Pac-Man Championship Edition

   11/06/2007 at 12:12       Nick H       4 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
Last week to some over the top fanfare from Microsoft Pac-Man Championship Edition was released to coincide with the Pac-Man World Championships. Expecting another slightly better Pac-Man, dragged from the past with all its problems intact, I downloaded the demo. To my surprise I got something different, and it became my third Pac-Man purchase on the 360.

In Pac-Man: CE Namco has managed to create an evolution of the formula that remarkably moves the series on without losing what made Pac-Man fun. The major change is that the level is not finished once you've cleared it of all the pills. Instead, the playing field is divided (invisibly) in two, once you've eaten all of the pills on one side of the maze, a fruit appears in the centre of the maze. This fruit will, when eaten, re-spawn in the empty side of the maze with new pills and walls (with an array of different mazes to be seen) so you can continue chomping away. The aim is now not to clear as many levels as possible scoring points on the way, but to score as many points as possible in a time limit.

This time limit, another new feature, really focuses the gameplay into a frantic 5 or 10 minute game, perfect for a blast while waiting for the wife to get ready. High scores are gained through skilful, speedy play rather than endurance, and this in turn gives you an immense feeling of satisfaction.

The game has been cleverly balanced to help players of all different skill levels enjoy the same content. The pace of Pac-Man and the ghosts gradually increases as your score increases and the faster you score the faster the game gets. Skilled players will chain power pills (a new addition to the series) to get massive points bonuses, leading to the game speeding up rapidly and bringing on more of a challenge. While less experienced Pac men, and women will be able to gradually collect points at a more sedate pace, and still feel challenged to their ability.

For me, this is Pac-Man:CE's great strength, you can play the same 6 modes as you improve, each time aiming to better your scores, and those of your friends. As you do improve, the game speeds up to match your improving skills. The modes offer different challenges based on the same basic plan, varying in time limit, speed, maze difficulty and there's even a challenge where you can only see the maze a couple of inches around Pac-man, making avoiding the Ghosts (who remain visible) doubly difficult. Whilst graphically similar, the challenges all have a slightly different feel to them, with differing tactics coming into play. Making it to the end of the time-limit on each, which can be quite a challenge, rewards the player with an achievement, but the real quest is as always, for a high position on the online leaderboards.

For the serious score chasers there's a graph at the end of each run that let's you see where your points came from. The graph shows which area you performed best in, whether it be chaining ghosts, eating fruit or avoiding death. Early high scores have tended to focus more on Ghost Combos, as staying alive long enough for the standard pills to be worth loads can be tricky at my skill level, especially when the pace of the game really gets going. But the graph gives you a nice idea of what you need to improve and something to aim for.

Much has been made about the 800 point pricing of the game, and for purchasers of Ms Pac-Man and Pac-Man like myself 1600 points stings a bit. The price would undoubtedly have been better had it included one or both of the older titles, as both Geometry Wars and Jet Pack did for half the price. However, I've had so much fun with the game that I wouldn't hesitate to hand over 800 points again for Pac-Man: CE, and I figure that means for me at least it's worth it.
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HairyArse - on 11/06/2007 at 15:47 wrote:
I'm actually really intrigued by this having heard John Davison from 1up eulogising about it this weekend - this review only reinforces that notion.

Trip SkyWay - on 11/06/2007 at 17:12 wrote:
If you haven't already, it's at least worth a go on the demo.

I think it's a lovely update, the different modes offer some nice variety, and the achievements are spread sensibly throughout encouraging you to try everything.

Binky - on 11/06/2007 at 18:09 wrote:
I quite agree. Tried the demo, the mrs even tried the demo, Purchased it there and then. A great new way to play pacman imo.

Binky - on 11/06/2007 at 18:13 wrote:
Forgot to say, the new graphical stylings are great!

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Enjoyed this, cheers!
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