I’m going to reveal a little secret about myself here: I suck at Pac-Man. I have never been able to do well when playing as the iconic yellow chomper, whether it be at the arcade or at home. As bad as I am at playing the game, though, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. On the contrary, I actually love playing the Pac-Man games, which is why I was excited to jump into Pac-Man Museum. On paper, it promises to not only bring you the games that matter in the franchise, but also to showcase some of the history surrounding the character. After all, this is a creation that became a pop culture phenomenon back in the 1980s and led to a merchandising empire that included novelty songs and an awful cartoon series. If ever a gaming franchise deserved to have a museum for itself, it can be argued that Pac-Man is that series.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past 34 years, Pac-Man is an arcade game that puts players into the spherical shoes of the titular character. You travel around a square room, eating power pellets and fruit while avoiding the multi-colored ghosts that are out to get you. It’s a very simple premise, but one that has held up over time.
Pac-Man Museum brings together 9 games in the franchise, from both the series’ arcade heyday and more recent home exploits. You get the original hit title, Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Pac-Land, Pac-Mania, Pac-Attack, Pac-Man Arrangement, Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Battle Royale. Additionally, if you download the compilation before March 31, you can also acquire Ms. Pac-Man for no additional cost.
As with most compilations, though, the quality of the titles present in Pac-Man Museum is more of a mixed bag than I would have liked. The original Pac-Man still holds up today, but the various arcade-released sequels that came later on have not. Super Pac-Man and Pac & Pal are similar in the fact that they added locked gates and keys to the basic gameplay, but they each feature their own annoying flaws. Super Pac-Man introduces half-baked power-ups that aren’t exactly fun to use and Pac & Pal features an additional ghost that steals your fruit and other items, which is about as fun as it sounds. Pac-Mania adds a jump button to the proceedings, which does add a new wrinkle to the series, but an annoying isometric camera that prevents the whole board from being seen ruins the game. There is nothing fun about aimlessly wandering around a level in search of one pesky pellet.
Pac-Land and Pac-Attack are the oddballs included here. Based around the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Pac-Land is a weird side-scrolling title that tasks players with collecting fairies and other assorted items. It’s a different experience for sure, but I don’t know if I would exactly call it fun to play. Having more to do with Dr. Mario than Pac-Man, Pac-Attack is a puzzle game that revolves around destroying ghosts stacked in columns and rows. It’s a much better game than the other mis-advised spin-offs and sequels included here, but I don’t know how well it holds up in regards to the other games in the genre.
However, it’s the more modern releases in the franchise that save this compilation from being a complete bust. Pac-Man Arrangement, much like the other sequels, adds numerous bells and whistles, such as boost ramps and elevators, to the basic formula. Unlike those titles, though, these additions are actually fun to use and add a new dimension to the gameplay.
Most people are already familiar with Pac-Man Championship Edition, mostly due to the high praise it received upon release. It definitely deserves the praise, as the vibrant neon graphics and hyper intense gameplay arguably make it the definitive game in the Yellow Dot’s career. It is a little troubling, though, that Namco didn’t include the updated Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, although I certainly understand ($$$) why.
The big hook for fans of Pac-Man, though, is the inclusion of Pac-Man Battle Royale, which has previously only been available in arcades. A four-person multiplayer title that revolves around not only eating dots, but also eating your opponents, Battle Royale is an extremely fun party title. However, the baffling lack of online play holds it back from being a truly excellent party game. Sure, playing with your buddies locally is a blast, but online play would have added even more replay value to this collection. I honestly can’t fathom why it wasn’t included here.
Since this is technically a museum, I do wish that Pac-Man Museum had included more information on the iconic series. Playing through each title only unlocks stamps (which basically function as achievements/trophies for the game) and models of various objects and characters modeled on the more recent Pac-Man animated series. It would have been nice if the game delved into some of the fun facts of the series, such as the complicated history of Ms. Pac-Man. Unfortunately, what we get here is about as informative a museum as Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
Passing judgement on a title such as Pac-Man Museum is a slightly annoying task. On the one hand, half of the titles here are well worth owning. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are classics, and Pac-Man Battle Royale, Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Arrangement are fun takes on the classic formula. On the other hand, the other five remaining titles included are either frustratingly complicated (Pac-Mania, Pac & Pal, Super Pac-Man) or oddball additions to the series’ cannon (Pac-Attack and Pac-Land) that were never particularly great to begin with. It all really depends on how much you enjoy playing the original game, I suppose.
This review is based off the PlayStation 3 version of the title, which we were provided with.
Although not every title it includes is a winner, Pac-Man Museum features enough quality to make it worth a look.