For a series as classic and well-known as Pac-Man, Namco Bandai’s task of breathing life back into its 25-year old franchise was one with a long history of falling flat. So when 2007’s Pac-Man Championship Edition turned out to not only be a fun arcade title, but one that revolutionized how people experienced the core gameplay, people were expectedly surprised. Nine years and a “DX Edition” later, Bandai Namco is hoping that lightning can strike twice with the release of a proper sequel, yet again making small but significant changes to a beloved pick-up and play experience. Ultimately, while Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 does make some disappointing adjustments to some of the mechanics introduced in the original CE, the sequel still proves to be a welcome collection of strategic maze challenges, electronic music and a variety of impressively-varied visuals.
Despite a bevy of changes introduced by the original revamp, both CE games still revolve around the classic Pac-Man gameplay of chomping pellets and fruits while avoiding ghosts until a power pellet is acquired, with ghosts now being chomped in a fancy new 3D animation. In addition to a few new mechanics like platforms with which to jump across the stage, bombs and ghost trains both make their return to the sequel, but both have received a substantial overhaul in how they both operate. While bombs can still be used as an escape mechanism, the explosive assistant no longer sends all ghosts back to the center, but instead does the same to Pac-Man, which often makes bombs more useful for completing the central objective, collecting fruits and power pellets, as they both spawn in that central location. While that change doesn’t present too big a difference from its original usage, the biggest and most disconcerting gameplay change is how minimal a factor ghosts are anymore. With the exception of the Extreme versions of the Score Attack mode challenges, any interactions with ghost now result in a simple bounce back of both the ghost and Pac-Man, as ghosts now require multiple hits to activate their lethal mode, which itself is fairly easy to avoid due to its short time-limit and initial beginning, which launches the ghost high into the air and allows the player plenty of opportunity to escape. This overhaul makes the overall gameplay significantly easier, as only multiple activated and well-placed ghosts now represent any real threat, with the timer now becoming the only true adversary for the player.
Despite these two key adjustments, the core Pac-Man Championship Edition gameplay is still highly addictive, with the satisfying combination of finding the perfect path to eat pellets as efficiently as possible and chowing down on a series of ghosts with increasing speed still proving to be as enjoyable as it was nine years ago. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 offers two modes in addition to a tutorial, offering over 100 levels at launch. Score Attack mode returns with thirty available challenges across ten maps, offering Single Train, Regular, and Extreme difficulties, with the first only allowing for one ghost train as opposed to the usual four, and the latter only requiring one collision for the ghosts to become lethal, plus ten minute Practice opportunities for each map. While these challenges are longer in nature and center more around leaderboards, the more fast-past action can be found in the all-new Adventure mode, which offers over sixty one-to-two minute challenges of varying difficulties and boss battles, mostly play like a traditional challenge aside for a few aesthetic changes. Both offer plenty of quality arcade action, with Score Attack proving more favorable for players willing to memorize and repeat to beat their own and other players’ high scores, while Adventure scenarios provide a quick burst of race-against-the-clock centric tests.
One of the standouts of the original Pac-Man Championship Edition was its mesmerizing presentation, and it returns in full force for 2. The soundtrack is a particularly remarkable aspect, with the player just as likely to bob their head to the fast-paced beat of the music as several aspects of the UI. While no presentational options are customizable in the Adventure mode, Score Attack still provides picky players that ability to choose the aesthetic, soundtrack, and several other aspects of their desire. Each of the aesthetic styles has a unique capacity to change the overall atmosphere of a playing experience, as all of the options feature fully-fleshed out 2D and 3D animations that feature a noticeable amount of consistency amongst them. A few issues did arise during the playthrough of this game, including an occasional and unexplained silence of the music, in addition to ghost trains not sticking to their clearly defined tracks while a power pellet is being used, but none that significantly altered the overall gameplay experience. Due to the simplistic control scheme, as it solely features two buttons, bombs and the mostly useless ability to break, and the directional controls, players of all skill levels and controller preferences should be able to pick it up with no issue and find plenty of content to satisfy their inner hungry, yellow, animate pie chart.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 represents another strong, well-produced arcade title for this classic character, cementing his continued relevance multiple decades later in a way only a few non-Nintendo franchises have been able to. Despite a highly-questionable decision to neuter the lethality of the series’ central enemies, the core gameplay coupled alongside the electronic presentation proves to be one of the most addictive combos on the market, with the three-star perfection of Adventure mode and the constant climb up the leaderboards in Score Attack providing key motivations to continue returning to the title for another near-decade.