Short Burst Nostalgia at it's best
One of the worst things about being a PS3 owner was the fact that the original Pac Man Championship Edition was a Xbox 360 exclusive. With the new version being brought to both consoles, anyone who only owns a PS3 and not an Xbox 360 would be doing themselves a disservice not to see what the hype around the original Championship Edition was about.
The game is the love child of old school retro gaming and new school Popcap short burst gaming which will keep players happy if they just want a quick pick-up-and-play game, but be warned that this game can eat hours as quickly as it eats dots and ghosts. The patterns on the different boards rewards those who find the fastest routes through them, and the more you play, the more you optimize your routes through the different levels and increase your scoring capabilities. It's a consumate time waster that could easily eat hours off of your life whether you're chasing scores on the leaderboards or unlocking various modes and boards for future playthrough.
Easy to learn and difficult to completely master applies to this game as much as it could apply to any downloadable game on the Playstation Network. The controls are simple, as could be expected from a Pac Man evolution. The right thumbstick changes the direction of your Pac Man, while the right shoulder button can deploy bombs giving you precious seconds of repreive and slightly slowing the action. There's no other controls to it, move through the patterns, use your escape option if needed, and try to amass as many points as possible. The good thing is that the game is constructed so well and the controls are so responsive, that those simple controls are all you'll ever want or need.
The game play is simple. Patterns of ghosts and dots will appear on either side of the board, and clearing all of the dots will deploy a fruit icon on the other side which will set a new pattern for you to clear. Moving next to sleeping ghosts which are part of these patterns "angers" them, and causes them to join an ever growing chain of ghosts which will give chase to you, causing you to move forward, but never backwards. Certain patterns will put power pellets on the board which turns all the ghosts blue and lets you turn the tables on your persuers allowing you to eat long chains of ghosts for score and speed boosts. Some ghosts will have power pellets inside of them extending your time to eat ghosts and create larger chains.
There are also different modes to play around with. The score attack rewards players for memorizing the patterns that are unlocked as fruit icons are eaten, and the more efficient your path through these patterns at ever increasing speeds allows for larger scoring bonuses and multipliers to be applied to the dots you're eating to clear patterns. The Time Trial modes puts specific patterns together for you to figure out and become faster at clearing. The Ghost Attack mode dares you to create as long of a chain of ghosts as you can to see how many ghosts you can eat in a single power up period sparked by a Power Pellet on the board and the ones carried within ghosts that are chasing you.
The multiple difficulty levels can make the game easy enough for a five year old to complete the time trials of (and yes, I've tested this with my own five year old), while the expert mode increases the speed you begin at, allowing for a bypass of the slower early levels and pushing you towards the game's breakneck speeds and longer and larger scoring chains in the late game. The different visual styles can adjust the look and feel of the game without changing the basic gameplay. You can make it look retro, neon, pixelated, or modern without the visuals impeding the gameplay and causes the game to never feel stale.
The game, even on expert mode, uses two things to give you the upper hand at all times, a slowing effect whenever a ghost comes in dangerous proximity to you, and the bomb button which sends all ghosts back to the center of the maze where after a moment they begin to hunt you in order to give chase once again. The scoreboard comparisons to the Playstation Network or your own group of friends acts as a metagame which keeps driving you to become better. As is become more common with downloadable games, the challenge is supplied not by the game itself, which with the advantages of slowdown and bombs is barely a challenge in itself, but by the other people who are playing it just a little better than you are.
The music is well done, and with the timed Score Attack modes, it's timed to come to a creshendo as the time begins to run out. The music and sound effect playing the game will spark nostalgia in anyone who spent time with the original in dark lit arcades of old, but the new mechanics also sound great. The sound of a chain of ghosts being devoured has a pitch which constantly rises as the chain gets longer, rising as your score and multiplier rises along with it.
The leaderboards in the game are constantly taunting you with people who have done these modes a little bit faster or a little bit better than you have, giving the game replay value whether you have a Friends List full of others playing the game, or are challenging yourself against everyone else on the network. The different boards also change the patterns and best methods for working through those patterns, and the different modes keep revolving in a manner to where there's always something to do in the game that's fun for the few minutes you'll be doing it.
There could be a lot learned from how Pac Man Championship Edition DX takes the things which made the original a classic, and evolves them to a point where it's relevant to people who want a bit more twitch to their games. It's a perfect modernization of a classic game which should keep long time fans and people new to Pac Man enthralled for a long time to come.