts, the Steel Berry that turns him into a metal version of himself, and the Chameleon Berry among others. They’re amusing powers, but do little to elevate the game beyond that of mere distraction to awesome Pac-Man adventure that revitalizes the license. Given the fact that Pac-Man himself moves far too slowly to to consider him to be in the same league as the classic character, it’s almost a slap in the face. What’s Pac-Man doing in a platformer, anyway? Why does he have to have limbs now?
I wasn’t impressed with this version (or the bit I played of its console brethren for that matter) but not so much because it does the wrong thing – because it does too much of the same that we’ve seen in hundreds of other platformers over the years. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is so painfully inoffensive, and so bland you could slap the same characters over it, reskin Pac-Man into someone else, and call it a day. There’s something to be said about enjoying a classic game of Pac-Man, which is still leaps and bounds ahead of what you accomplish in this game. Younger siblings or giftees might like to see it in their stockings, but older gamers will need something far more meaty to keep them entertained.
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