Everyone loves Pac-Man right? Since he hit arcades back in good old 1980 (when I was just 4 years old), Pac-Man became a global phenomenon and Mascot for gaming. Who knew that something as simple, and a little odd, as a yellow dot with a mouth, chomping on other dots… would garner such attention… oh and there are some ghosts too… But the gaming industry is a strange beast, giving birth to not only this, but mushroom killing plumbers and super sonic hedge pigs!
So, here we are in good old 2009, and he is still as loved as ever. But are we not all getting a little bored doing the same old thing again and again?… catch this blue ghost here, collect this strawberry there, and chomp these pills everywhere… and repeat! Well, apparently not because Pac-Man has appeared on pretty much every device there is, I think he’s even appeared on a fridge/feezer! Still, to avoid this possibility of boredom Namco have released Pac-Man remix for iPhone. Hot on the heals of Gallaga Remix and Dig Dug Remix, it takes the tried and tested formula of Pac-Man and… well… er… remixes it! So, does it give you everything Pac-Man should be and more? Well, yes and no!
What Pac-Man Remix does bring to the table are more diverse levels. There are themed lands, shown on an overworld map, each with 5 levels to complete. Presented in a 3D style similar to PacMania, the levels feature increasingly intricate maze designs, with obstacles designed to help and hinder our yellow friend; including speed pads, raising platforms, doorways and warp pads. There are also powerups available to pick up along the way… there is still the much loved power pellet which turns the ghosts blue, but there are now new ones, such as Jump, allowing you to hop around and perform a power jump when necessary. My personal favourite though is mirror image. This gives you a ghost like mirror image of your pac-man in the maze, he’ll move in the exact opposite direction to your pac-man and can help you gobble up the pellets and ghosts.
The major addition to Pac-Man though, are Boss levels. Featuring the ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde, these battles take place in an empty maze. You must avoid these super-sized versions of the ghosts which, depending on the levels, use gadgets and powers to try and squash you. Power pellets are at hand, which when eaten will cause the boss to split into tens of mini blue ghosts. Gobble them all up before they turn back into mega ghosts and you win. The final showdown features all four of these spectral meanies and will certainly test your skills. Luckily the previously mentioned powerups are available to aid you, plus a generous amount of lives and continues in both easy and normal modes.
While the game doesn’t look terrible, it could have done with a bit more polish. The in-game graphics are bright, and a little too colourful for my tastes… but my problem lies more in the resolution, which looks jaggy. I can’t quite tell if the game is running in true 3D or not, or if it’s all pre-renderd 3D backgrounds and sprite based. The camera is fixed, so I don’t see why it would need to be running in 3D… but then if it is pre-rendered, why not make it look more polished? Still, this is PAc-Man we are talking about and not Halo, so this bright arcade look can be forgiven. What really yanks my chain though are the uninspired home screen and menu subpages. They are so generic and boring, and really don’t fit in with the rest of the style…I’d like to see a bit more effort in this area please Namco.
The main sore point with the game though are the controls. And with a game like Pac-Man it’s ALL about the controls! You are given two choices, control pad or swipe. Personally, the control pad is the most useless excuse for a virtual d-pad I have ever seen. It’s pretty much un-usable in this environment, where quick timing is crucial. Instead of being arranged like a typical d-pad, allowing your thumb to flick up, down, left or right with ease (or relative ease in the case of a non-tactile virtual stick), this d-pad is arrange in such a way that you must constantly look down at it to see where you are pressing, this is because if you flick your thumb across from left to right you will hit either up or down first, as they are placed in between… crazy!. So, this leaves you with the only viable control option, and one that I feel Namco should have selected as the default… and that’s Swipe! Here you flick in the direction you want old Pac to turn, and around 90% of the time he’ll do so. you can even swipe in advance and cue up the move before hand. It’s a good option for the most part, but it’s a little clunky, and the longer (and sweatier) your finger swipes, the less responsive it seems to become.
Finally the game is a little short lived, while the original game ramped up harder and harder over hundreds of levels, Pac-Man remix only features 30 (6 of which are boss battles). I managed to breeze through these on normal in about and hour and half. After which you can play in a harder difficulty, but that’s it. There are no global leaderboards, or bonus modes… not even the original game is included, ala Gallaga Remix, which is a shame.
The Bottom line
Pac-Man Remix is a fun add-on to the classic Pac experience, offering you some fresh gaming to the tried and tested formula. However, a short game experience, less than ideal controls, and uninspired graphics stop the game from becoming a must buy for Pac fans. At $5.99 it’s a little steep, even for a gaming icon… especially when the original classic game is not “PAC-ked” in.
Presentation and Graphics
Bright and colourful. Resolution is low, and it looks more like a DS game. The menus are ugly!
Classic sound effects and cheesy arcade style music fits the game well. You’ll want to turn it off after a while though.
There is fun to be had, the power-ups and levels designs are cool, but the game is let down by poor controls.
Breezed through it in less than two hours. Once it’s over, there is little to entice you back.
Pac-Man Remix is out now for $5.99