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Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3, WiiU, Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2013 (US), March 7, 2014 (EU)

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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3DS Review - 'Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures'

by Brian Dumlao on March 7, 2014 @ 12:15 a.m. PST

Built upon the timeless and wildly successful Pac-Man legacy, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures boasts an entirely new and exciting gaming adventure.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a decent 3-D platformer that plays it safe within the confines of the genre and doesn't branch out. It worked fine, but it wasn't that memorable on most platforms. On the Wii U, it was the only other good 3-D platformer aside from Super Mario 3D World, making it a solid recommendation for those who somehow never got Mario's latest game or had exhausted everything in that title. If Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures had stuck to the same formula on the 3DS, it would've likely gotten the same pass since there are so few 3-D platformers on the system. However, this iteration decided to go for 2-D platforming instead, but the 3DS system has plenty of those. As a result, it becomes more difficult to recommend this title.

The plot in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures on the 3DS is very different from the console game. Betrayus, the leader of the Netherworld, has tasked his doctors with creating a ray that can change the size of any and every object in the world. Knowing that his nemesis Pac-Man will stop him, he has also made sure to steal the Tree of Life, the source of Pac's powers. Armed with his own power pellet tree and his crew of friends, Pac sets out to clear PacWorld of the ghostly invaders before going to the Netherworld to stop Betrayus and recover the Tree of Life.

By no means is this a complicated plot, but the more straightforward story brings it more in line with the TV show than the story presented in the console title. It also gives the game a chance to let Pac's friends help out rather than be hostages who must be rescued. There are a few more cut scenes than necessary, and a few take much longer than normal to finish, but thankfully, everything can be skipped if you really want to get on with the game.

When you start out, the game feels exactly like any 2-D platformer should. Pac travels through the world picking up pellets in lieu of coins, and every 100 pellets give him an extra life. He can eat food to replenish his health and perform a double-jump, which actually hovers for a bit before pushing him upward. He can also eat ghosts, and unlike the arcade original, he doesn't need to ingest a power pellet before he can devour them. He can also stun bigger enemies to make them more vulnerable to multiple chomps. New to the formula are special power pellets that give Pac different abilities. The chameleon pellet, for example, lets him use his tongue to slingshot himself or grab enemies from afar. The magnet pellet lets him bring enemies closer, and the ice pellet unleashes a freezing breath to stun explosive blocks and enemies. If you've played the console game, the powers are pretty much the same, though they're slightly diluted to make sense in the 2-D world.

Aside from the change in perspective, the approach to the game is very different from the home console version, which offered a more linear experience. This game takes a page from the Mega Man series:  Once you finish the first level, you can visit every other level in any order you want. Most of the stages highlight a specific power pellet type to use, and completion of the level permanently grants you access to that pellet type. You can revisit any stage with the new powers, but they're mainly used to unlock new paths and extras. The power pellets are different from the console game in that you have a set number from the beginning of each level. You can switch between powers at any time, which proves invaluable in the final stage, but each power has a time limit attached, and switching powers burns away any leftover time on your previous power.

The core game isn't that bad. There's a decent mix of platforming and combat in each level, and the powers you gain are used in some inventive ways. There are a few hidden secrets and a nice use of abilities to gather up extra picture pieces. Levels aren't very difficult to navigate, but the level of challenge feels perfectly balanced for younger gamers rather than older ones. Even though the design isn't extraordinary, it is certainly good enough.

There are a few things that drag down the experience. The first is the number of elements that are repeated over and over again in levels. Meet up with any of your friends, and they'll always be riding around in the same vehicles and going through the same types of sections. Whether it's flying around in a cherry copter for a boss fight or using a pineapple tank to get through electrical fields, it gets too familiar too quickly. Speaking of bosses, some of those fights are also repeated far too often. It is understandable to see some of them repeated in the final level, but some stages feature the same boss at least twice, and they're using the same pattern as before. It begins to feel tired. Even though the game is made for the younger set, the boss hints before the fight make them much easier than they should be. Part of the joy of platformer boss fights is figuring out things for yourself, and by having the strategy laid out from the get-go, the fun is sapped away from the battle.

Perhaps the most puzzling thing comes from Pac, who acts differently from his console counterpart despite being in essentially the same game. The float double-jump would be nice if his floats didn't take so long to gain some altitude, and even then, the height gained from it is minimal. Chomping at enemies leaves him vulnerable to attack, and there are times when enemies and bosses alike get in cheap hits because the projectile or weapon hits you just as you finish devouring an enemy. Worse yet, when you're trying to get a chomp combo, Pac pauses every four chomps to look at the camera and voice his approval. It breaks up the flow and feels unnecessary.

The sound in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is fine. The music is decent platformer material but nothing especially memorable. Despite the different environments, the quality and tone of the music feels like it can be interchangeable for each stage. The effects match some of the old and new games and fit nicely in this version.  As for the voices, everyone only usually says a word or two, and only Pac and the ghosts say anything while in combat. When you consider the amount of in-game cut scenes and the storage capabilities of the cartridge, full voice would've been nice.

Graphically, the game is quite good. Like the console game, the colors are rather bright and look very good on the 3DS screen. The characters are modeled and animated very well, and the particle effects, while unspectacular, also look nice. As for the 3-D, it is also well implemented. There's a nice amount of depth shown when the effect is on, and there are plenty of scenes that use it nicely. There's a good separation of elements, and some of the enemy attacks were enhanced by it. While the use of 3-D isn't necessary to enjoy the game, it's a nice bonus for those who want to turn it on.

As stated in the beginning of the review, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is tough to wholeheartedly recommend for 2-D platforming fans on the 3DS. Pac is mostly good, though a few oddities hold him back from being a fully plausible platforming hero, especially since those same issues aren't present in the home console version. The level design isn't anything special, and the repetition of bosses is disappointing. The ability to choose which levels to play is nice, but the game can be finished in less time than it takes to drain the system battery from a full charge. This isn't a terrible 2-D platformer, but with a larger selection of stronger titles in the genre, this should only be considered after tackling the other games first.

Score: 6.0/10

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