It’s sometimes difficult for a company to keep its star mascot relevant in the rapidly changing landscape that is the video game industry. Some, like Nintendo’s Mario, have done so with amazing innovation and success, while others, like Sega’s Sonic, have had a harder time of it. Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man, once the king of arcades worldwide in the early ‘80s, has also seen his share of ups and downs over the decades. Popular spinoffs and sequels like Ms. Pac-Man have helped cement the yellow puck-shaped dot-eater into the video game lexicon, but some of his 3D adventure escapades have fallen well short. Luckily, what’s old is new again! With some visual overhauls, new gameplay mechanics, and intense maze racing, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus delivers an exhilarating modern day take on the classic we’ve all come to love and respect.
Instead of throwing out everything and the kitchen sink, the developers went back to Pac-Man’s roots of speeding around a maze and gobbling up dots and power pellets. This new game has a very old-school look to it, but this time around everything is more vibrant with neon colors and an almost over-the-top presentation that shows off the power of modern day machines. No longer is the game limited to four ghosts in a maze. In fact, as you move about and release stationary ghosts, they will form a train that can consist of many ghosts moving about in a line. In order to get your score multiplier up as high as possible, you’ll want to get as many ghosts in single train as possible and then eat a power pellet to turn them blue and gobble all of them up. When this happens the screen zooms in and rotates, delivering an amazing vantage point of ghost carnage that is deeply satisfying to watch.
To top all of this off, the action is fast. Pac-Man blazes through the mazes at unheard of speeds. As you press a direction on the stick and hold it, you’ll even see little sparks fly out of the walls. You can play the game in several modes, one of which is Score Attack, where you play a maze for a specified amount of minutes and try and rack up as many points as possible. Each maze is usually solved rather quickly, with Pac-Man eating all of the dots and then eating the fruit that appears once a gauge is filled up. Then it’s onto the next round until the time limit is up. This is not only a fun mode to mess around in, but I found myself addicted to playing the same levels over and over again trying to beat my previous score. There are even online leaderboards to see where you rank, and some of the highest scores have videos attached to them so you can get a sense of how they are able to accomplish such amazing feats.
There’s more craziness packed into the new gameplay features. One of the most drastic changes is that you can actually run into a ghost and not die! That’s right, because the game is moving at such high speeds the developers wisely chose to not have an instant death component as that would have no doubt been very frustrating. Instead, you can bump into a ghost, sending both of you backward and giving you time to alter your direction. If you continuously run into the poltergeist then they will get angry and go agro on your ass, so be careful! Another useful special item is the bomb, which you can usually carry up to five of. These are your get out of jail free card when all else is failing you use a bomb to escape back to the start of the maze. This can be incredibly important in the more chaotic stages where oftentimes you have to return back to the start to complete the level anyway.
If chasing a high score isn’t your bag, then you can also play adventure mode. The goal here is to eat fruit within the time constraint given. You are awarded one to three stars depending on which difficulty level you selected. Once you’ve moved through several challenges you can take on a boss fight, which involves a mega-sized ghost that provokes the other ghosts to going into angry mode. This mode is equally fun to play and is a nice change of pace from worrying about score.
New to this Switch version is a two-player co-op mode “PLUS” mode that you can select from the title screen. Now, you can play this solo with the second blue Pac-Man being controlled by the computer, but it’s infinitely more fun with a friend. Here you each go around and eat all of the dots together. Once they’ve all been digested you’ll each have a fruit in your mouth that can only be eaten when you both come together and kiss. Doing so will send you to the next stage.
There is some strategy involved here because you won’t always just want to eat all of the dots right away and move on. Many courses will have the stationary ghosts that you’ll want to wake up to form a train. That way when it comes time for a power pellet to appear you can earn way more points with a longer train of ghosts to eat. Interestingly enough, to eat the chain of ghosts each of you has to be at opposite ends of the train to gobble them up, which can take some coordination to be sure. Also it should be noted that you no longer can bounce off the ghosts like you could in the other modes. Instead the game goes into slow motion as you approach a ghost, giving you time to maneuver out of the way. After you’ve cleared a set number of mazes you’ll fight a boss together. Here you can jump from walls to platforms to gobble up the dots to make a power pellet appear so you can turn the ghost blue and then you must mash on the jump button over and over again to attack the ghost. You’ll want to make every hit count as you have a five-minute timer ticking away the entire time. It’s doubly fun with a friend and bouncing from maze to maze in frenetic and before you know it the game has ended.
Along with the crazy visuals is an electronic soundtrack with a killer beat. The music plays an essential role in keeping the action fast and furious, and also has some retro sound effect thrown in for good measure. You have a wide selection of options every time you start a game and you can even turn off the music or select a favorite track to play in the background. The whole audio-visual package is both appealing to fans of the original arcade game as well as a younger audience.
For $19.99, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus is a fantastic digital download for the Nintendo Switch. It’s got flair and style and the underlying gameplay is solid and fun. The game manages to reinvent itself in a new way that encourages quick play sessions, which is appreciated when playing in portable mode. In many ways the game reflects today’s society, one where we yearn for instant gratification and have short attention spans. If you’ve got five minutes to spare, you can get lost in the never-ending neon mazes where the difference between living and dying comes down to a single blink of an eye!
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 10/1010/10
- Gameplay - 9.5/109.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 8.5/108.5/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
This isn’t your father’s Pac-Man! Featuring new gameplay mechanics and colorful visuals, this is high-octane adrenaline-filled pure fun that any lover of arcade games will appreciate. The two-player co-op mode is a ton of fun and a perfect fit for the Switch’s “Share The Joy” concept. Don’t let this one pass you up.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.