Review: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (PS3)

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Title: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (3.8 GB)
Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games of America
Developer: Namco Bandai
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and PC.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.

Gameplay:
Pac-Man is back once again with a 3D platformer and thoughts immediately run to the Pac-Man World series which was surprisingly good for its time. There’s one major difference here however which complicates things, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is based on a new television series airing on Disney XD. Produced by Avi Arad, yes the same Avi Arad running Marvel Studios, the series comes up with a new backstory for Pac-Man and it’s aimed squarely at kids. Borrowing liberally from Harry Potter, orphan Pac-Man learns that he’s destined for greatness.

Pac-World is inhabited by Pac-people of many different shapes, sizes and colors. Being the only yellow one and having an unusually large appetite, Pac-Man is picked on at school and has a terrible time fitting in. Years ago, there was a failed rebellion in Pac-World led by Betrayus (subtle huh?) and he and his followers were turned to ghosts and cast into the Netherworld. Now they’ve escaped (due to an accident by Pac-Man) and they’re looking for revenge.

As it turns out, the “yellow ones” are the only ones that can stop the ghosts (by eating them of course) so now Pac-Man is the only one to stand in their way. The four ghosts from the original arcade game, Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde are involved but quickly find themselves siding with Pac-Man, essentially playing double-agents in the story.

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I tell you all this because almost none of it is explained in the game. The assumption is that you’re well versed in the new show and if you’re not, you’ll be pretty confused right off the bat.

As a third person platformer, the game has you moving from level to level, eating ghosts and dots, but unlike a more traditional Pac-Man game, you can eat the ghosts at any time. With the relatively straightforward controls, a button to jump and a button to chomp, the game seems pretty simplistic at first but just underneath the surface (and past the early levels) lies a game with much more variety than expected and a ton of collectibles.

The biggest draw to Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is in that variety. The moment you transform into a giant stone ball and roll around the level aping Marble Madness you’ll quickly realize how different this game actually is. Taking a page from Mario’s playbook, eating different color Power Pellets gives Pac-Man new suits with special abilities.

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A Lizard Suit not only allows you to use a giant sticky tongue to platform across wider gaps but also to camouflage yourself for a short time and sneak past enemies when necessary. One level may have you bouncing along like a ball, back and forth between walls to climb ever higher while another has you sticking to girders upside down in a magnetized Metal Suit.

Some suits are required for defeating certain enemies, like the Fire Suit which allows you to blast cold ghosts, melting them a bit and making them edible. You’ll also need that fire to melt ice blocking your way or to melt and change platforms created by frozen fountains. The opposite to that is the Ice Suit which allows you to cool down lava enemies and lava fountains creating new pathways through the levels.

Each major area ends with a mini boss battle and while some aren’t entirely obvious at first, they’re all pretty easy to beat including, unfortunately, the last one. Beating each level gives you a fruit and collecting seven of each unlocks the arcade games back in the school hub area. You’ll also need tokens to play the games once unlocked but they’re readily available throughout the levels hidden in trash cans and such. These are more than just a simple distraction, with one being a Pac-Man themed Defender clone and another a full on shmup. While they each consist of only four levels, they’re all very much worth the extra effort required to unlock them.

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Like many 3D platformer games, the camera can be a problem at times. Even though you control it with the Right Stick, hitting an area with a large number of ghosts can cause issues. The developers tried to account for this to a certain extent by allowing you to chain ghosts within range by repeatedly hitting the chomp button while aiming at the ghosts. It works well enough but you’ll still sometimes find yourself in the thick of things staring at a wall.

With all the collectibles, there’s plenty of replay value here and trophy hunters will be thrilled to know that a Platinum is pretty well within reach.

Visuals:
While it’s nothing flashy, and it certainly won’t be mistaken for a big budget title, the look mimics its namesake TV show pretty well. All the characters and a number of settings (most notably the school) are pretty much identical to the show.

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Subtleties like Pac-Man’s breath being visible in the ice levels and visible heat distortion are counterbalanced by no real reflections in the ice or water. Textures and backgrounds are surprisingly detailed in places and the quiet nods to Pac-Man history will be appreciated if you’re a fan.

They’re certainly not taxing the system with anything they’ve done here but for a forty dollar title, it’s actually a lot better than I expected.

Audio:
At first it all seemed like generic cartoon music, the kind of weak, soulless stuff you get in most kids cartoons produced after 1979, however, I was wrong. I started to hear familiar riffs and eventually realized that music and sound effects from a myriad of Pac-Man games has been subtly woven in with the background music, everything from the Atari 2600 version to Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. It really managed to hit me with an unexpected wave of nostalgia.

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The voice actors from the series all reprise their roles here which is great, but… being a kids show, they tend to be a bit goofy. They did eventually grow on me to the point where I at least didn’t mind them anymore but they may grate on some people.

Online/Multiplayer:
While there’s no online element here, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures does include a unique local multiplayer option. Up to four players can compete as ghosts in a third person perspective hunting down Pac-Man in a number of mazes.

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As you search the maze, you can grab power-ups to slow down or kill your opponents. You’ll also have to contend with Pac-Man’s buddies who are wandering around trying to slow you down or outright kill you, forcing you back to the center to regenerate. If Pac-Man grabs a Power Pellet you’ll need to make a run for it as well. Relentless AI will fill in if you have anything short of four players so you can enjoy this mode on your own if you want. Actual online multiplayer would have been welcome here, but the mode really would require some beefing up if that were the case. It’s a clever twist and a great idea for a multiplayer mode in a Pac-Man game, it just falls a little short.

Conclusion:
In the end, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a good game and the variety is the big surprise here. While the camera can be problematic at times and the platforming a bit imprecise, the game changes things up often enough and drastically enough to never really let it go stale. One let down is that it’s so squarely aimed at fans of the show that they don’t even bother to give newcomers any kind of backstory or insight as to what’s going on. Not that it’s Shakespeare, but some more background would have made the experience better.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Roxio Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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  • It look like fun from what I saw Josh play at Extra Life. But never been a big Pac-Man fan.