The 2014 Pac-Man Museum was an excellent compilation – but it had the misfortune of being launched while the horrendous animated misfire Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was being broadcast. […]
The 2014 Pac-Man Museum was an excellent compilation – but it had the misfortune of being launched while the horrendous animated misfire Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures was being broadcast. This meant that its hub – and the world which you were collecting objects and characters for when making progress through the games – was based on the awful designs in that CGI cartoon monstrosity.
Thankfully, one of the things that Pac-Man Museum Plus gets right is going back to the classic Pac-Man look for its hub, which takes the form of an arcade which you can decorate yourself with machines, consoles and other Pac-Man paraphernalia that’s earned and purchased from in-game vending machines. Characters from the games wander around your arcade, with more of them earned as you progress through the various titles included.
Though you can access each game in the compilation via a menu, it’s much more fun to populate your arcade with machines and actually interact with them to play each game (with my dogged need for order, I have ensured that I’ve lined up the machines in chronological order in my in-game arcade!). The console-originated (as opposed to arcade) games feature as selectable titles from a console rather than a dedicated arcade cabinet, which works fine.
So what of the included games themselves? Namco have compiled 14 games into this collection, featuring several classics – and familiar, but not necessarily amazing titles – as well as some more obscure entries. Though a few of the included games are noticeably weaker than others, their inclusion is still welcome – I’d much rather have the opportunity to try out a lesser title that I’ve never had the chance to play, rather than let it linger in obscurity.
The weakest titles don’t detract from the genuine strengths of the compilation either – with the first Pac-Man still standing strong as a near-perfect game and games such as the iconic (albeit flawed) Pac-Land, brilliant multiplayer arcade game Pac-Man Battle Royale, Crossy Road-esque Pac-Man 256 and stunning synaesthetia-powered Pac-Man Championship Edition leading the charge as absolutely unmissable inclusions.
It’s a bit frustrating then, that some games seem to suffer from game-breaking input lag: the arcade version of Pac-Man Arrangement, for example, definitely has an issue in this regard – leading to deaths that feel completely unfair. Others suffer from the same problem to a less noticeable, but still irritating, degree. It’s not just input lag that’s a problem here either: the arcade version of Pac-Man Arrangement looks lovely visually, but it’s too busy and the maze layouts are usually quite cluttered, as well as badly designed in a lot of cases – you’ll end up dying because you didn’t realise there was a wall, staircase or ramp due to the visuals lacking clarity (conversely, the console version of Pac-Man Arrangement is bright, big-scaled and very visually clear – it’s so much better!).
Having to unlock certain titles is a bit of an annoyance at first too, especially when one game’s unlock requirement is to play the twitchy, frustratingly slippery SNES platformer Pac-in-Time more than once – which means getting a Game Over multiple times and restarting. In my opinion, a compilation of this nature shouldn’t have any games unlocked and players shouldn’t be forced to endure games they don’t enjoy just to get to play what they want. However, these restrictions don’t last long and are all reasonably easy to overcome.
Another issue is having in-game currency; though this isn’t as egregious as it sounds – you’re never asked to top this up with real money, thankfully – it can be a frustration for players who lack the skill and experience to earn coins when needed. Coins are used to play the arcade machines in-game and though they’re doled out relatively generously, it still rankles that it’s theoretically possible to not be able to play certain games if you run out of coins (which are also used in the Gatcha machines to collect statues or the vending machines to purchase furniture and decorations).
Of the weaker titles, the far too sensitive handling of Pac-Man as he rolls around the stages in Pac’n Roll Remix probably provides the most frustration of any game in the collection, especially as a few tweaks to the gameplay would have made this a really interesting and original game to play.
Pac-Motos is another game that sees you rolling Pac-Man around, but this time in brief arena battles as you try to knock enemies off the surface of the stage before they do the same to you – unfortunately, this isn’t a huge amount of fun either.
Super Pac-Man and Pac and Pal just feel like awkward attempts to add to the original Pac-Man formula (as they always did!) and lose the immediacy of the original game.
Pac-Attack is a clever attempt to marry the mechanics of Tetris with the ghost-chomping of Pac-Man, but it has always suffered from a ramping up of speed that feels unfairly weighted in the AI’s favour.
Though all of these titles are disappointing, as I mentioned previously I’d much rather have them than not. Also, each title has a good number of missions to complete in order to unlock new items and jukebox music to play in the arcade; this does provide some motivation to play through the lesser titles that may otherwise have been ignored.
The fact that so many local multiplayer experiences are included – and that these games all benefit from being played competitively – gives Pac-Man Museum Plus a real edge too. Pac-Man Battle Royale is a perfect pick-up-and-play multiplayer game that really doesn’t need much explaining before up to four players can battle it out in addictive and fast paced rounds, for example. Though I already own some of these titles separately (and will have to build up my power ups and coins within Pac-Man 256 yet again, just as one example), it’s really handy to have more than one four player experience accessible from the one compilation.
So though Pac-Man Museum Plus isn’t perfect and is missing some key titles from Pac-Man history (no Ms Pac-Man due to a legal dispute, for example – but the 32-bit/128-bit era Pac-Man World titles are all conspicuous by their absence), it’s an excellent compilation of several unmissable titles, as well as a good look at some real obscurities. Though you’ll probably find a few favourites here that’ll keep you coming back for more, it’s also an excellent way to preserve some titles that few gamers would have experienced before. It would be great to see the addition of further games via DLC, rather than the release of a further, separate museum compilation – let’s hope that Namco have plans of this nature in the bag!
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