Retro Review: Pac-Man Championship Edition DX satisfies0 Comments
Reviewed on: Xbox Live Arcade & Steam
Also available on: PlayStation Network, Windows, iOS
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Remakes of retro video games have a lot in common with remakes of classic films. Someone, somewhere has the idea that bringing back an iconic franchise will be good simply because the original one was. It almost never works, because the charm of the original is totally lost within the project as they try to make something better through modern technology and whatnot.
I can't think of a film remake that is the exception to this rule, but in the world of retro video game remakes, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX stands tall. Namco had seemingly made lightning strike twice with 2007's Pac-Man Championship Edition, then went and crushed it with this 2010 follow-up. Anyone wanting to make a modern take on a classic arcade game should play this and take notes.
Championship Edition DX builds on the standard Championship Edition concept, placing Pac-Man in a wide neon maze in a time attack mode. However, the speed and scoring potential of the newer version is cranked up to 11. As you guide Pac-Man around the maze, half the maze will change with each completed section. The longer you stay alive, the faster things move and the more points you get per dot.
Throughout the maze are a number of sleeping ghost monsters. When you pass them by, you wake them up and they begin to follow you. Unlike the standard monsters, who still move around the maze within the confines of their normal behavior, these sleeping ghosts will stay directly behind you until you either lose a life, eat them, or use a bomb. The bombs send all moving monsters back to their home for a few moments, allowing you an out in tight quarters, but you also only have so many of them at a time.
The ghost trains are the key to the game. You want to take the paths that make the highest number of monsters follow you, all without wasting any time within the maze. Eventually, a set of dots with an energizer pellet will appear, giving a player with a ton of ghosts behind them the chance for an almost ungodly number of points. There are few thrills in any Pac-Man title that compare with the thrill of eating up a large train of blue ghosts as you watch your score climb faster than Spider-Man after a case of Red Bull. This thrill is amplified even more when you turn a chain blue as the timer runs low, knowing you'll only have seconds to make the most of it.
The time factor combined with the increased speed and scoring opportunities makes perfect pattern execution into an even greater art form than in the 1980 original. While not discounting the original Pac-Man nor any of the expert players who still show off on the game today, but there is time to recover if you break pattern on the original game. One slight mistake here might cost the player hundreds of thousands of points, making the difference between a new top score or falling far short of one.
In game, the neon glow colors and lighting effects manage to make the game look modern without trying too hard. The sound effects are a mix of classic Pac-Man sounds combined with pleasant new additions for the newer features. A fun and energetic dance club song adds to the game just enough to not be distracting. Overall, the graphics and sounds strike the perfect balance between the original classics and modern-day standards without going too far in one direction or the other.
There are numerous mazes and longer time attacks available, with even more of them out there as downloadable content and skin packs. While these are fun and add longevity to the game, the default Championship Mode II maze plays so well that the extra content is almost unnecessary. It is by far the most competitive and well-balanced as well, so much so that Pac-Man Championship Edition DX could have done just as well with just the one maze.
The only drawbacks to the game are minor, proving that no game can or should get a perfect score. Even a pro player can sometimes lose track of themselves when there is a lot of fast action on-screen, especially during a long ghost chain and maze changes. Also, the leaderboards on both the Xbox Live Arcade version and the Steam versions are topped by hacked scores that display far more points than are possible within the time limit. It would serve players well if Namco would wipe these blatant cheats off the leaderboards, but they have never done so, taking some of the thrill off of posting a new high score. As long as dozens of hacked scores top the charts, you know that you'll never have the chance to do so yourself, no matter how well you master the game.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is available on pretty much every modern device, though it clearly is made to be played with a controller. Somewhat confusing is the fact that Namco Bandai never released this game in arcades. The high scoring nature of it combined with the time limit would fit well with both the players and the business models of every game room and vending route in the country. Some of this game's elements appear in Pac-Man Battle Royale, but that game plays nothing like this one.
Bottom line, at the end of the day this game represents how a retro remake should be done. It manages to stay true to the classic Pac-Man formula that set industry records over 35 years ago while adding an incredible new challenge and pace. I'll go so far as to say that it is one of the best Pac-Man games ever made, and it deserves the same constant re-releases that so many other titles have received over time. Hopefully, this is not a game that is allowed to be lost as last-generation platforms are phased out, as it should stand as an all-time classic that remains available to every generation to follow.