February 26, 2018

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 PLUS - Review

Last year, Bandai Namco released the Namco Museum onto Nintendo Switch and it gave us our first taste of Pac-Man, but that was honestly designed for multiple people at once, but now that Championship Edition 2 is here, is that what we need?

Those looking for something earth shatteringly different are going to be let down, this is Pac-Man and if you have played the previous Pac-Man Championship, you are well on your way to understanding what is on offer here. When taking the game on its solo offering, you get a wealth of missions to partake in, each giving you something specific to aim for, or you can just enjoy the free play, letting you attempt to get the highest score you can, each mode has their bonuses, but they are similar, so jumping from one to another is not going to cause you any issues.

The missions usually revolve around getting a set score, a high score or lasting as long as you can and while the ghosts are still around, chasing you down, giving you a sense of doom, they are different here. No longer will a single touch send you to an early grave, instead, touching a ghost for the first time will have you bounce off him and while both of your regroup, a few seconds later the chase is back on. As you move around the board, you might find yourself stuck in a corner and this is where the skill comes into play, now you can still bounce of the ghost, but you only get a few attempts to do so, before the ghost becomes enraged and doubles in size and speed. Meaning if you are in a corner, you want to avoid pissing off the ghost. The hulked out ghost only lasts for a few seconds, but its enough to convince you to get out of there.

If you are someone who remembers the original Pac-Man levels, then you will be happy to know that the same design consideration has been entered into these new levels as well, each has a distinct layout and given the time you may come to learn the best ways around them. While some levels are on the smaller side, with the added bonus of the paths that send you from one side of the map to the other, they can still feel larger, of course, as the ghosts can use them as well, you want to ensure the exit is free of obstructions.  As you progress through the mission, you will notice dozens of tiny little ghosts sleeping around the map, wake them up and they will attach themselves to the nearest ghost, creating snake like chains that can fill up the board. After a few levels, if you have survived, you can then trigger the old pallet effect, turning the ghosts blue, the longer the ghost snake is, the more points you can earn, which is the point.

If you want something a little more challenging, that is where the boss battles come into play, they don’t change the game up or anything, but they give you something new to tackle. Each boss has parts of themselves around the level. Complete a section of the level and you deal a set amount of damage to the boss, complete all the parts and the damage levels are completed, it is a fun way to give you something different to do, within the confines of the Pac-Man world. The two-player mode, which is new for Switch, is a bit of a joke, the idea of playing co-op Pac-Man is great, but the execution however is not done so well. While each player has to consumer the dots, while avoiding the ghosts, when you play with someone who knows what they are doing, the experience can be great. The problem is playing with someone who either does not get Pac-Man or does not normally play games results in a mess, where the person who knows what is happening is left to pick up the slack, because until every single dot is eaten/collected the fruit does not appear and without the fruit, you can complete the level and both players must touch the fruit at the same time. Because the game has no way of compensating for players of a lower skill level, it becomes the opposite of fun, something that I thought a Pac-Man game could never get to happen.

When you consider the look of the game, you might think the Switch struggles to run it, its bright, with lots happening at times and the Switch does an admirable job of getting it to run ok, but its not perfect. The visual design of the game is great, there is something about a neon Pac-Man game, sort of highlighting the old school look in a way that few arcade games could replicate. The look is a more refined version of the one from the Xbox Live Arcade release of Pac-Man Championship Edition, but it does not do anything to new from then to now, which then begs the question, why does the Switch version suffer. There are times, when in the solo mode, eating the giant ghost snake chain can cause the game to stutter, as those moments are fewer than you might expect, its passable, but when playing in the two player mode, the game struggles far more than you would think.

The one aspect of the game, that I love is the sound, from the old school tones, that if you hear them, you know they mean Pac-Man as they are that iconic, to the remastered tunes, bringing the classics back to life. Starting a single level or jumping into a constant stream of them, will present you with some wonderful tunes, perfect for what the game is showing you on the screen, the contrast between them is balanced just so well. The downside is that everything seems to be a highlighted, or refined version of melodies that you may already know, new music is hard to find and to be honest I can ever think of a time when I heard a new track.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 for Switch brings the 2016 hit to a new audience, but the addition of the two-player mode could have been left at the door. The boss battles are a fun diversion, but for most people, just trying to get the best score they can and as far into the game as they can, is going to be enough and with the twitch controls that some of the harder levels need, that’s just fine.

Review copy supplied by Bandai Namco

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