Pac-Man Championship Edition DX Review

30 years old for a video game is like counting in dog years. Pac-Man, born in 1980, might as well be 210 years old. But with the recent revision of the franchise, Pac-Man is better than ever. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is an absolute gaming classic. The game is near flawless in almost every way. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s colorful and it loaded with adrenaline pumping action. It’s amazing how a game could stay so retro, but become such a brand new experience. It is my absolute favorite version of the entire series, with no offense to Ms. Pac-Man.

I was a little burned out on the game development thing. With two apps in review, waiting to hit the iTunes App Store, I was looking for something to do. I decided to do nothing at all. I thought that I would relax with a few rounds of Street Fighter. The number one mission for my PlayStation 3 seems to be remixed nostalgia. With Bionic Commando Rearmed, Final Fight: Double Impact, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Reshelled and Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, my PS3 game library is loaded with remakes of classic video games. Since I hadn’t purchased a new game in a while, I decided to check out the PlayStation 3 store. I was looking for something new. It’s ironic that I would pick Pac-Man, as the original is so old.

I downloaded the demo to see what Pac-Man has been doing these days. The first thing I noticed was a lot of text. There was a strong warning about my health. I’ve seen video game warnings like this before, but they’re usually not so predominant. Although, it doesn’t say on the screen long enough to read it. I restarted the game several times to actually understand the warning. It mentioned things like taking breaks and a caution about seizures.

I think that the warning is warranted. Today, an hour AFTER playing the game, I could still see it when I closed my eyes. It’s that intense. The game is fast and the screen just bursts with colors. It’s like an 80’s neon discothèque, but the music is more modern. The game makes quite an impression — with both sight and sound. I mentioned the game is fast right? It’s fast… really REALLY FAST! After playing DX, life seemed slow. I got used to the high-speed action.

That was one of my gripes with the original Pac-Man games. It’s a bit too slow. That hurts the replay value. The cherry and strawberry levels are not hard. But in order to get to the more challenging stuff, you had to drudge through them. DX works much differently. The better you play, the faster the game goes. The speed can go all the way up to 50. I found it quite a struggle to keep up at that pace. It’s easy to make mistakes when the action moves so fast.

That’s what’s extra awesome about this game. It has Matrix style bullet-time. When you’re in danger of colliding with a ghost, the game slows down to highlight the trouble. You can change direction and get away. If you’re stuck, Pac-Man also has bombs to clear a path.

With all these new safety features, the game must be ridiculously easy – right?! Not exactly.

Yes, the game is on the easy side. In less than one full day I manged to unlock all of the trophies. I was in the top 1% on the scoreboard. It wasn’t hard to unlock all of the content. Yet, that’s not what makes DX unique or what gives it challenge. It’s the ghosts. There are a lot of them… A LOT!

As you move around the maze, sleeping ghosts will notice your movement. Something similar to a conga line will form. Instead of trying to surround you, most of the ghosts will just try to chase you. This creates a unique experience for a Pac-Man game. You can eat a lot of ghosts in a row… 30, 50, 80… I’ve had combos well over 100. It was a crazy experience. This was not the Pac-Man from my childhood. This was faster, more colorful and more interesting.

There are some dull spots though. My biggest issue is that the entire game is centered around time. I don’t think the action should end in 1, 5 or 10 minutes. But basically, that’s how this game works. I don’t like that. I’d rather just play. But unfortunately, the game has too many time trial levels. I’d unlock one time trial, and then another… and another… and another. It was too repetitive. While this does create more opportunity for the scoreboards, I found it to be tedious. The game could benefit from a free-play mode, without the timer, and online cooperative gaming. The only online component is a ranking system.

I’m not really one to obsess about getting the top score, but I found myself rerunning levels to improve my standing. 208 out of 25849 was my best for Game Mode Total Hi-Score (Total for all courses). That’s like the main ranking, as it’s cumulative. I was surprised by that number… 25849. It allowed me to do some quick math. The game was a $9.99 download, that was dated 11/22/2010. So, in little over a week, DX pulled in more than a quarter of a million dollars.

That’s a huge inspiration for me, as the game is not that complicated to recreate. Should I make a Pac-Man clone? I’ve been pondering the possibility. Maybe if I could create an original theme, and something equally as unique as DX, I might do it. I don’t want to just rip off Pac-Man. I respect the game. Namco Bandai Games did some great work here.

Although, I did find something of a spelling error.

“Play however you wish, great for practise!”

In the United States, we usually use the word “practice”. But if you don’t mind the United Kingdom style English, then it’s hard to find fault with this game. Most of the issues that I found were minor. I was surprised to see a loading screen for a Pac-Man game, but that wasn’t a huge detraction. My only other remaining gripe is with resolution. I was somewhat disappointed when my TV displayed 720p, instead of 1080p. That’s unfortunate to see the lower setting, but I don’t think that DX needs those extra pixels. The graphics looked sharp enough to me. You can customize the appearance of the graphics, by choosing the look for the levels and the characters.

Maybe 30 years from now, DX will be little more than a minor blurb in the legacy Pac-Man. Maybe DX is a modern classic. Which one is it? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I’d probably have trouble playing the original again. It just wouldn’t be as interesting, not without the bombs, high-resolution graphics, new special effects and better music. The conga lines — with dozens of ghosts in pursuit — makes DX more exciting.

Overall Rating: 5.0 :D :D :D :D :D

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