Few retro video games can reinvent themselves to keep up to date and remain relevant amongst the gamers of today, and more often than not they can quickly become unfortunate canned projects (the 3D Streets of Rage that never was still hurts). Iconic franchises such as Tetris or Space Invaders have undergone minor facelifts, still keeping the original game close to heart behind a simple cosmetic upgrade. It’s unusual to see a 2D hero step away from the arcades of old, find huge commercial success in a 3D world but remain the icon we’ve come to love and bring his world to a fresh, younger audience … wakka wakka!
The hungry hero Pacman returns to consoles this Autumn with a second installment of his Ghostly Adventures series. The original game, which only saw European release in March this year, was met with positive reviews calling it a great rebrand for the franchise. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Pacman exploring a 3D landscape, the icon has made several appearances on the original Playstation, the PS2 and Windows PCs with the hugely enjoyable Pac Man World series and the “Mario Kart clone” Pac-man World Rally. For the past 15 years Pac has been gracing us in numerous 3D roles, however Bandai Namco hit the nail on the head in 2013 to really evolve the franchise and start a new yellow ball rolling. For newcomers to the Ghostly Adventure series, it follows Pacman and his friends Cylindria and Spiral on the planet Pac-World as they must protect the city of Pacopolis from the threat of Ghosts, as an ancient seal that locked them all away has been accidentally opened. Our hero vows to stop big baddie Betrayus and the ghosts from taking over Pac-World whilst also searching for his long lost parents. Contrary to the games of old, Pac is this time assisted by his former enemies, Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde who serve as helpful messengers giving advice to the player when difficulty gets the better of them. The Ghostly Adventures series has even spawned a successful children’s TV show which makes you think that perhaps this new breed of Pacman could be here to stay, which is by all means a great thing.
Straight from the off this is simply a great platformer for any age group. Similar to ‘Skylanders’ it’s a children’s game from the exterior, but internally with an increase in difficulty you’ll have yourself a very challenging and satisfying old school platformer. Any cynics who dismiss a childish looking title for presuming it’s easy difficulty will often miss some quality games, and in this case switching to a tougher difficulty caused me to lose a good number of lives early on. Though 3D initially, the game is primarily a classic 2D side-scroler with 3D areas throughout, and with some jazzy camera angles, the game alternates between the 2 dimensions. To coincide with his new generation, Pacman has developed some rather nifty abilities and forms he can take thanks to new magical fruits scattered throughout each level; the demo I got my hands on gave me access to 3 of these powerful new forms. The first I experienced was called ‘Rubber Pac’, which saw our hero lose his arms and legs and become a bouncy ball to get to those hard to reach places. ‘Ice Pac’ does what it says on the tin, Pac becomes a round block of ice capable of freezing enemies and water structures to use as platforms. Finally I was introduced to ‘Magnet Pac’ that transforms Pac into a round metallic, magnetic ball and turns his tongue into a powerful magnet, useful for reaching certain enemies as well as distant platforms.
Despite the cosmetic surgery, Ghostly Adventures 2 still keeps the same themes that returning players will be relieved to see. You are still required to eat the tiny balls and bonus fruit, ghosts will still chase after you unless vulnerable and when you unfortunately die you’ll still be graced with that iconic jingle we all know off by heart. The game looks and plays brilliantly with each level being incredibly colourful and vibrant, as well as every background feature and non playable character being fully animated and approachable. Each level is packed full of secret areas and collectables to find to boost your rank and get that gold medal at the finishing point. To compare it to other titles in the same genre, each level is an adequate length providing enough challenge and minor game rage to it’s players. In comparison to the biggest action platformers on the market like Skylanders or the LEGO game franchise, you’ll find a lot more freedom and more impressive level design elsewhere, however for fans of the Rayman franchise or the old Spyro and Crash Bandicoot games, you’ll find a lot to relate to here with its more classic approach to the genre. The SFX and the music playing during the game still retain a very ‘arcadey’ sound, once again trying to keep this new revamped franchise recognisable to it’s older audiences. Something which may throw you off is the new found voice that Pacman has, which for me is a personal dislike. I believe if you give a voice to an otherwise voiceless character it can often change your opinion of said character, especially if they sound nothing like how you imagined them too, a prime example of this is Bruce Willis voicing Spike The Dog from ‘Rugrats Go Wild’; I never knew before then that Spike was such a cocky douchebag.
Disguising itself as your usual run of the mill children’s game, Pacman And The Ghostly Adventures 2 is a solid old school, action platformer and it seems great fun for anyone of any age. Boasting brand new characters, story lines, world’s and abilities, it is every inch an improvement of the first game, yet the decision to release a sequel 7 months later is a little baffling and hopefully it releases without any major flaws. With it’s vibrant and challenging levels, there’s enough here to keep young and old attention spans going for a while. It’s nowhere near the slickest children’s platformer available but it does give the franchise a refreshing new lease of life.