Pacman World Rally PS2 Review

Pacman’s back for another inexplicable PS2 outing, joined once more by all of your favourite Namco characters! That’s right- you’ve got Pacman, Ms Pacman, the Ghosts… and a couple of other blokes that noone really seems at all able to recognise. So what are we looking at here then? A franchise fuelled identikit kart racer aimed at young children? Well, the short answer to this is… Yes. Unfortunately the long answer isn’t much different, the main question rushing around my head when playing this game being primarily: “Why does this game even exist?”
Pacman’s clearly a character who only holds real appeal to retro gamers, and his more recent 3D incarnations somehow lack the charm he mysteriously managed to muster in his days spent mindlessly munching his way through a maze. But it’s at this point I started to get confused – while I’m absolutely apathetic towards the character I admit they’ve given the guy a little dash of flair in the game, he often performs purely aesthetic stunts while you race about, it’s truly endearing to see that Pacman’s having a whale of a time. Unfortunately, I’m not.

Before I sink my canines in, I’ll tell you what I enjoyed about Pacman Rally. I enjoyed some of the level designs, there are a fair few exciting jumps in the game and some of the characters who pop up around the levels are adorable, particularly the dinosaur on one of the jungle tracks who oozes charisma despite only being visible on screen for about 2 seconds every lap. Now’s probably a good time to frown, being that in my experience of the game the most memorable character throughout the game was in all honesty, an obstacle. But at the same time, it doesn’t feel fair to slate Pacman Rally, as it’s not really that bad a game; it’s just horrendously average…

Graphically it’s a meat and potato affair, some of the levels having a bit of colourful charm, but many look a bit more dull (if you’re gonna make a ‘crazy’ kart racing game, there’s no sense in holding back your palette, eh?) Some of the level design and presentation however is quite lovely; some of the more open courses, despite lacking polish, are pretty exciting to race around. Around half of the courses are pretty awful to play sadly, having been made to consist of only set square corners, they feel constricted and unpleasant to race around, unlike the more enjoyable courses which are wide tracked and curvy in a Diddy Kong Racing kind of manner.

Unfortunately controlling the karts isn’t even nearly on par with the N64 classic; you’ve got all the bells and whistles you’d expect in any modern kart racing game, when inevitably compared to Mario Kart it just feels… clunky. There’s no sense of weight or impact when driving about, at times you feel like you’re just floating around the course. Even when you’re going at a fairly satisfying speed the whole experience is a little disjointed. The weapon powerups are pretty much an iffy rip-off of Mario Kart, green, red, and blue bombs all do exactly what you’d expect them to, just in a much less satisfying manner than good old shells. The other powerups are a mishmash of often overcomplicated objects that do all the usual stuff you’d expect, and sadly the lack of simplicity here does make the game a bit less aesthetically cohesive than it could have been overall.

One of the main features of the game is the Pac-mobile meter; a bar that you fill up by collecting Pac-Dots around the course then use to transform your character into a giant mechanical Pacman, changing all of the other racers briefly into blue ghosts ready to be chomped up. It’s an admirable idea, and brought the game up to a level of creativity I wasn’t really expecting when I first tried out this special move – sadly it doesn’t feel like it plays an important enough part in the game to be anything other than a gimmick. The Pac-mobile is clunky and difficult to steer, the speed boost you achieve is minimal, and after the initial smug grin of eating a few other racers it just feels like an unwanted extension of the invincibility star in Mario Kart, which is a shame as it’s probably one of the few mechanics in the game that, if treated with more care, could have given Pacman Rally a bit of an edge. Multiplayer’s not even worth my time to discuss; it doesn’t support more than two players – need I say more?

The music adds to the sense of inconsistency in an often hilarious manner – many of the in game tunes involve the ‘Pacman tune’ being sampled or remixed, which leaves much of the music fairly painful to listen to after a few minutes due to the entirety of his theme tune lasting about eight seconds. In stark contrast to this however, some levels have hugely intense and epic music that feels like it’s been ripped straight out of a budget survival-horror game, while some levels have some rather chilled-out acoustic guitar offerings that are, frankly rather lovely.

Overall the problem with Pacman Rally lies in the general inconsistency with which the game has been made. It lacks a sense of focus in nearly every aspect of production, the stark differences between level design feel sloppy; as if the people who made them failed to keep good communications throughout the designing process, resulting in two vastly different styles of racing games for which one racing engine had to fit. Inevitably it doesn’t work too well, making the tight cornered and more restricted races significantly less fun to play, something which when combined with the lack of a cohesive style both mechanically and aesthetically renders the game fairly lifeless and lacking charm. Multiplayer options are just severely lacking in general, and it only took me about an hour to complete the entire game. Don’t be fooled by the “it’s for kids” mentality and take my advice; Get Mario Kart 64 on the Wii Virtual Console service. It’s cheaper, it’s better, and you’ll have a hell of a lot more fun.

A prime example of a completely average product. Get something else.

5 out of 10
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