Reviewed: January 2, 2006
Released: November 15, 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.
Despite some next-gen presentation techniques, 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.
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. 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 energize Pac-Man with an Electro-Shock pellet to jolt the enemy with some chain lightning, or turn Chrome for some temporary invulnerability. But my favorite has to be the Ribbon Loop pellet that creates a glowing trail of energy behind Pac-Man just like the Tron light cycles. You have about 20 seconds to run around drawing circles around the enemy, and once you complete a circle of energy it will compress inward destroying everything inside.
Another item of note is the Galaxian icon that will initiate a classic top-down maze game allowing you to munch dots and ghosts for bonus points and extra lives. Itís a great diversion from the main game and once you unlock these mazes they are available to play as standalone mini-games from the main menu. Collectors Cards are also scattered about the game and are viewable as bonus items in the menu.
And last but certainly not least are the silver 25th Anniversary Pac-Statues. There are five of these hidden in each level and if you manage to find each and every last once you will unlock a special bonus prize at the end of the game. Good luck Ė some of these are really hard to find and even harder to get once you do.
Control is really intuitive and the Xbox gives you a slight advantage over the handheld systems by allowing some independent camera control with the right stick. You also get the occasional in-game terminal where you can save your game; a feature that is not available on the handheld versions.
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.
Pac-Man World 3 is easily one of the most beautiful platform titles of the year. There are six earthly realms and the surreal Spectral Realm that all offer very unique locations to host the gameís 15+ levels. The designs for these levels work nicely in that you donít have to do a lot of backtracking. Alternate paths usually lead to shortcuts or connecting routes to the other unexplored areas and the Pac-Dot Machines offer a quick and automatic way to travel long distances in a short time.
Pac-World is alive with saturated colors. The game just leaps from the screen with all sorts of glowing energy and swirling particles that drift through the air. While the robots and monsters arenít terribly inventive, the Spectral Monsters are a nice twist on the traditional ghost concept and even a bit scary.
The sense of scale is massive and after climbing upwards for literally 15-20 minutes of gameplay you can look down at the game world below and get a bit queasy. And when you have to start walking along narrow ledges or beams, or make a tricky jump, or shimmy along a wall over a bottomless void, itís unnerving to say the least.
The only glitch I really had a problem with in the entire game was the unpredictable shadows. Especially in a 3D game like this where you often have to jump up to get an item above you, a shadow on the ground is very important. Oddly enough, some dots had shadows while others right next to them didnít and the same goes for fruit and statues. Most of the time it didnít really matter, but there were other times where I was jumping three or four times to grab that pie slice hovering above my normal reach.
I probably should have mentioned the opening cutscene in the previous section, but Pac-Man World 3 opens with a stunning CG movie complete with voice acting. Yes, for the first time in the history of Pac-Man, our yellow hero speaks. Pac-Man has never been the most vocal of characters, having had nothing much to say for himself other than the odd "wocka wocka" for the past 25 years .
From a list of more than 300 candidates, actor Martin Sherman, whose performance credits include Gangs of New York, Band of Brothers and Batman Begins was chosen to give Pac-Man his voice in Pac-Man World 3, and what a voice it is. Not only is the banter between Pac-Man and Orson cleverly written, the performances are outstanding. Sherman has also done voiceovers for a few video games including; Second Sight, Timesplitters: Future Perfect and Driv3r.
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.
Unfortunately, the Xbox doesnít get any of the cool multiplayer modes of the PSP, but you can still enjoy the classic original along with all those Galaxian unlockable mini-maze games. Admittedly, these arenít as appealing as standalone games on a console as they are on a handheld.
Call me crazy but I really loved this gameÖmaybe more than I should, but keep in mind I grew up with this game character. I was the first one in my arcade to hit three million points and shut down the machine, and Iíve played just about ever iteration of Pac-Man to come along for the past 25 years.
Pac-Man World 3 is the perfect marriage of classic arcade pellet munching combined with modern platform item collection. The combat isnít terribly challenging but there are some decent logic and jumping puzzles, and there is an unceasing sense of awe about this game as you enter each new level. This is one of those few games where the journey far outshines the destination, and a must-own game for kids or kids at heart.