Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pac-Man World 2 (PS2, GCN, XBX) Retro Review

Phil here. I got excited with the announcement of the Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, as I have always enjoyed Namco's Pac-Man. It made me want to try out a previous Pac-Man platformer with Pac-Man World 2. Boy, was that a mistake. Here's my retro review of the game.

"Pac" It Up, Boys. We're Done Here.

The PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox generation brought with it an astonishing amount of platformers, both 2D and 3D. For someone like me, it was one of the best generations because of that. Though popular in the 80's, Pac-Man never really gained the same amount of popularity and as much of a legacy that Mario, Sonic, Mega Man, among other mascots have acquired. Pac-Man never truly went away, but his games weren't the big events that his contemporaries had. Namco wasn't willing to put the yellow sphere with arms and legs to rest as he appeared in non-maze game form with multiple platformers. Pac-Man World 2 is but one of these, and it's one that will make you want to play the NES port of Pac-Man. It's pretty bad.

Pac-Man World 2 starts off with a batch of Pac-Man's rivals, the ghosts, picking cleaning the Magical Golden Fruit that rests on an ancient tree in the center of Pac-Village. Little do they know that by doing this, they have awakened a diabolical evil that slumbered below. Pac-Man once again enters the fray to visit six different worlds to beat up the boss holding onto each of the six Magical Golden Fruit.

The worlds in Pac-Man World 2 for Pac-Man to explore are highly varied, though they rely greatly on established level tropes. These range from forests to icy mountains to plundering the depths of the ocean. Each world has about five or so levels to complete in them, including a brain-dead boss battle. I say this as the way to beat the boss of each world is literally shown to you via dialogue. I know the game is meant for kids, but kids aren't that stupid nowadays, are they?

If you can imagine this game looking any worse,
please do. These are bullshots.
Each main level is laid out in a rather linear way. You must get from Point A to Point B without dying by losing all your health or falling down a pit. There are numerous fruit, gold tokens, and Pac-Dots to collect, all optional, but help get you towards that prestigious 100% completion percentage for each level. The only drawback here-- and it's a big one-- is that if you die, all of what you collected needs to be gathered again since your last checkpoint. The issue here is that the placement of checkpoints is not consistent. You might have upwards of five minutes to redo and collect everything all over again, and there's no guarantee you'll succeed as the levels can be quite challenging.

With a Power Pellet, Pac-Man is unstoppable
against these otherwise impenetrable foes.
However, it's not that the level design is what makes Pac-Man World 2 challenging. No, instead it is because Pac-Man controls as tightly as a pair of 2XL pants on a 98 lbs. girl. That is to say, not well at all. You never truly feel in control of Pac-Man in a genre where tight controls are paramount for a precision jumping-based platformer.

The blue B-doings will bounce Pac-Man 
high into the air, perfect for crossing large distances.
Then there's the camera, which does everything in its power to get caught on geometry and make awkward angles that make carefully leaping across chasm to chasm an effort in irritation. Sure, you can use the right stick to try to fight with the camera, but it will be a futile battle as the camera always seems to do what it wants to do.

To those wonder if there's any resemblance of the old Pac-Man arcade games to be found in Pac-Man World 2, there actually are. In every non-boss level there are hidden Galaxians that will transport Pac-Man into Maze Mode, where you get three lives to collect all Pac-Dots while avoiding the four ghosts pursuing you. These are honestly a good bit of fun, and it's a shame that more of Pac-Man World 2 couldn't play like this, as the 3D platforming just doesn't work well and feels incredibly unpolished.

This second installment of the Pac-Man World series feels pretty cheap in the presentation department. Cut-scenes are as grainy as a bowl of a General Mills cereal, there's a good amount of slowdown, horrible camera angles, and eye-ruining jagged graphics. The only saving grace of Pac-Man World 2's presentation is the music, which consists of some rather catchy tunes. However, even then, most the levels of a given world are just the same melody with different instruments, so there is repetition to be had.

Lava or leave it.
Yes, these bad puns are free.
Pac-Man World 2 is an abysmal 3D platformer that struggles to keep the player entertained for very long before they enter a bout of immense frustration. The controls are too sloppy for the careful platforming Pac-Man World 2's levels require, the camera might as well be controlled by the ghosts as it is just another enemy to contend with, and the overall presentation just feels incredibly cheap. What is disappointing and aggravating is that there was a lot here that could have made for a good game had these aforementioned issues been addressed and/or given more time to stew in the proverbial pot. As it stands now, Pac-Man World 2 is one Pac-attack that you can gladly skip out on.

[SPC Says: 4.0/10]

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