Pac-Man Championship Edition DX Xbox 360
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is one of the better time-sinks released on XBLA this year, with sufficient scope to entertain for a five minute game, but equally challenging enough to keep players toiling away for a couple of hours should they so wish. It may be very much a single player experience, but as long as you have a few friends on your leaderboard to battle against, it can easily evolve into an obsession.
Just as 2007’s Pac-Mac CE turned the ideas of the original Pac-Man up to eleven, DX turns the ideas of CE up to eleven all over again. This is achieved by having a veritable ton of stuff happening on screen at once, although stopping just the right side of reason to make sure you have a chance to react to the madness – if only by a split-second at times.
Gameplay sees a change this time too. Like CE, you play in a constantly evolving maze that changes every time you eat a fruit. Although this time when the maze evolves, not only will it have some new yellow pellets for Pac-Man to collect, it will also have some sleeping ghosts. To wake the ghosts up, you just have to pass near them, and once woken up, they jump into action, chasing Pac-Man around the maze. Every time the maze evolves, there will be more pellets, fruit, and yet more sleeping ghosts to eat up.
After a few evolutions, some power pellets appear and Pac-Man, of course, chomps them up. You then do a one-eighty and eat up all the ghosts that had been following you, having just turned that fantastic shade of blue. The score then skyrockets, and should your mind be wired in the same way as mine, you should be filled with an awesome mix of nostalgia and satisfaction, and an urge to tell all that’ll listen how awesome gaming is.
That’s the gameplay in a nutshell, but getting a good score is all about building Pac-Man’s speed up. To get him to a high speed is simple, just do things right! If you get caught by a ghost, you lose a life, then your speed is slower when you come back. However, if you think you will get caught, you can unleash a bomb (yes, the little yellow guy has bombs now!), which knocks all the ghosts chasing you back to their home in the screen centre. However, using a bomb also slows you down a bit, so it is best to avoid them too.
The game is however kind about not wanting you to die, as now, when you get close to a ghost, Pac-Man slows down (in a kind of bullet time mode) to give you a chance to duck into another lane, or double back on yourself to stay alive. However, the clock keeps going at the same speed when you hit bullet time, So you don’t really want to do that either, as you’re wasting your valuable seconds. If all that’s not enough to try and wrap your head around, it is also best to build a really long conga line of ghost following behind you, so when you finally chomp a power pellet, you can then eat fifty, seventy five, or even a hundred in one go.
It really is a great challenge to try for a high leaderboard position. However, that is just the competitive side of Pac-Mac CE DX. If you put the game in the hands of someone less stressed about high-score perfection, then the new bullet time and bomb options give them a chance to get out of sticky situations without them feeling they are failing at the game. It really is an awesome set up that manages to please both audiences without feeling like the game is compromising its style to appease either one.
I initially went into Pac-Man Championship Edition DX thinking it may be a little too similar to Pac-Man CE for its own good. However, I quickly found it pretty much blew that game out of the water. Not only has the amount of content increased tenfold (there are now nine mazes, with each having multiple variations), but the gameplay is an almighty step up to boot.
DX really feels like the kind of game that would shine if it were released in Pac-Man’s old stomping grounds. I could easily see it drawing an excited crowd around an arcade cabinet, as they gather to watch someone duck and dive down lanes in a frenzied manner with a near-comically large line of ghosts behind them.
It is just that good, an incredibly fun game to both watch and play, and one that fills a thirty year old franchise full of life once again. It is hard to think of a more exciting and inventive way Pac-Man could have been re-envisioned in 2010.