Pac-Man Museum (Xbox Live Arcade Version) Review
“…the best experience a Pac-Man fan could dream of”
Since 1980, Pac-Man has been a global phenomenon of the gaming industry. You would be hard pressed, and in fact it may even be an impossibility, to find someone who does not know of the game, and it is more than likely that they will have played it at some stage too. From its humble, simple and highly addictively fun beginnings, Pac-Man has lasted the test of time and still remains an arcade favourite amongst gamers of almost any generation. During its journey to this point, it has been produced in many different versions, with different factors, dimensions and ways of playing having been made, played and enjoyed by fans of what has become a relatively vast series. Now, the Pac-Man Museum brings together all of these titles for avid fans, nostalgic folk and those who simply trying the old legend out to explore and enjoy.
Different people will have different opinions on the various titles produced in the Pac-Man series. Indeed, many forms of the game stray far, far away from the simple premise it was born with, some with great success, others maybe not so much. In any case, whichever way you like to play you can play it here. The games included in the Pac-Man Museum appear to be direct ports of the originals with a fresh control scheme having been implemented to keep play as smooth as possible. For this reason, it is hard to scrutinise the gameplay involved in this package because it is simply left as it always has been. What we will look at however is how well each game has been ported, how they handle, the style of the interface built around them and therefore the overall success of the package in delivering a clean, carefully built package of the Pac-Man legacy. We will however briefly run through the different games included, just to refresh the memory of some of you, and give an idea of what to expect to anyone who might be reading this and is new to the Pac-Man world.
First off then we have to original, 1980 release; Pac-Man itself. The game works on a simple premise; collect the food (dots) laying around the maze in which you play without being eaten by the ghosts who chase you. You can collect power pills to temporarily turn the tables on these adversaries and eat them for bonus points, and if you are quick enough to grab the fruit from the middle of the maze when it appears there are even more points to be earned. The aim then is to achieve as high a score as possible by completing as many levels as you can. To complete a level, you just have to eat all of the food in the maze. You only have three lives to play with though, so you will need to be tactful in your approach to this task in order to succeed.
Next up then is the 1982 title, Super Pac-Man. Once again you are trapped in a maze, apparently as hungry as a little yellow ball can possibly be, trying to simply grab a bite while a host of ghosties try and catch you for their own dinner at the same time. This game mixes things up a bit though, tasking you with collecting keys to unlock different parts of the maze in order to collect all of the food and complete the level. You can still obtain power pills to send your pursuers away in the fear that you might actually be hungry enough to eat them back, but in this title you can also collect a super pill which allows Pac-Man to grow, giving him the ability to eat through the locked doors of the maze in order to eat the food he desperately desires.
1983 then brought us Pac & Pal, which introduces a small green ghost character into the mix. This character is not out to eat you like the others, and rather simply enjoys collecting items around the maze. These items can be used to gain you points, so trying to grab them is beneficial, however if our new friend gets hold of them first she will attempt to take them into the ghost’s house area where they are then lost. This does not loose you the round, and merely deprives you of some points. In fact, if the final item in the maze is taken here the round is completed automatically. Essentially this game just adds a new element to focus on during play, just to mix things up that little bit to give the classic challenge a fresh angle.
In 1984, things got a little bit bizarre as we saw the release of Pac-Land. Suddenly, everything you knew that Pac-Man was got thrown into a blender and something totally different came back out. This is one of the examples in the series which mixed up the legacy, in the same sort of way that Super Mario becoming a three-dimensional character did. Pac-Man was now placed into a side-scrolling adventure world, where he was “taking trips” throughout which you had to try and collect fruit to score points and avoid ghosts in order to survive. The basic idea behind the game remains, but the gameplay is suddenly mixed up. You have to watch your speed, jump, run and carry out some basic parkour moves in order to succeed in this title. It is certainly very different to the original game, and it really comes down to personal preference as to whether you like it or not. My personal opinion you ask? For me, it is not quite the same, but it is worth giving a chance to see what you think of it.
Pac-Mania came next in 1997, which took us back to the original style of the game but from a whole new dimension. The game was reproduced in 3D, meaning we now had a physical maze and three-dimensional characters navigating within it. You play from a semi-top down perspective, almost looking diagonally on at the maze and not being able to see it all at once, which makes things particularly interesting. The camera follows Pac-Man, and the rules have returned to those of the original title in the series. The mazes also have different designs, but this has little influence on play, it simply keeps the levels more fresh. This was certainly a title which set out to re-imagine the way that Pac-Man was played, and was an interesting edition in the series.
