“Wakka Wakka Wakka”, the iconic chomping noise of the nefarious pizza shape pill eater is a sound familiar to arcades and home televisions since the early 80’s. One of the most familiar characters in video game history, Pacman has had the pleasure of appearing on nearly every platform imaginable and retaining its popularity without radically changing its core gameplay.
30 years and over 30 iterations later everything changed in 2007 with the release of Pacman Championship edition which while retaining the core gameplay, increased the speed, timed modes and introduced dynamic mazes.
Pacman CE DX is an evolution of the aforementioned game, the most notable change to the gameplay is the behaviour of the ghosts, gone is the illustrious foursome, Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde and their patterned behaviour which has been replaced by sleeping ghosts which awake and give chase to Pacman by forming a rainbow coloured conga line, this serves as a risk reward system within the game, each chain of ghosts can be ate once a power pellet is collected for large point bonuses, the downside being that a large chain can limit your movement within the more restrictive mazes.
The other major changes come in the form of added survivability, a bullet time style system which automatically activates when Pacman gets close to a ghost and affords the player that extra split second to react and navigate your way out of trouble and a screen clearing bombwhich helps the player remove unwanted danger temporarily.
The game features 10 modes which each contain numerous sub modes, Most of the modes change the game by simply changing the theme of the mazes, Championship 2 for instance keeps the changes to a minimum and features the same maze shapes as Pacman CE, Highway however makes the map much more complicated with multiple paths allowing you to cross the screen from side to side.
Other modes such as darkness change the gameplay by limiting visibility of the maze except for that immediately around Pacman, Half mode only uses one half of the maze at any time and free mode simply allows you infinite lifes and bombs allowing you free reign for a set time should you feel the need for simple stress relief.
Each of the modes feature at least one set time mode which sees you strive for maximum points within 5 or 10 minutes, the game progressively speeds up the more points you gain allowing you to gather the points at a higher speed however dying or using the bomb reduces the speed and your ability to gather points, meaning that the high leader board slots are solely the domain of the players that rely on their own skill.
The Graphics in the game remain faithful to the Pacman franchise and while its possible to play the game with a similar style as the previous XBLA there are also 7 other visual themes you can skin the game in, from a raster style design complete with fake scan lines right down to the faux 3d Pacman as seen in Pacmania.
The sound too has the same mix of old and new, the original sounds everyone is familiar with are in there from the start up jingle to the digital death wail remain prominent in modern soundscape, tying these sounds together is a thumping techno soundtrack which although not to my taste does a good job of fitting in with the action.
Pacman CE DX is a prime example of how a franchise can move forward with compromising its core values, this iteration doesn’t feel as difficult as it has in the past giving new players an easy stepping stone but still remains as frantic and fun as ever.