Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a game in which you step into the tottering shoes of a 90’s raver with serotonin syndrome, munching pills and turning to darker and darker drugs to fulfil your bizarre cravings throughout a twisted, cartoony hallucination.
Oh, what? It’s just a kid’s game? But the subtext seems so dark.
To be frank, I don’t know where to even begin this review. Should I outline a few minor surface disappointments, along the lines of I always imagined Pac Man having a voice like Barry White, not an obnoxious American toddler? Should I point out where the game impressed me, such as the fact that ghosts are constantly referring to their titular yellow nemesis as the Pac Man!, instantly conjuring up images of a glorious Christian Bale/Pac Man hybrid taking place in Pac Man: Arkham Asylum (WHERE IS THE FRUIT GOING?!) Or should I just wade straight in with jaded cynicism and bile thinly veiled by constructive criticism?
It’s the latter. It’s always the latter.
In my time in Pac Man’s thoroughly average adventure world I found myself injecting my own humour into the game. What we have here is a template so blank, so outright cookiecutter that the only feasible way to have any sustainable fun is to essentially dub over the existing content with your own bleak imagination. It’s as standard a platform hopping, enemy munching game as they come, and it’s only truly bad because of its’ blatant mediocrity. The game is certainly fully functional. But then again the same thing could be said for your kitchen appliances, and you wouldn’t want to spend hours staring at them (and if you would, hook me up with whatever it is you’re smoking).
Now, I’m not saying that I wanted to see an arthouse Pac Man game, with a cigarette hanging limply out of Pac’s lips, a beret perched upon his dome, in which you only interact with by pressing the spacebar to sigh contemplatively (Bonus points for completing the goatee stroking QTE). I’d just like to see one of gaming’s most iconic figures treated with a little more imagination. I’m pretty sure at one point in the game’s trailer it uses the word “wacky”. General rule of thumb – anything that purports to be wacky is going to be pretty damn far from wacky. It won’t even be zany. Those words should have been left in the nineties. Hell, a sidescroller would have had some amazing potential – but this generic template of a world just leaves a sour taste.
What’s most enjoyable about Ghostly Adventures from an adult perspective is the downright surreal undertones. There’s always been an element of horror to Pac Man, running around a darkened maze, escaping ghosts and chomping on pills, but now Pac eats the whole ghost and collects their eyes. He keeps some kind of morbid count on how many Ghost eyeballs he’s eaten, and it’s the game’s way of giving you extra lives. Even spookier is that Pac Man is basically Pac Boy at this point in time. You get the chance to fraternise with the original four ghosts – Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde – in the game’s hub world, and this just seems cruel, the game’s main activity considered. “Oh, hey guys, I was just out there eating all of your friends, wanna see their eyes?!”.
Pac has visuals going in his favour, I suppose – the game’s very colourful and cutesy, and everything has that Disney kind of rounded edge. It’s Soft Toy – The Game, and it’s going to spoonfeed you or your sprog lots of meaningless and unchallenging gameplay. Parents: This is the videogame equivalent of taking your kid to McDonalds for dinner every day. It’s not going to nourish their growing appetite for entertainment in the way that the classic Spyro or Crash Bandicoot games did. It has nothing on the Ratchet and Clank original trilogy. Frankly, it’s eerily soulless. Maybe Pac Man and his weird little friends died and this game is just their bodies living on in denial, trying to make some vague pretense at humanity. Maybe they were the ghosts all along. You can be as cutesy and colourful as you like, but if there’s no imagination – no real love and soul at its core – you’re just going to be left with a bland product incapable of compelling.
In summary, Ghostly Adventures lurks somewhere just beneath “average”, with the only real points of interest being the bizarre murderous undertones. Oh, Pac Man. How the mighty have fallen. Maybe one day, I’ll be in Italy, and I’ll look across at the restaurant I go to every afternoon and see you there, with a family. And we won’t say anything. I’ll just look at you, and we’ll both know.
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.