I wasn’t around in gaming when the original Pac-Man became an all-time classic. Mostly because it was the early 80’s and I hadn’t been born yet. I didn’t get to experience that arcade era of gaming but that’s not to say that I can’t recognise its merits and enjoy some arcade games myself nowadays. However, I must sheepishly admit that the first Pac-Man game I’ve ever played was Pac-Man world for the original Playstation which was a game that didn’t play like the originals at all. This one though, does.
You may think that it’s kinda stupid explaining how does Pac-Man plays in this day an age. You’re just supposed to collect dots while avoiding colorful ghosts, right? Well, that is essentially true but this Pac-Man 256 isn’t just the same old Pac-Man game with better graphics, this is more of a reinvention. Yes, the main objective still is eating dots and avoid death to get a high score but there are more mechanics involved this time around.
For starters, the maze in which you’re playing isn’t static. You can scroll upwards as much as your skills let you and, you totally should because after you there’s a constant glitch barrier that it’s trying to get you. This endless maze is generated procedurally and will never be the same, ghosts and fruit will spawn at seemingly random spots and so will do the power-ups.
And that’s another of the features ever present in this game that you didn’t have in the classic. Apart from the typical “bigger dot” that lets Pac-Man devour phantoms there’s a ton of power-ups that will grant your hungry Pac different advantages. The first one you’ll unlock will be a laser that will let you kill any ghosts before you but as you eat dots (which kinda work as experience points) you’ll be unlocking a lot more like a tornado that will chase phantoms at random, some stealth mode that will let you pass unseen or traps for them to fall on. This unlock-a-thon and your will to get the highest score possible is what will make you want to play the game over and over again.
The graphics on this game look quite old in a very selfconscious way. It has the retro look of the old games but on a 3D plane and with a full HD resolution of today. It has to be mentioned as well that the game features a handful of different rendering modes. Some will make the game look even more close to the arcade original of the 80’s while others are there just for fun, like one that makes the maze look like an office full of killer furniture.
The retro flavour is also present in the sound department. Apart from a slightly different intro jingle, all of the sound chips from the game seem straight out of the classic game. From the wakka wakka to the gulping sound when you eat a ghost and also the game over tune.
Things I liked
- Addictive: The trick to be succesful back in the arcade era was to make the player have the urge to have one more go at your game and this game delivers on that front. It’s very fun, there’s a ton of powers to unlock and you’ll always feel like you can improve your highscore so you just keep coming back for more.
- Tactic: This was a staple on the original game, it wasn’t a game about reflexes, you just had to trace the best possible route on your head as fast as you could and then follow it. There was a strategy to it and now it’s even more present. Each kind of colored ghost behaves a different way and each power-up will help you in a different way as well. You have to make use of what you get and predict what your enemy will do to survive in the maze.
- Cooperative: The game has a couch cooperative mode up to four players and it’s really a blast. Things get a little hectic if you don’t communicate properly which power-ups you are getting which is why I never managed to make a high score while playing this mode. I had a blast with it though.
- Retro: Just look at the graphics, listen its SFX… this game is as retro as it can get.
Things I didn’t
- Not on Vita: I know I shouldn’t judge a game on what it isn’t but on what it is but I still feel like this game belongs on the vita way more than on a ps4. You’d lose the four player coop but this “just one more go” kind of game shine the brightest on a handheld. That’s why OlliOlli 2 hasn’t left my memory card since it was released.
Who’d like this?
I loved my time with Pac-Man 256 and I will love the many more hours of gameplay that I’ll be playing in the future. It is what it is, an arcade game. You don’t play to uncover a deep story but just to get a higher score and for the infinte enjoyment of its gameplay. If you like arcade-type of games, you can’t miss this one.
<You can also watch the game in motion here>