Let’s face it — you already think this game is a crock of you-know-what. The once iconic Pac-Man has been reduced to a not-so-great TV series produced by Marvel Studios’ founder, Avi Arad, as a lacklustre attempt to turn him into a platforming mascot a la Mario, Crash Bandicoot or Jak. So, who can blame you for writing this off the instant you read its title? I know I sure as hell can’t since I was dreading my soon-to-be hours lost the instant I turned on my console to play the game. Well, guess what? It’s actually a surprisingly solid platformer that is, dare I say it…somewhat fun.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures‘ most glaring flaw is its absurdly horrible storyline. It’s terrible even by child-targeted game standards. I’m honestly not even sure what I accomplished by the time the credits ended. Apparently, I was the last surviving Pacworlder assigned to be the hero of Pacworld against Betrayus and his Netherworld ghosts. Sound compelling? Exactly. The game’s so-called cutscenes do a piss-poor job in explaining events, and you never gain any satisfaction from enduring any of the game’s exposition. Thankfully, the gameplay carries the campaign just enough to make it worth playing through on a game-deprived weekend rental.
The fundamentally sound gameplay revolves around the tried-and-true platforming formula. You walk around collecting the signature orbs all to the trademark Pac-Man chomping sound. The orbs also serve as a simplistic GPS, constantly bashing you on the head as to where you should go. You simply can’t get lost, which makes it easy to play for the younger demographic this game is surely aimed for. The jumping also feels solid and responsive, so any mistakes you make that involve you falling off of a platform will more than likely be on you. The combat, on the other hand, doesn’t feel so strong. It’s as barebones as you can get. The lone attack button is assigned to “X” (or square), which is nothing more than — you guessed it — a chomp attack. It also doesn’t help that the enemies are as monotonous as the combat system, so expect repetition to sink in quickly and steadily.
At least the game has Power Berries, its own form of power-ups in the vein of those suits we all love from Mario. You get everything from fire and ice all the way to being able to morph into a large Pac-Man boulder. Of course, along with these suits you must deal with enemies who try to oppose whatever element you possess. Fire ghost? Freeze it. Ice ghost? Johnny Storm it. You get the picture. It adds variety for variety’s sake, keeping the game from becoming excessively repetitive but doesn’t do away with it altogether. However, if you have a child, Pac-Man‘s combat methods are perfectly fine.
Mechanically, there are issues, especially with the aforementioned combat and its mediocre design. For instance, swinging with the chameleon Power Berry is incredibly hit or miss. You have to be at the precise angle and height to be able to grab it, so expect cheap deaths there. Another rage quit-inducing moment comes via the levels that force you to constantly use the boulder Power Berry. Sure, it’s fun at first, but man, I can see kids just not being able to progress due to the boulder’s physics and random difficulty spikes. Also, the boss fights always surprised me with just how simple they were. Other than that, I really have to harp on how solidly designed the gameplay is. Platforming, combat, and even the somewhat diverse but cliché level design (lava level, ice level, sewer level, etc.) all scream competency.
The game’s multiplayer also fails to leave any lasting imprint on frequent gamers. Kids will eat this mode up during sleepovers, which is nothing more than a chase in a maze. You pick a ghost to control as you’re plugged into one of the signature Pac-Man mazes and try to be the first to chase down Pac-Man using various power-ups. It sounds pretty cool and it is…for a minute — maybe two. It’s just not compelling but at the same time it’s a harmless addition that doesn’t add or subtract from the game.
In keeping with the theme of competency, the graphics are merely just serviceable. The game’s textures are simplified, and combined with the minimum level of art design, does not add up for a great-looking or memorable viewing experience. For kids, the colors will be vivid enough to keep their eyes glued to the screen. For adult Pac’ers? You’re going to forget what the game looks like the nanosecond you start playing another one. As for audio, the included music and voice acting are all forgettable. Not a tune will be hummed nor a vocal acting performance taken away from the experience.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does everything to a finely polished mediocre sheen. Simply put, there’s just not enough meat on these bones to generate any authentic excitement for more experienced gamers. Even for fans of the franchise I wouldn’t recommend purchasing this one, it just doesn’t leave a lasting impact. Expect your short-term memory to kick this experience to the side after the mediocre but ultimately forgettable journey is over.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which was provided to us.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a mildly entertaining take on "my baby's first platformer," but won't hold the interest of more competent gamers for too long. It simply doesn't come close to comparing with the genre's better efforts.