For one of its first forays into Nintendo's newest handheld, Namco Bandai has chosen to not deliver a new experience, but a nostalgic one. Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions brings together two of the publisher's most storied franchise in a six-pack of games that is heavy on content but light on enjoyment. Though the compilation does a few things right, it feels mostly unnecessary, and there's nothing in this package that justifies the cost of ownership.
Of the six games included in Pac-Man & Galaga, two of them are brand new. Pac-Man Tilt morphs the yellow hero into a sort of cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and a game of pinball. Players control Pac-Man directly via the circle pad, but also manipulate the environment by tilting the 3DS left and right. Changing the lay of the land allows our hero to jump otherwise impossible gaps, move platforms so that he can reach and grant access to previously inaccessible areas. It's a neat concept that puts a new spin on a classic franchise. The only real downside is that the constant tilting means that there is no 3-D effect in the game, lest it be broken every time the player contorts the handheld. Still, it's a fun distraction, and later stages grow very challenging. Of all the games on the pack, this one is likely to suck up the most time.
Galaga 3D Impact is the other new offering, but it doesn't fare quite as well as Tilt. This on-rails shooter tasks players with fighting off waves of enemies from a cockpit viewpoint, all while moving and tilting the 3DS to alter the view and track down enemies. Those who don't have the space to flail about can instead opt for the circle pad, but the window moves a touch more slowly with this method, and that can be a fairly big issue in a twitch shooter. Impact also expands the traditional Galaga arsenal, granting players access to missiles, bombs, shields and more to fight enemies. The catch is that each weapon must be earned first by sucking up enemies in a tractor beam. Different baddies correspond to different weapons, so you may have to make a split decision as to whether you want to upgrade your lasers or gain access to a shield — all while enemies are trying to blast you. There's not a lot of depth to it, but it adds a twist to traditional shoot-'em-ups.
Unfortunately, Impact has very little staying power, as the entire game can be completed in under an hour. In fact, the game must be beaten in one sitting because if you quit in the middle of the campaign, you have to start over from scratch the next time around. Furthermore, death in any stage sends you all the way back to the start, so you'd best hope a boss doesn't get off a lucky shot just as you're about to take him down. Otherwise, it's a long trek back to the beast's lair. Impact is the type of game you play once for the experience and then forget about afterward.
Also included in the package are 3DS versions of Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Dimensions. Both games were released previously on Xbox Live and PSN, and that's probably where they should have stayed. Though these handheld remakes are acceptable, they don't come near the quality of their older brothers.
Pac-Man: CE provides the traditional maze-running, dot-chomping, ghost-snarfing fun of the original, but in a decidedly more up-tempo fashion. Each maze is revealed one part at a time, the next set of pellets only unlocking after you gobble up a fruit placed dangerously close to the ghosts' spawn point. The stages are very unpredictable, and that's what makes them the most fun. You never know if the next batch of dots will include a precious Power Pellet or if you'll have to make a run past all the ghosts to get to the newly unveiled group of dots. It's easily the most exhilarating way to play Pac-Man.
Of course, if you're a fan of such games, you've likely done it all before when the game was released on consoles, and those editions were far better. The 3DS iteration is squished and cramped, and the added 3-D effect is so insubstantial you may not even notice it. Sure, there's a bit more depth to the mazes, but it really adds next to nothing.
Much of the same can be said of Galaga Legions, which adds to the traditional bug-blasting formula by allowing players to place helpful satellites around the stage that can cause additional carnage. This is another case where the console version far outstrips the handheld, and the reduced real estate of the 3DS screen really hamstrings the experience. Both games can still be enjoyed on the 3DS, but there are much better games that have been around for quite a while. The only reason you'd want to play these games on the 3DS rather than on the Xbox 360 or PS3 is because you're such a hardcore fan you need Pac-Man and Galaga with you wherever you go. I'm guessing that's a small pool of gamers.
Rounding out the collection are the classic versions of each game, which I suppose were included for the purists. There's really nothing new to report here, beyond the fact that the 3-D display and classic arcade cabinet frames create the illusion that you're standing in front of the machine playing the original games. There may not be a quarter slot on your 3DS, but otherwise, it feels completely authentic. It may actually say a lot about this compilation that the best use of the 3-D effect is to make really old games look even older. Let that sink in.
On top of all the other issues with the games, Namco Bandai has also decided to permanently tie one set of saved data with the cartridge. Much like Capcom did with Resident Evil: The Mercenaries, there is no way to reset or delete old saves. (Editor's Note: Namco Bandai recently announced a way to circumvent the save data snafu.)
At the end of the day, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions feels like little more than a halfhearted attempt to cash in on a couple of long-running franchises. The new games included in the mix are decent, but nothing special, and the other available titles have seen better versions on other consoles. The total package is a passable way to waste some time, but there's no compelling reason to buy it.
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