Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (XBLA) Review
Title: Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Namco Bandai
Rated: E for Everyone
I always liked to play the original Pac-Man. It offered simple fun to kill a few minutes or an hour, depending how lucky I got.
However, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX takes the simple formula and builds on it, making it all about high scores and seeing who’s the best. Somehow, though, that’s made the game even more fun for me.
There are a total of eight levels in the game, along with two variants on all the levels. The main principle on each level is the same. Pellets will spawn on one side, and then the other. You have to eat all the pellets and the fruit (or other object) that appears before more pellets spawn on the opposite side. You keep this up until you either run out of time or collect all the fruit, depending on the mode.
The two variants are also interesting to go through. Darkness has you playing each level to get a certain number of fruits in the best time you can, but the only light you’ll see is around you and the ghosts. The other mode, free, lets you play any levels you beat to memorize the pellet patterns and paths to take. You get infinite lives and bombs here.
The good thing about the new levels is that each one has a unique feel and strategy. Take the Champions I level, which has a power pellet on each path and no sleeping ghosts, making it so that you have to eat the free will ghosts if you want big points or get them to form a chain. Or take the Half level, which only spawns pellets on one side of the level surrounded by ghosts you have to remove.
True, the pellets normally line up so you can try to plan ahead as to what to eat. However, if you want to make the top high scores, sometimes you need to deviate off the path a bit to get to pellets quicker or to add ghosts to your ghost train.
The ghost train is probably the best addition to the game. While Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde will chase you during later levels, there are also ghosts asleep along the path that will wake up and join the train behind you as you go along. Up to 30 ghosts can be on the chain at once, and ghosts with free will can join the train if you almost run into them and move the train near them.
The ghost train has two awesome features. First, it always changes colors in a rainbow fashion, making it great to watch as you speed along. Second, when you get a power pellet, the fun truly begins. Besides eating ghosts in front of you, you can turn around and eat the train behind you. Some of the ghosts may also have power pellets in them to extend the chain, while others may have bombs that you can use to launch ghosts away that could kill you.
Another thing to note is that if you’re about to hit a ghost, the game will slow down to give you a chance to use a bomb. It also gives you a chance to try and find a path to escape on. However, sometimes the game likes to slow down a bit too much, even if you already have a new path to take planned out.
The game doesn’t give you all the levels or modes at once. You only start off with Champions II, and the short time attack mode and five minute score attack mode. After beating the score attack and getting the best score you can while surviving, you can unlock the 10 minute score attack, and score attack and short time trial for the next level. The pattern continues like this to unlock each subsequent level.
Each stage has a variety of modes, but they fall under three categories. The score attack has you trying to get the most points in either five or 10 minutes. Time trials have you trying to collect a certain amount of fruit from each side of the board. There are numerous short trials and one long one for each level. Finally, you have the ghost combo, which unlocks only after beating the 10 minute time trial. This mode has you trying to eat the most ghosts at once. After completing a chain, you can either keep going to try and do better, or you can finish the level.
Personally, I’m probably the weakest in the ghost combo mode. I can rank in the top 1,000 in the time trials normally, and I’ve had some high scores around the 100-400 range on the leaderboards.
The great thing about the game is it shows you your ranking right next to each individual mode, along with your rank on each level and overall game rank. Seeing the number go up or down can really drive you to keep going to improve just a bit more to advance up in the standings. The leaderboards also let you view the top 2,000 replays on score attack to see how players got a high score so you can try and imitate them to improve you own score. I have a few videos floating around myself, just look for Vengeful Rain.
For players wanting to try for the best, you’ll want to start on expert mode. True, it gives you less lives and bombs, but it starts you off at a higher speed and allows your top speed to be higher than medium or beginner. The speed increases in the level by scoring points, and can jump by leaps and bounds when eating a ghost train.
Graphically, each course has eight visual styles to choose from, ranging from neon, to the classic, to even the Lego block style. The color can also be changed in each level to what you like. Not only that, but the character and ghost style can be changed as well. So, you can have a pixilated Pac-Man on a neon level or the original on the Lego block level.
The sound is also top-notch. It starts out with the classic intro, but goes into a pulsing beat when you start moving. The beat always pushed me forward to eat pellets as fast as I could. Not only that, but you’ll soon be filling the room with the sound of devoured pellets, waking ghosts and bings as you devour chain after chain.
Overall, fans of the arcade game or just gamers that like a bit of competition will really like this game. It’s simple, yet offers a lot of strategy for players to learn to get the top score. Even though I’ve beating almost every stage, I’m still already looking forward to going back and trying to improve on my scores. One of the best Arcade titles to come out this year.