For the record, I don’t watch Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures because I’m not seven years old, but I think its sheer existence is the tops. It’s nothing short of a miracle that Pac-Man is still culturally relevant with today’s youth in 2013, thirty-three years after his inception, and it’s all thanks to this little TV series that could. A simple trip into Toys “R” Us reveals a section of Pac-Man toys spawning from the series and now a video game has been produced in a show imitating game imitating show kind of way that cements the anthropomorphic antenna ball for a whole new generation. As such, however, Pac Man and the Ghostly Adventures must ironically not be taken as an original video game, but rather a tie-in to an existing property, which lowers the odds that it’s not an abomination of Superman 64 proportions. Shockingly, however, Ghostly Adventures proves to not only be a successful television adaption but a great Pac-Man game in its own right.
Understandably distancing itself from its arcade roots, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a platforming game that has more in common with the Pac-Man World series than it does the original games. Sectioned off into six worlds including settings like Pacopolis, Ruins and Netherworld, each world then has around five to ten stage, growing progressively harder until a final stage is reached that generally has a boss battle or some sort of tough obstacle. Outside of the world map is Pac-Man’s high school where he can talk to characters from the TV series and eventually play multiple vehicular-based minigames in the form of arcade cabinets, unlocked by grabbing a certain number of fruits or vegetables at the end of a level. Besides these level-ending items, there are also collectible items in the form of pellets, ghost eyes, coins and more that allow for upgrades, extra lives, advancement in the game and more. These are fun to collect and give good reason to replay levels after completion.
The levels themselves are classic 3D platforming that feature plenty of true platforming; that is, jumping from platform to platform. At first just a matter of timing, this grows harder as the game progresses with platforms becoming unstable, disappearing or even made out of fire. Trying to make things even harder for Pac-Man are ghosts spread throughout the levels trying to kill him. These are disposed with by hitting X when nearby, fluidly having him knock out multiple ghosts at once if they’re nearby. There are multiple ghost enemies including your standard inky/blinky/clyde style, slime ones and more. Far and away the most impressive thing about the game, however, is just how often things switch up. One moment you’re jumping between platforms, the next figuring out how a puzzle and then even getting shot out of a cannon. Although the basic combat remains the same throughout the game, it lingers on a certain theme just long enough to remain engrossing.
Curing repeatability even more are multiple Pac-Man types in the form of Ice Pac, Chameleon Pac, Fire Pac, Granite Pac and Rubber Pac. Chameleon Pac lets him swing around poles, Rubber Pac turns him into a bouncy ball, Granite Pac turns him into a giant rock ball and, well, it’s pretty obvious what the rest do. These can be activated by eating a corresponding pellet throughout levels and often must be done to progress to new areas. Practically all of these variants are a blast to play as, always keeping things fresh.
Another impressive aspect of Ghostly Adventures is its presentation. For a title launching at forty bucks, it’s surprisingly polished from menus to gameplay mechanics. The graphics pop with bright colors and smooth character renders and there’s not a single instance of screen tearing which is a near-revelation for a family game. The music is suitably playful and there’s great nods to the original Pac-Man in the form of sound effects, markings on the wall and the aforementioned fruit. The only issue I really have is that I found Pac-Man’s childish voice annoying, but this is an adaption of a kid’s show after all, and the mere fact that there‘s voice acting at all should be applauded.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures recalls a great original PlayStation-era platformer in all the right ways. It’s easy to grasp, difficult to master and chock full of interesting and unique gameplay mechanics. There’s tons of levels, collectibles to find and even a multiplayer mode that harkens back to the original game. One of the biggest surprises of the year, Ghostly Adventures is a rock solid platformer that can be enjoyed by children and old school Pac-Man fans alike.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360