Though it’s been around for some time – having been released in 2015 for Android and iOS – I decided to reacquaint myself with Pac-Man 256 following the 40th birthday of the perenially popular yellow dot-muncher.
It’s a superb little game; essentially a Pac-Man meets Crossy Road endless runner (which is no coincidence – Hipster Whale developed both Crossy Road and Pac-Man 256). What I found especially clever about Pac-Man 256 is the way that it uses a genuine piece of original Pac-Man history as the basis for its gameplay.
The very first Pac-Man game becomes unplayable at level 256, due to the limitations of the game’s memory – half of the onscreen maze becomes a glitching mess. It’s this glitching mess that you need to outrun in Pac-Man 256; along the way you’ll also come across some nicely unique power ups – including bombs, lasers and even mini Pac-Men – that’ll help you to survive as you continue pushing forward through the ghost infested maze.
The visuals are a beautifully colourful isometric interpretation of the original Pac-Man; they’re layered with gorgeous effects too. In another great touch, as the glitch gets closer there’s a sort of static, fuzzy effect that changes the feel of the visuals; it’s a nice bit of feedback that lets you know how close you are to being consumed by the glitch.
There’s visual skins that can be applied, some of which are very surreal (office and garden-based reskins are probably the strangest), along with some that are very familiar (such as one that makes the game look like Pac-Mania or one that transforms the game into the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition), but many of these suffer from the fact that the iconography of the theme isn’t as clear and easy to read as the game’s default visuals – making it a lot more difficult to play.
A multiplayer co-op mode is included outside of the mobile versions and is a really fun way to play, especially as players that have been caught can be resurrected by surviving Pac-Men if they get to a specific power up.
It’s incredibly addictive. It’s a game that I can pick up and play for five minutes or an hour and have just as much fun either way. With only the control stick used and no buttons, it’s very accessible too. Not necessarily easy – it can get fairly challenging – but it’s one that anyone can at least have a go at. There’s plenty of power ups to collect and upgrade (which is done using in-game currency), which not only gives a sense of progression and something to aim for, but also ensures that your Pac-Man will become more powerful over time.
Though released as a free to play game on mobiles with limited credits that could be topped up with real money (or made ‘unlimited’ – essentially unlocking the full game for a fee), it’s now available on home consoles and PC without those dreaded microtransactions, though it will of course set you back a few quid if you want to buy it. It’s a game that treats the yellow fellow respectfully while bringing him into a more modern feeling game without losing any of the original charm of the concept.
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