Pac-Man Championship Edition DX: Review
I have to confess something: I don’t like Pac-Man. Like most arcade machines, it steals more quarters than the urchins who used to panhandle at Chuckie Cheese. And trust me, I had a hard enough time fending off those fiends without help from the games. So when I heard about a new Pac-Man game coming out, I had little interest. But against all my inhibitions, I decided to give the series one last chance, and I was actually pleasantly surprised when I started playing Pac-Man Championship Edition DX and found that it is far greater than any of its predecessors.
The main mission of this incarnation of Pac Man is to eat pellets, fruits, and ghosts to get the most points possible. That’s it; there are no limits on lives, and the only punishment for dying is less time spent racking up scores of points. This central shift of intent makes the game simply less frustrating and more rewarding. Each round starts with one ghost—instead of the classic four—coming after Pac Man and several others lie dormant until you pass them. This results in what can only be called a conga-line of ghosts trailing behind you. Keep them behind you long enough to eat a power pellet and you can devour them, which physically speeds Pac Man up and is a great burst of accomplishment. Watching the psychedelic visuals pulse to the bass heavy techno beat and retro sound effects feeds the pleasure centers of the brain in a raw, intense way. This amount of stimuli is absurd, but it does make for an addictive, “just one more round” kind of experience. The game also progresses quickly, and gives ample reward for skillful dodging and veering while the movement speed intensifies.
The audio-visual experience is complimented wonderfully by leaderboards that instantly display your score for each score attack, time trial, and ghost-eating event. It’s slick, and gives a reason to come back to levels that you’ve already beaten. Like Trials HD, it has an extreme competitive edge that is hard to turn away from. But it also can be played in bite-sized chunks since the time trials only last a minute on average, and the score attacks are five to ten minutes. It makes both hour-long sessions, where you are unlocking new events and courses, and 15-minute bursts seem equally fun.
The only thing I can really knock the game for is the lack of modes and courses. You can unlock every course in less than an hour, and there are only three game modes. I can appreciate trimming the fat off a game, but DX is almost too lean. Perhaps some DLC will be available in the future to extend the core gameplay. And honestly, if a game’s core gameplay can change my entire perspective on a series, then it must be worthy of some DLC. If you enjoy fast paced, arcade gameplay that has a masterful core, but almost no extraneous appendages, then Pac-Man Championship Edition DX will delight. Hopefully there will be fresh mazes and modes in the coming months, because it could use some filling out.