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Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Release Date: Sept. 13, 2016


PS4 Review - 'Pac-Man Championship Edition 2'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 5, 2016 @ 5:00 a.m. PDT

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 features new eye-popping 3D mazes with unique visuals, a wide variety of dynamic mazes, the new ability to bump ghosts, and the addition of intense giant sized ghost boss battles.

Buy Pac-Man Championship Edition 2

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor. In the classic Pac-Man, you were trapped in a maze and asked to eat pellets while avoiding ghosts. Collect the pellets, and finish the stage. Championship Edition twists this up a bit. Pellets are now located in paths that you follow, and it's a puzzle to figure out how to follow the pellet path to get a single unbroken chain. As you eat the pellets, the maze instantly shifts to introduce more complex patterns. The challenge is to maintain the chain for high scores while staying within the time limit. It's hard to imagine where you go from there, and to some degree, Championship Edition 2'sgreatest weakness is that it doesn't seem too sure, either.

Championship Edition 2 has a few changes to the basic formula.  Eating pellets isn't the win condition anymore, but it fills up a bar that makes a fruit or Power Pellet appear. You don't have to eat every pellet to move on; you only have to eat enough pellets to trigger a fruit to appear. Eating the fruit instantly moves you to the next part, regardless of how many pellets are left. Eating all of the pellets in a stage earns you a bomb so you can execute bomb jumps, which I'll get to later. The balancing act is whether you waste time going for out-of-the-way pellets or jump to the next map to keep your chain going.  This can get even more complex in later levels, when the game throws out moving fruit and pellets that have to be chased down before you can finish the stage.

This is a large twist to how the game plays, so you're not expected to get every pellet on a stage and push through the early stages to reach later levels and attain high scores. Every map you finish by eating all of the pellets earns you a bomb, which you can use to instantly jump to the start point of the map — where the fruit appears. By using it wisely, you can quickly collect the fruit and eke out a few more seconds. While the optimal strategy is getting perfect chains, if you screw up, you have to decide if it's better to get back on the path or skip to the next section of the map and start over there. There are also jump pads that instantly warp you from one pad to another, and figuring out these teleport mazes is critical to cutting down on your time for high scores.

The biggest change to the Pac-Man gameplay is in how ghosts function. In traditional Pac-Man games, the ghosts wander the maze, and touching them is instant death. In Championship Edition 2, ghosts are now divided into leaders and minions. The former are the traditional Pac-Man foes, and the latter are ghost outlines. When you pass by a minion, it "wakes" up and attaches itself to the nearest leader ghost. Effectively, this means that the ghosts are like the snake in, well, Snake because they only get longer and tougher to dodge.

This is where the second major change comes in. Ghosts no longer kill you in one hit. Instead, you can tap them a couple of times with no punishment other than getting briefly knocked back. Tap them too much, and they'll fly into the air. After a moment, they land, become enraged and absorb the entire train into themselves. At this point, they do function like Pac-Man ghosts and kill you on impact. Power Pills appear after certain levels; eating it allows you to devour the leader ghost. Your goal is to take up as many minions as possible, tie them to a leader, and then eat as many leaders as you can while under the Power Pill's influence.

I didn't like this change, which feels messy and leaves the ghosts feeling boring. Having leeway in how to handle the deadly enemies made them feel much less impactful. You're a lot more likely to run into a ghost than you were in the original Championship Edition due to the higher speed, but you get so many mulligans that it drains the tension from the experience. It's still possible to die, but rarely does it feel like an omnipresent threat. The game also throws in Boss Ghosts, who you "fight" by completing mazes. They are probably the biggest disappointment, as they were an opportunity for cool gimmicks but they don't really do anything but change the background slightly.

There are a few different gameplay modes. One is Score Attack, where you're given a time limit and thrown into one of a variety of mazes. Your goal is to get the highest score possible within the time limit. This is harder than it sounds, as it involves near-perfect mastery of the levels. There's a variety of Score Attack levels, and they come in a different difficulties. Single Train levels mean there is only one deadly ghost instead of four. Practice is easier and gives you a longer time limit. There is also an Adventure mode, where you're given a strict time limit to complete an objective, which usually requires eating a certain amount of fruit. Finishing Adventure mode levels unlocks new challenges, including the aforementioned boss battles. Championship Edition 2 is a score attack game, so you'll be playing to improve, not to see a plot or ending.

Championship Edition 2 isby no means a bad game, but it isn't as fun as the previous Championship Edition because it stretches the Pac-Man rules so far that it feels messy. What made the prior gameso great was that it felt like a natural extension of Pac-Man rules while adding enough new gimmicks to feel like a fresh experience. Championship Edition 2 is faster but not fresher. The improved speed feels like it comes from toning down the fast-paced gameplay. The various rules, gimmicks and features don't feel like a natural integration to the basic Pac-Man gameplay. It means that Championship Edition 2 may be a sequel, but it's different enough to find someone who liked the original not liking the sequel. I had fun with it, but it wasn't an instant, addictive, absurdly fun experience like the first Championship Edition.

For the most part, Championship Edition 2 has the same basic visuals. It combines simple 3-D models with a 2-D camera to mimic the classic Pac-Man and allow for some cool visuals. In particular, the camera changes to a dramatic flying gobble 3-D view when you eat a ghost. The visuals have been softened up slightly, likely because the intense pulsing neon visuals of the original would be a recipe for a headache combined with Championship Edition 2's faster speed. It's a little disappointing because it isn't quite as kinetic as the original but it still looks quite good and it's easy to keep track of everything on the map. The soundtrack is excellent and contains a lot of fast-paced, pulse-pounding music that sets the frantic tone for the rest of the game.

At the end of the day, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is a solid sequel that suffers from trying to add too much to a formula that was almost perfect. It's still plenty of fun to play but feels too excessively bloated compared to the excellent original. If you're a fan of Championship Edition,then you'll find a lot to like in the sequel, and newcomers should find it an accessible place to start. It's an interesting evolution of the Pac-Man gameplay and makes for a solid pick-up-and-play title for players of any age. It is, after all, still Pac-Man at heart.

Score: 7.5/10

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