Reviewed: January 7, 2005
Released: December 7, 2005
There arenít that many intellectual properties that can withstand the test of time, but Pac-Man has endured for more than two decades now. In fact, the Yella Fella has just turned 25, and along with some wonderful 3D trappings, he also comes with a wife and kids in his latest adventure to hit consoles and handhelds this holiday season.
Itís admittedly a bit depressing when I can remember playing the very first coin-op version of Pac-Man in a real arcade. If nothing else, it certainly dates me and my gaming addiction, but it also gives me a unique insight when it comes to reviewing Pac-Man World 3.
While you didnít really need a motivating story to clear maze after maze back in the 80ís, next-gen gamers apparently need a reason to play their games, so Namco sets us up with a nifty plot that has our hero getting whisked away during his 25th birthday party. He is teleported into a pit of toxic waste by Orson, a ghost-turned-ally, who needs Pac-Man to thwart the sinister plans of the evil genius, Erwin.
Apparently, Erwin has created siphons that are sucking out the energy from the Spectral Realm, home of Orson and the rest of the ghosts, and using it to power his army of robots and quite possibly destroy the entire universe. Itís up to Pac-Man to once again save the day.
Pac-Man World 3 doesnít steer too far from the formula that has made him a worldwide phenomenon. Your primary goal, as with any Pac-Man title, is to eat dotsÖlots of dots. But that hasnít stopped Namco from giving our hero a contemporary facelift, and given their surprising success with their previous two Pac-Man titles on the DS I had high hopes for this port.
Naturally, moving from a 2D maze to a fully realized 3D world has turned our hero from a pizza-minus-a-slice to a perfectly rendered sphere complete with legs and arms, allowing Pac-Man to not only run and jump but also engage in some fisticuffs when it comes to battling a whole new gallery of monsters and robots.
Sure, the original ghosts are back, but in this adventure they are actually ďfriendsĒ, or at least the objects of rescue for Pac-Man. Pinky and Clyde even become playable characters at times for solving some of the gameís more ingenious environmental and combat puzzles.
Pac-Man World 3 is one of those games that you can enjoy whether you are six or sixty, although you may need the patience of a six year old for some of the later levels. You are initially eased into the action and control scheme with a tutorial that is integrated right into the first level. Here you learn how to punch, jump, butt-bounce, rev-roll, and perform advanced combos. New techniques are introduced throughout the story, as they are required until you have quite the impressive arsenal at your disposal.
Levels are massive in scale and quite complex in their design, but a lot of this epic scale is lost on the small DS screen, partly due to size and partly because of troublesome camera angles. Youíll often have to explore several diverging paths to push buttons, activate machinery, lower bridges, or open doors to continue. Trails of dots will always show you the areas you have yet to explore in your quest to find every collectible item in the game.
Yes, you cannot have a platform game without collecting things and dots are only the beginning. Youíll want to be on the lookout for a wide assortment of fruit, often hiding on high ledges, hidden alcoves, or inside thousands of crates you will inevitably smash throughout the course of this game. You'll also want to locate pie wedges to restore your health, bonus lives, keys, and multi-colored crystals.
Crystals are keyed to unlock Pac-Dot Machines, perhaps the coolest feature in the game. Once activated, a stream of dots will spew forth in a spiraling 3D path and once Pac-Man chomps the initial red dot he will be sent on a rollercoaster ride as he flies through the level in a dizzying animation. While you can repeat this ride as often as necessary, you only get points for the dots on your first trip.
While there are a host of monsters and robots to do battle with in this game some of the more dangerous encounters are the Spectral Monsters. From time to time a spiral vortex will open between the real world and the Spectral Realm and orange monsters will spew forth. Now itís time for some classic power-pellet chomping, ghost-munching gameplay. Scarf a glowing power pellet and watch the monsters turn blue then chase them down and gobble them up.
Power pellets arenít the only power-up in this game. You can also enhance your butt-bounce with a Super-Stomp move or make Pac-Man invulnerable with the Chrome power-up. Unfortunatley, two power-ups from the console and PSP didn't make it. The Electro-Shock and Ribbon Loop power-ups are gone, obviously their effects too demanding for the DS. They are sadly missed, especially the Ribbon Loop which is probably the most inventive concept in the entire game.
Controls are fairly simplistic and the touch screen is offered as an alternative to performing some of the advanced moves like rev-roll, or controller Pac-Man in a maze or activating switches or buttons. Mostly, the bottom screen serves merely as a status screen and nothing more. The D-pad works well enough for movement but isn't as fluid as an analog stick, especially for picking up dots in circular patterns.
There can be a few quirky control issues like the forward momentum of your punching combos that can send you off a cliff if you arenít careful. And if you hate jumping puzzles then the invisible platform mazes will surely spark a migraine. Sure, these mazes are pretty easy when you have a trail of dots lighting the way, but once you have to start backtracking through open space; it can be quite daunting.
There is also some clever cooperative work with a few of the original ghosts. Blinky can be activated at certain locations and be used to solidify spectral platforms so Pac-Man can use them later, and Clyde can be activated and used to combat monsters that Pac-Man is unable to fight himself. Itís all predetermined when and where to use these ghosts, but itís still fun nonetheless.
What was a truly gorgeous game on the Xbox and PSP is not terribly attractive on the DS. Admittedly, I had played the PSP version entirely and was about halfway through the Xbox version when my DS copy arrived, but even rating the visuals on their own merits, the colors are washed out, the textures are grainy, and the entire game just lacks that polish and definiton that even the previous DS Pac-Man titles delivered.
The game does get creative with the VR maze game using a top-down view of the maze on the lower screen and a 3D version of that same maze in the top screen. The only problem I had was that I just kept looking at the bottom screen while playing since you can see the entire maze rather than just a few feet of the current hallway in the 3D view.
The sound effects run the gamut from classic ďwocka wockaĒ as those trails of dots disappear to the ďwhir whir whirĒ siren-like sound as you chase down blue monsters. There is the smashing sound of a thousand-plus crates, the sound of chomping fruit, and all sorts of subtle environmental noises that bring these massive worlds to life.
The music is fun and cheery but there isnít a lot of it, so you are often left with large periods of musical silence during the larger levels. Still, itís better than rehashing the same theme song over and over. It only makes the music stand out that much more when it does kick in for those special moments.
Pac-Man World 3 gets progressively more difficult the longer you play, both in the level design and the physical and mental challenges required of you to play it. Expect a solid 15-20 hours to complete this game, and make sure to save whenever possible. While health and bonus lives are relatively abundant, some levels like the invisible mazes can drain a reserve of 10 lives rather quickly.
You can also enjoy quick spurts of Pac-Man playing the new VR maze game and going for that top score. There is also a video interview with the creator of Pac-Man, but unfortunately there are no multiplayer modes on the DS. It's a shame because the wireless gameplays worked so well on Sony's system.
Unfortunately, I can't recommend Pac-Man World 3 for the DS, especially if you have the option to play it on any other system. While I commend Human Soft for packing in as much content as they could, the single-frame stills from the console and PSP movies are no substitute for the actual movie, and the total lack of voices, especially considering the amount of humorous Pac-Man and Orson banter, is just too detrimental to the overal presentation and gameplay experience.
I supposed if you don't know what you are missing you can still enjoy this game on the DS, but I would encourage you to play Pac-Pix and Pac'n Roll first. Both are far superior Pac-Man games and some of the best original DS titles going. It only goes to prove that the DS should be home to original games and not hacked up ports.