Pac-Man is undoubtedly gaming’s first real icon, seizing his place in the public conscience over 30 years ago. While he’s best known for his 2D maze navigating exploits, he’s also tried his hand at 3D before, and even some platforming back in the days of Pac-Land. His latest adventure, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, combines the two in what is a pretty standard fare mascot game.
For those who didn’t know (including myself when I first picked it up), the game is based on an animated CGI show which you can catch on Disney XD for those of us in North America. Quite frankly I couldn’t make sense of the story as a result, because not only does assume you know all the characters and are so excited to see them, but the plot advances so quickly that it makes you feel like you have attention deficit disorder. Then again, given the intended audience that’s probably spot on. One second you’re worried about some baddy named Betrayus capturing some gobbledygook named device, the next you find out your friends whom you barely got introduced to were kidnapped while you completed a level, and on top of that you’re supposed to collect enough widgets to power up these globes and really who cares at this point? Just get through the obstacles without dying, really.
And the way you do that is pretty straightforward platforming, with some nice little Pac-Man touches of course. The controls are fairly solid and it’s hard to find fault with the basics, which broke my assumption that this was going to be yet another crudely slapped together kids game. Besides the standard running and jumping (and double jumping), Pac-Man is able to spook ghosts blue with the Y button and chomp them up with the X button. You don’t have to spook them first actually, and his ability to home in on ghosts makes chomping up several of them in a chain actually somewhat fun, similar to Sonic’s homing attack in his 3D games, and in fact the level design exploits that to a similar degree at times. Yes, you run around collecting pellets as you go (along with other things like “slimetanium”, quarters, and fruit), but power pellets in this game do something different since you can already munch on ghosts all you like. Instead they convey different abilities on Pac-Man, like allowing him to shoot fire and ice, bounce like a rubber ball, and turn invisible or latch onto things with his tongue like a chameleon. These abilities are required to get through certain segments of levels, so if you get hurt by a ghost, you have to go back and pick up another power pellet, which thankfully respawn not far out of reach. If you’re otherwise not powered up, ghosts and traps do damage to your hearts, which you can restore with food or rescuing trapped Pac people (persons?). There were a couple times where Pac-Man bugged out and got stuck on the edge of a platform, requiring a restart, though, and the chameleon tongue has a habit of missing the pole you were attempting to latch to at the worst time, so it’s not perfect. There’s also a lot of little mini arcade games to unlock in Pac-Man’s school by completing enough of the side levels (a simple overworld map lets you decide how to proceed), so you can extend your play time by collecting everything, at least. It’s all run of the mill stuff, but it’s executed competently enough not to be too aggravating.
The same can be said for the audio and visuals in Ghostly Adventures. Surely you weren’t expecting a graphical tour de force, but art style and lighting is done well enough that it feels true enough to what the CGI show must be like. I wouldn’t be surprised if they just used the same models in the cutscenes, because they really don’t skip a beat. Still, I would have expected the framerate to be higher given how little the game is doing and the short draw distance of the levels. All your favorite Pac-Man sounds are in this game, from the initial title screen to the death sound, so they didn’t screw that up. I personally dislike this Pac-Man’s voice, as it smacks of the now cliché overconfident pre-adolescent stereotype that dominates most kid’s cartoons these days, but I’m sure they’re just carrying over from the show. The voice acting overall certainly doesn’t detract from the game in any case.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures doesn’t really do anything wrong, it’s just not that special either. I would put it just a rung below all the Lego games being thrown at us month after month, but it wouldn’t be out of place next to them in your kid’s collection. For those of us platforming veterans though, this is a definite pass.