Reviewed: August 29, 2006
Released: August 9, 2006
Okay, so here’s a question for you – and I want you to really think about this. Going way back into the golden age of arcades, who would you say is the very first, globally recognized digital superstar?
With that question in mind, please, in the name of all that is holy, don’t say Super Mario, because if you did, obviously I’m getting answers from the wrong generation and/or demographic, that and I’d have to slap you. Now if you said Pac-Man, well then give yourself a nice round of applause and a pat on the back. You’re certainly older than you look.
Pac-Man originally released back in 1980 - and to this day it’s still the best selling arcade machine in history, even outselling Street Fighter II and Tetris. Pac-Man at the time was gigantic and over the years the character has been merchandised to death, appearing in literally every conceivable form; from lunch boxes and breakfast cereals to Saturday morning cartoons. The character and this game are simply legendary. No wonder Namco, one of the world’s pioneer videogame developers is still around today. When a gaming cabinet has total revenues of over 100 million dollars, earned 1 quarter at a time, it’s hard to argue with its obvious success.
On an interesting side note and because the review of this game inspired me to look around the net, it should be known that a man from Florida named Billy Mitchell achieved the world’s first perfect game in Pac-Man. This phenomenal accomplishment was pulled off in 1999 and took over 6 hours to complete. Just to put this into perspective, this task required completing all the game’s 256 stages, eating every single dot and piece of fruit and eating all 4 ghosts 4 times per stage.
Compared with the difficulty I have in simply clearing a stage or two without dying, that’s mind-blowing. While the XBLA release of the game does feature leader boards, I’ll be truly impressed if anyone on there ever reached the 3,333,360 points the guy managed to accumulate. Good luck with that one people.
Anyway, enough with the history lesson; all you Super Mario people can stop arguing with the facts right now and realize that Pac-Man is king.
So with the latest release of Pac-Man (and there have certainly been many of those over the years) what exactly can we expect? Well, if that’s not already obvious, read on Pac-Fans.
Being a true arcade translation over the Xbox 360, you’re probably already in the know as to what awaits you. If you’re one of the few people out there who’s been living under a rock for the past 25+ years, here’s a basic rundown on how the game works.
Essentially the object of the game, like most classics, is simply to earn points and get the ultimate high score. Navigating your way around a maze and goggling up the many dots that line its floor is all that’s needed to do this. Clear away all the dots; move on to the next stage, rinse and repeat.
Along the way you can earn bonus points for eating up the various pieces of fruit and other items that inevitably appear. However, what would a game based around a high score be without something to get in your way and impede your progress? Also confined within the maze are 4 colorful ghosts with names that I frankly can’t recall with any accuracy. Inky, Blinky, Curly and Moe I think. The ghosts can kill you upon contact, but thanks to the 4 power pellets located in the 4 corners of the maze, you can momentarily turn the tides and gobble them up as well. This comes in handy when the pressure of eating dots while constantly being pursued becomes too much for your little Pac buddy to deal with.
Needless to say, that’s pretty much Pac-Man in a nutshell. In fact the game is so simplistic in design that all you need to play the game is the left thumbstick to govern your movements. As long as you have at least one hand with a poseable thumb, you’re in business.
Like all games released on XBLA, Pac-Man delivers up various achievements totalling 200 gamerscore. Much like Galaga, this title pretty much offer all of them up to player with little difficulty; mainly this is because, like Galaga, Pac-Man allows you to continue the game from the highest level you’ve managed to reach thus far. If you can make it to level 21, you’re pretty much guaranteed all the achievements except for maybe one.
In truth, the only achievement that offers any real challenge is called “Perfect”. Here, all that’s required is to eat all 4 ghosts, 4 times within a stage. Truth be told, I’ve hardly even tried for it, and probably never will. I have enough trouble eating all 4 ghosts just once – and my time is far more valuable than the knowledge of pulling off 100% in a 25 year old game.
[Editors Note: I just had to chime in here and say the controls are way too imprecise to play this game with the same level of accuracy as the coin-op. I was one of the few people to actually hit 3-million points back in the day. It only took about two game sessions on XBLive before all the patterns (there are only three required to beat this game) came back to me, but the controls are so twitchy (and even delayed at times) that "knowing" how to beat this game just isn't enough. Until somebody makes a quality arcade stick or a 4-way controller, this game is flawed.
Wow, where do you begin? A solid yellow Pac-man, colored ghosts with white eyes and a simple maze that never changes. Look’s exactly how I remember it, save for perhaps the cool artistic border that now frames it. Pac-Man is all it ever was and nothing more. Chances are the version you have on your PDA or perhaps your cellular phone are pretty much identical to this one – it’s that basic.
Oh, and it has HDTV support too. Hah, what’s the point?
“Wocka Wocka Wocka”
400 Marketplace points, while only around $5 will always feel like a total jip unless you’re a hardcore fan of the classics. While I haven’t investigated it, chances are you can find a free Shockwave version of this game online in less time than it takes you to read this article. It’s a shame when the only value I find in this game comes from boosting my Gamerscore a few more notches.
While I love XBLA and I understand the principle behind it, games like Pac-Man just feel like a cheap ways to cash in on Live subscribers. With Live Arcade I’m far more supportive of the idea behind promoting small independent game developers. Developers who simply don’t have the funds or the manpower to compete with the big boys. XBLA has thus far shown great promise for the future and will likely lead some small companies toward greatness – and while I’m aware that classic game’s from arcades and retro consoles are going to be there a part of it regardless, I don’t necessarily agree with the pricing structure.
I’d rather pay 400 points for a Namco classic pack of say, 5 games than for just one. I mean Namco has released the same slew of titles over and over again. When is enough well… enough? 400 points? Heh, I laugh at that, be realistic. I’ve already paid for this game, paid all my life. Thousands upon thousands of quarters, it’s time to give something back.
There’s something to be said for the thousands or possibly millions of people this game has likely touched over the years, only true fans are likely to get the full version of this one. Still, one never knows, maybe Daddy will download this game simply to say “Hey, junior, stop killing hoe’s in Grand Theft Auto and take a look at some history”.
I know that for me, my Pac-Man days on the 360 are probably already behind me, but I keep one thing in mind. There are a few little ones around my place who simply aren’t going to have the skills (not yet anyway) for most modern day games and one thing is for sure; 20 digital quarters can last forever on Xbox 360. Far longer than those 20 quarters lasted me in the smoky arcades of my youth. While it’s original appeal is certainly lost on me, as I’ve gotten older, I already know as a fact that very young kids are beyond caring about things like graphics and next-gen. For them, Pac-Man and other classic like it, still have one thing going for them, simple pick and a play enjoyment.