Developer: Blitz Games
Release Date: November 15, 2005
It's been 25 years since Pac-Man has infiltrated the arcades and subsequently the minds of gamers all over the planet. The simple gameplay – still entirely too much fun to this day – where players guided a little yellow sprite consisting of two animations (one part whole yellow circle, one part pizza pie with a slice missing) around a maze, gobbling up trails of pellets while avoiding four ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde). If you chow down on a power pellet, the tables are turned, as our hero Pac-Man now has the ability to eat the ghosts.
And that was pretty much it. And it was great. There's a reason that it or some clone inevitably appears on just about every platform with even the potential for viable gameplay. It's simple, but fun.
Naturally a sequel followed, and it happened to be perhaps even better. The star of this new game was Ms. Pac-Man – strikingly similar to her husband, but topped off with a lovely pink bow. Her game featured a variety of different mazes and cute cut scenes, something virtually unheard of in games at the time.
Dozens upon dozens of sequels, updates, and other incarnations have since followed, but none have carried any of the impact that Ms. Pac-Man had. Namco recently has been trying their hand at a 3D action series called Pac-Man World, geared towards younger players and, I'm sure they hope, folks who fondly remember the little yellow guy and gal. They've finished work on the third entry in the series, Pac-Man World 3, neatly coinciding with the original title's 25th anniversary.
The game does in fact kick off with a cut scene commemorating this event. It seems Pac-Man has settled down with his missus and there's a son in the picture as well. As mom and son present the cake they've baked to Pac-Man (topped off with a "25" decoration, naturally), something strange happens. Pac-Man begins teleporting all over the yard before finally disappearing from sight completely. It seems an ex-nemesis of his, Orson, now requires his help in saving the world from this fellow named Erwin, but unfortunately, his teleportation device has gone awry. Pac-Man finds himself in a disgusting, trashy sort of place reminiscent of a big robotic dumping ground, flooded with green gunk.
Thusly the game kicks off. It is, in fact, full of somewhat interesting areas such as this, where platforms are intermixed with big robotic parts that need to be utilized to solve simple puzzles. There's a variety of areas, including dangerous mountainous regions, massive fortresses, creepy catacombs, and even the ghastly spirit world. Along the way, you'll even meet old-timers Pinky and Clyde, who actually lend a hand in your adventure, offering up some neat abilities to help you through tight situations.
Pac-Man's basic arsenal of moves is fairly predictable, though, all told: he can run, jump, punch, do a bouncing butt-stomp of sorts, and rev up and spin at enemies a la Sonic the Hedgehog. While the platforming is simplistic, it often calls for intricate jumps on small platforms and tricky runs down narrow beams; thankfully, the developers have finely tuned the controls so that controlling Pac-Man is actually a joy. He controls very smoothly, and there wasn't a moment where I felt too out of touch (except for when the somewhat cantankerous camera proved troublesome).
Our yellow fellow also gains temporary abilities by collecting power pellets, just like in the past. Regular power pellets turn enemies pale blue with fright and allow Pac-Man to gobble them up, and electro-Shock pellets grant him the ability to shoot electrical bolts from his hands. The Super Stomp pellet gives him the weight of a boulder, adding a huge shockwave to his butt-stomp. The Chrome Pellet shields Pac-Man from some damage. Arguably the coolest is the Ribbon Loop pellet, which creates a trail behind Pac-Man; as he draws circles around his enemies – groups of them, even – they are treated to a fine explosion when the trail connects. Nifty.
Blitz Games have included a number of throwbacks to the old game. You will sporadically encounter areas where you must participate in old-style mazes to continue, where you must eat a power pellet and consume all of the ghosts before continuing. You can even jump into a recreation of the original game, somewhat fancified, at certain points. There are regular pellets smattered absolutely everywhere in the main game for Pac-Man to eat. They are added up at the end of the level in a high-score listing, which can be improved upon if the player wishes. You'll also be able to unearth a ton of unlockables over the course of the game.
Pac-Man World 3 looks slightly dated, but instead of trying to up the ante with highly detailed environments and characters, the developers wisely chose to preserve a smooth framerate and went with crisp, if sometimes simplistic, textures everywhere. Animation is done well enough, with Pac-Man dynamically blending different actions and continually mowing down pellets. While the overall game does little to wow players, it plays well enough and looks far from horrible.
The sound is good, but not outstanding. Music is sometimes catchy and sometimes a little annoying. Poignant sound effects have largely been borrowed from the old games, which is a nice touch, if a little out of place with the 3D graphics. By far the strangest element, though, is the voice work. While it's certainly expected of games with dialogue today to be spoken, hearing Pac-Man speak is at once surprising and a little disconcerting. I almost would have rathered they kept him quiet, and I now understand why Nintendo has chosen to keep its Zelda series quieted despite new technology: almost any choice of voice actor is going to seriously upset a large portion of fans. Nonetheless, Pac-Man World 3 doesn't really suffer because of the voices, but it is peculiar to hear Pac-Man with a real voice.
Pac-Man World 3 basically does what it intends to do. It provides a solid platforming title that, while not really trying anything very new, succeeds in executing well-established 3D platforming mechanics. It's a good title for kids – it controls well, the levels are interesting, and the references to Pac-Man 25 years ago are respectful. Not everything comes off without a hitch (the camera being a prime suspect), but aside from that, the only other "problem" is a general lack of being a little too cozy in its kinda generic platforming. Fans of Pac-Man should check it out, as should parents looking for a good platformer for their kids.
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