Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC) Review

Apparently we're having a month full of platformers here at SuperPhillip Central! We don't know about you, but seeing as we love platformers, we're okay with this! Our next review is a game we didn't think we'd like, but it ended up being rather good. It's Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures for Wii U, PS3, PC, and Xbox 360.

Pac's Back, and That's the Fact, Jack!

Pac-Man has been Namco's main mascot for quite a good while now. His arcade exploits still remain his most popular games. However, recently Pac-Man has appeared in several platformers and even some party games, attempting to allow him to branch out like other game mascots have in the past. His latest platforming romp just debuted on the Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC a few weeks ago, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. Pac may be back, but is that a good thing?

Not having ever seen the actual show this game is based off of, I was bewildered as to why Pac-Man was hanging out in high school with his former otherworldly ghost rivals, Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde. Regardless, the simple story has a sinister ghost and apparent nemesis to Pac-Man, Betrayus, wanting to turn PacWorld into a ghost's paradise. Pac-Man is on the job to help defeat Betrayus once more and in the process save PacWorld and its slew of denizens. If you can get over the cheesy voice work and nothing that special dialogue, you'll find a kid-friendly tale that doesn't impress or surprise. It's just there, but it's serviceable, as plot is pretty much meaningless in a platformer, serving only as an excuse for all of the running and jumping that proceeds afterwards.

Apparently, Betrayus just wants an Xbox One.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is your standard 3D platformer with some exceptions. One of those exceptions comes later in this review. Regardless, Pac-Man goes around the various linear 3D environments, gobbling up Betrayus' minions, collecting power pellets, and searching for hidden items like arcade tokens and items that increase Pac's health when enough have been collected. There are ample checkpoints to make repeated deaths not so frustrating.

Pac-o-polis is in trouble
and needs your help, Pac-Man!
Levels are relatively well designed, offering new tricks as the game progresses. My favorite world of the game happens fairly early. It is a ruins world where you transform into a ball and roll through an obstacle course full of platforms, enemies, and places to fall off. It reminded me heavily of Super Monkey Ball in some regards. Another level in the ruins turns Pac-Man into a bouncy ball, allowing him to jump back and forth between nearby walls to reach greater heights. This gets more challenging when the walls you have to jump off of move in and out of the way or can even crush you like a tin can.

That can't be sanitary. Who knows
how many other people licked that same pole!
To set Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures apart from other games in the mascot's history, and to other platformers in general, is the inclusion of different power pellets that turn Pac-Man into numerous forms. One can fling fire to light torches and burn enemies, one can freeze fountains to create platforms. The chameleon form not only allows Pac-Man's tongue to serve as a grappling hook to be used on specific poles to cross chasms, but it can also turn our yellow ball of fun invisible, great for not being detected by enemies. One of the cooler forms Pac-Man can turn into is Metal Pac, granting him the ability to walk on top of and under special magnetic platforms. Just like with the level design, these Pac-Man forms bring some needed creativity into the mix.


In one moment Pac-Man's world
turned completely upside-down.
There are optional bonus levels to take on in Pac-Man's latest. These are the most difficult (and I use that word loosely) parts of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. They generally involve particular platforming challenges, occasionally with a high focus on one particular Pac-Man form, and feature no checkpoints to speak of. One has Pac-Man needing to inflate himself like a hot air balloon. Then he can exhale to push himself towards air currents that will send him floating to faraway and/or high-up platforms.

I didn't think that Pac-Man had such
an inflated opinion of himself.
While these levels are the most challenging aspect of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, they never get frustrating, nor do the regular levels. When I died in a level, the only thing to blame for my demise was myself and not the game. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures quite possibly has the tightest and most responsive controls of any of his platforming jaunts, so I never felt out of control, even with the more precision-based power-ups in play. Even when chomping ghosts, Pac-Man would effortlessly move from gobbling up one nearby ghost to the next, never missing a beat. Additionally, the camera never gets caught on geometry, and it can be moved at any time via the right analog stick. All in all, the gameplay is surprisingly mechanically sound in this game.

Ice Pac can freeze these lava geysers,
turning them temporarily into platforms.
However, one questionable design choice was the decision to make the player complete a level twice to fully complete it. On the first time around, Pac-Man receives a fruit of some sort, which he happily gobbles down. The second time around, Pac-Man receives an arcade token to be used on one of four unlockable mini-games. I can't help but wish that there was something completely different rather than going through the same stage twice. Perhaps the return trip to a given level would have Pac-Man racing against the clock to reach the end of the level before time runs out. Anything would be better than what currently is in the game, which comes off as just laziness by the developers.

Another issue with the game is that it is quite short. My play-through, which included completing some levels twice, as well as finishing all bonus levels, lasted me about six hours. Now, I haven't done everything there is to do in the Ghostly Adventures, but the rest won't take that much longer. I understand the game is at budget price, but six hours for forty dollars isn't exactly the most enticing offer.

This game isn't shy about allowing
you to rack up lives.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures looks rather nice and runs rather well at least on the Wii U, the system this review is based off of. Characters and areas are brimming with color, and the game generally doesn't suffer much in the way of slowdown, even with countless ghosts parading on the screen, rather in an actual level or serving as a background sight. The music isn't such that you'll remember each theme long after you play the game, but it gets the job done and fits all levels and boss fights.

Most boss battles show signs
of creativity within them.
I was incredibly ready (perhaps even all too eager) to write off Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventure for several reasons: 1) I didn't enjoy Pac-Man World much at all, and this game reminded me of those games, 2) It is based off a cartoon series. However, I gave the game a chance, and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. There is good amount of creativity in the level design. Some levels are better than others, sure, but all are enjoyable to play. While many could paint Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures as a by-the-numbers type of platformer, I find it refreshing in a generation where first-person shooters and Hollywood wannabes seem to be so popular these days. Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures isn't the most remarkable 3D platformer, but its mechanics work and work well, and there is just enough entertainment you can get from the game to make it worth a try.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

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