Reviewed: August 29, 2006
Released: August 22, 2006
Pac-Man World Rally is the latest in what has become a seemingly endless stream of combat racing titles following in the tire tracks of legends like Mario Kart Racing and legendary knockoffs like Jak Combat Racing and Crash Bandicoot Racing. All of these games follow the same foolproof design of taking a well known franchise, putting the leading cast of characters in miniature karts, throw in some weapons and familiar locations for the tracks and you have a solid dozen hours of racing.
Pac-Man World Rally delivers on all of these expectations with 16 characters from the Namco universe, 16 challenging tracks divided among four cup challenges, plenty of weapons, power-ups, fun short cuts, and several race and challenge modes for solo racers as well as support for up to four players.
There is no denying the influence Mario had on this game from the comical kart designs to the use of boxes scattered about the track to house your power-ups. I was seriously expecting to see a blue tortoise shell taking out the leader.
Control is extremely arcade and perhaps a bit too touchy at times, especially with the A-pad. You can use the D-pad but that's not much better. You just have to learn to adapt and do a lot of fine-tune adjustments as you navigate the twisty tracks.
From the main menu you have your core race mode that presents all 16 tracks in four cups. You can also pick your character, each with a unique kart and stats like acceleration, top speed, weight, and maneuverability. Despite the wide range of stats all drivers seem to balance out nicely. A few bonus characters can be unlocked by winning the circuit mode on each of the three difficulty settings.
If you don't have time to tackle the lengthy circuit mode you can opt for a quick race or hop into a challenging Battle Mode where you get all new weapons, a life bar, and five battle mode variations including, Classic, Binge (eat the most fruit), Deathmatch, Free for All (timed deathmatch), and Last Kart Driving (king of the hill).
And then you have three entertaining Challenge modes like Time Trial where you set race and lap records for each track, Clockbuster, a timed race where you have to keep eating dots to keep putting time back on the clock, and Letter Hunt, a fiendish race mode where you not only have to win the race but also collect all the letters scattered about the track to spell out PAC-MAN.
You'll naturally spend a lot of time in the circuit modes where you can unlock tracks and drivers for the other types of games. The races in PWR are just like any other kart racing game with a few nifty nods to the Pac-Man universe.
Power Pellets are located around the tracks. Driving through these will cause long lines of Pac-Dots to appear up ahead. Driving through these will fill your Pac-Mobile Meter and when this is filled you can activate a special power-up that morphs your car into a giant turbo charged Pac-Mobile and turns the competition into blue ghosts that you can gobble up if you can catch them. This can go both ways and sometimes you might find yourself as a blue ghost racing for your life.
Fruit Shortcuts are another cool feature that gives the game a decisive Pac-Man feel. Tracks will have shortcuts - some obvious and others slightly hidden, but they will always be locked with a fruit symbol, and until you drive through that piece of fruit somewhere out on the track you won't be able to access them.
You'll also want to keep watch for numerous Pac-Boxes located around the tracks. These come in blue and green varieties, containing single and triple power-ups respectively. The computer racers are surprisingly aggressive in seeking these out and even cutting you off to steal one you might be aiming for.
There are numerous power-ups like green, red and blue Pac-Bombs, Atomic Pellets (speed boost), Storm Clouds that rain on other players causing them to skid, and Snowmen that throw snowballs at other karts and even trap them in blocks of ice. There are many others but I don't want to spoil any of the surprises.
There are some creative weapons like the Banana Ram, Blueberry Blaster, Cherry Bomb, Grape Grenades, Strawberry Striker (homing missile), Watermelon Seed Spitter (rail gun) and several others including special weapons like Black Pac-Bombs and the Galaga Ship that must be unlocked by consuming blue ghosts during races.
Graphically, the game shares the same world design and vibrant color scheme of the Pac-Man World games. Each of the 16 courses are very detailed and unique while magically conforming to the overall Pac-theme.
The character and kart designs are fun and creative and the animation has all sorts of subtle details and clever special effects. The PSP version is definitely a step up from the console with crisp graphics and relatively smooth framerate.
The music was surprisingly fresh with unique songs for each track that not only fit the theme of the environments, but also managed to incorporate signature Pac-Man sounds into the mix.
Sound effects are an even split of whining kart engine noises and fun effects for the various power-ups, weapons, all mixed in with some subtle environmental noises. They even snuck the wacka...wacka noise in when eating dots and the siren noise when you activate the Pac-Mobile.
Between all the cool karts and weapons combined with fantastic track designs, various race modes, and some decent AI, PWR is a really great racer perfectly suited for the PSP. You can play it for five minutes or five hours.
Expect a solid 3-5 hours to get through a complete circuit. You can then tackle the harder difficulty modes, check out those challenges, or seek out some multiplayer battle sessions. There is potential here for months of quality gameplay.
I'm a huge racing fan and I grew up playing Pac-Man, so this combination was as tasty as a peanut butter cup for me. I've always enjoyed the 3D Pac-World games and this is just like those, only with fast little karts and dozens of fun and quirky power-ups. It might not be the deepest racing game on the PSP but it certainly is one of the most fun.