1993 saw the release of Pac-Attack on the Sega Genesis system. This was almost a Pac-Man/Tetris crossover, in which you have to stack blocks and ghosts, with the aim of creating a means of navigating a Pac-Man character to eat all of the ghosts and complete the level. This game can be played in a simple open-ended point scoring mode or in a puzzle mode which limits the amount of Pac-Man characters you are able to use in order to eat all of the ghosts and complete the level. It is quite a different spin, but is still great fun to have a crack at, especially if you are also a bit of a Tetris fan too.
After a fairly lengthy break in the years the Pac-Man Museum next throws at us the 2005 PSP title, Pac-Man Arrangement. This is another 3D top-down approach to the classic Pac-Man, however you can now helpfully view the entire maze as you play. There are also a couple of added features to keep things interesting, such as speed boost pads which can allow you to dash past the ghosts in the maze, dazing them and getting you out of some sticky situations. There are also levels which really mix things up, such as the addition of a giant ghost to the already precarious situation our poor, hungry, yellow friend finds himself in. Oh, and one more thing about this one, it feels something like what I would imagine it would feel like to play Pac-Man on acid. Everything is bouncing, there are colours, well, everywhere, and the whole thing is just that slight bit trippy. Nonetheless however, this is a great title in the package!
In 2007 we saw the release of Pac-Man Championship Edition. This game put a new spin on the way that Pac-Man had been played up to now, reimagining the game in a time trial-type environment where you had to simply score as much as you can during the given period allocated and without losing all of your lives in the process. The basic ideas of the game remain the same here, but with a couple of minor changes. For example, in order to refresh the food in the maze you must collect the fruit as it appears, in the same way as you used to collect it for bonus points in the original. You can still bump up your score by eating power pills and catching those pesky ghosts, which can lead to a much better score at the end if you use your time and skills wisely enough to do it. This Pac-Man has a fresh feeling of pace and purpose to it, and certainly feels like a meaningful and commendable addition to the series.
Finally in the main package of the Pac-Man museum we have Pac-Man Battle Royale; a more recent, 2011 release. This is a multiplayer version of Pac-Man, keeping a similar style to the 2007 Championship Edition but pitting players against each other in a battle for survival and to hit the highest score. You can bump your opponents out of your way (or into the ghosts) in your epic contest to dominate the maze, but you have to be careful to keep an eye on your own situation at the same time too. Forget to keep an eye on those ghosts and its game over, but forget to keep an eye on your opponents and you could find yourself in just as much trouble. This is a fantastic effort to create a multiplayer element in what has for years been a simple, single-player experience. It is certainly a nice way to round of the package.
In terms of the overall package as an experience then, this is possibly the best experience a Pac-Man fan could dream of. The legacy of a classic has been brought together and bundled up for the enjoyment of its fans, and it has been done in a cohesive and coherent way. The games are well adapted to be played on console (the Xbox 360 version of the game was provided for this review), and do not lose any of their operability through the porting process. The menus however are a little more difficult to navigate, with some slightly odd key-binding choices having been made for getting around these. Once you get into the individual games however, the controls are laid out nicely, or what little of them you need, and things work very smoothly and nicely in all of the titles included. You will have to be prepared for a wildly bright colour scheme and some backing music on the menu screen which can only really be described as infuriatingly happy, but at the end of the day these are just minor details. When you jump into the game of your choosing, you are met with the whole original experience, in terms of gameplay, appearance and sounds.
There is little that can be said to be wrong with Pac-Man Museum in terms of its content. Some of the games are arguably better than others, however they are all in their original styles and do not appear to have in any way been messed around with. The package then is exactly what it says on the tin. If you are looking for a full, tidy round-up of the history of Pac-Man then the Pac-Man Museum is the title which you want to pick up. The price tag (around £14.99) might be seen by some to be a little high for what it essentially a collection of older games, however there is potential here for many hours of playability and pure, good old-fashioned fun. And for the true Pac-Man fan whom this package seems to have been carefully aimed towards, this might well seem like a small price to pay for the nostalgia, enjoyment and fulfilment which is on offer.
And if you are a truly die-hard Pac-Man fan, this does not even have to be the end of your fun, with a DLC available to add Ms. Pac-Man to your Museum package! If you purchase the Pac-Man Museum before the end of March you will be able to download this extra content for free, however after this it will come at an added cost.
The Good – A comprehensive collection of the history of the Pac-Man series, bringing together a grand collection of its various titles and styles with no tampering at all and placing them politely in the lap of its many fans.
The Bad – A slightly unfriendly menu navigation system, and a price tag which may put some gamers off (but which it should be stated is not inherently bad).
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.