Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures Review

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While booting up Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, I felt like I was warping to the past; to the 16 and 32-bit eras in which the platformer genre was king. Whether it was Wayne’s World, The Adam’s Family or Aladdin, a huge percentage of licensed characters were turned into platformer games because that’s what the popular genre was at the time. In 2013 however, it feels a little strange to see a platformer outside of the Mario and Sonic releases, so I was curious to see whether or not this would be a worthy outing.

Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Players: 1 (1-4 multiplayer mode)
Rating: E for everyone
MSRP: $39.99
Release Date: October 29, 2013

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In an intro that feels perfectly suited for the younger Saturday morning cartoon crowd, I learned that the antagonist, “Betrayus”, is trying to take over Pac-World by stealing all of the power berries. Despite the humorous name of the bad guy, I did leave this intro with a sense of what-have-I-gotten-myself-into sort of dread. Thankfully, the story steps aside and just lets you play for the rest of the game.

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Many of the levels have Pac-Man double jumping around platforms and fighting enemies along the way. As far as the platforming goes, the controls are kept about as simple as possible while increasing the difficulty based on the level design. You’ll have to jump across a series of platforms that disappear in sequence, and some of the more thrilling later areas have multiple paths of lava rocks flowing along a molten river; enough options to allow players to improvise. There were a few times throughout the game where I either lost health or died because I tried to get to an area that looked like it was part of the level but wasn’t, and I quickly learned to not trust what I was seeing.

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There are quite a few power-up abilities, but the rock ability is the one that managed to keep things fresh. Pac-Man gleefully yells out a pun just about any time he powers up (“I’m gonna’ have a ball with this one!”). While a rolling stone, Pac-Man can spin to create energy for a speedy dash, and though it’s rarely used, he can also still jump. He has the ability to slow himself down as well, which becomes really important in the times you find your momentum nearly throwing you off into an abyss or some acidic green goo. Most of the fun of the rock ability comes from mastering the movement, which has quite a bit of momentum behind it. You’ll do this while navigating treacherous giant moving gears, platforms that break, and narrow, curved paths. I found the levels in which the rock ability was utilized to be my favorites.

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It should be no surpise then that my favorite boss in the game was one in which the rock ability was used. Pac-Man rolls on a large circular rim, and in the center stands a giant stone god that’s come to life, his red ruby eyes glaring. The stone god causes boulders to roll along the rim, and Pac-Man has to rev up his boulder and release at the right time, smashing into the boulder and letting it fly right into the teeth of the boss. There’s only just enough room for Pac-Man to move back and forth to dodge flaming boulders, and with a bit of persistence the stone god falls. It’s really one of the only truly great moments in the game that can’t be had anywhere else.

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It’s unfortunate then that the rest of the game doesn’t quite hold up to the rock-focused levels. There are plenty of other abilities, but they’re not nearly as fun. The chameleon suit allows you to stick out your tongue to attack enemies, go invisible for a short period of time to avoid the combat, and you can swing on designated poles. The swinging didn’t seem to be as ironed out as it could be, I thought to myself as I fell to my death.

The ball ability makes Pac-Man bounce instead of walk, similar to the frog suit in Mario 3. Bouncing three times consecutively will make Pac-Man start to bounce just a little bit higher so he can reach platforms, but it just isn’t a fun mechanic. It probably would’ve been better if you could power up his jump while moving, releasing it when you needed to. After sitting in a spot and jumping three times in a row just to get a simple jump done (on several occasions), you might understand where I’m coming from. Smashing into the ground to attack enemies in the area is okay, but the wall jump areas feel like an unnecessary inclusion to the game.

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The fire and ice abilities are there to make you use those powers instead of just chomping right away, but they tend to prolong the fighting sections which got monotonous well before the game was over. It got to the point where towards the last third of the game I was just running past enemies to avoid confrontations. Though the enemies are varied enough, the fighting just gets dull fairly quickly.

There’s a multiplayer component to the game that allows up to four players to play as ghosts and try to get Pac-Man. There are several ghosts to choose from, but aside from visual appearance, there aren’t any differences. The round starts with each ghost in the middle, using a cool-down boost move to speed through the maze looking for Pac-Man. There are a few different weapons like a shot that encases others’ in goo, temporarily slowing them down, and one that splashes goo onto opponents’ screens. It’s an okay addition, but I don’t think it will hold anyone’s attention for too long.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a competent platforming game, but it tries to do too much. There are more abilities than I’ve pointed out here, but it feels like most of them were thrown in just to try to spice things up. In doing so, most of these sections feel like good ideas turned mediocre. On the other hand, the rock ability is the most used item in the game, and for good reason: it’s fun. I wish the developers had just chosen a few abilities and focused most of the game on them. As is, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a decent romp, but it tires out before it’s through, despite being relatively short at 34 levels.

Grade: C+

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Ryan Southard
Ryan Southard 776 posts

Ryan Southard is a video game enthusiast, dissecting games down to their tiniest details. Whether it's new or it's old, as long as it's awesome, he'll play it. Follow him on Twitter at @Ryan_Southard <a href="">Meet the Nerd Reactor Team</a>

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