Deja Pac- vu?
Pac-man and the Ghostly Adventures for the 3DS shares some similarities with its console counterpart (which I reviewed last week), but is in more ways a separate experience. Each version of the game shares its title with the animated Disney XD show, and both act as an extended episode of the show, using its characters and world as the basis for its story and action. Both are platformers as opposed to another pellet-munching puzzle outing, for which the title hero has become so well-noted. That’s about where the similarities end.
The 3DS version is a side-scroller rather than a 3D free-roamer like its console brethren. Instead of the Super Mario-esque world/stage breakdown seen in the PS3 version, each of the seven levels is one big linear world through which the player has to trek in one sitting or else have to start it over. Each stage takes anywhere from five to twenty minutes to trek through depending on how much extra stuff you want to collect along the way and how long it takes you to defeat the boss at the end.
Pac-Man will go to great lengths to feed his pellet addiction.
As they should be, the controls are easy to grasp right out of the gate. You move Pac-man, or “Pac” as he’s known in his high school setting, using the circle pad. Most of the game involves east-to-west movement, but some power-ups expand the directional usage of the circle pad. Pac jumps with the “B” button and chomps enemies with either the “Y” or “A” button. The “A” button will change to allow the use of a special ability if one is so-equipped, which will likely be the case most of the time. Not a problem was had regarding command inputs or control-related glitches during my playthrough, so all checks out there.
The aforementioned power-ups are the meat and potatoes of the game, shifting it from an also-ran licensed platforming adventure to one with at least a semblance of depth. These abilities, which range from your standard fire-ball emitting to the more inventive chameleon slingshot, are introduced in specific levels but can be accessed in any level after their first use by using Power Berries that the player takes with them upon returning to a stage.
The incorporated means of using the Power Berries – which differs drastically from the “here’s the berry you need, use it” method seen in the console iteration – encourages the player to replay levels they’ve finished to scour them for more of the game’s collectible items. Given the fairly short amount of time it takes to finish each of the game’s main levels and the final boss level, that extra incentive to pick up the game is appreciated, even if it appeals more to a collect-a-thon loving target more than anything else.
The entire design of Pac-man and the Ghostly Adventures is pretty simple. Character are modeled with lots of arcs and curves rather than harsh angles, building a faithful representation of the animated show. As the game also frequently incorporates ancillary characters and limited bits of voice acting, kids should have little trouble feeling a level of familiarity if they’ve been exposed to the cartoon.
Though the game isn’t as graphically polished as its cousin, it upstages its kin in almost every other regard. Neither game will pose too much of a challenge to a skilled gamer, but the handheld version definitely seems a notch or two higher in terms of difficulty. There are more perilous platforming areas present in the bite-sized adventure, with even a moment or two that caused me to scream out in rage after failing to time my jumps accurately. The 3DS version also includes more frequent puzzle elements than the console one, adding an additional layer of variety to the gameplay. The boss battles at the end of each level are well-designed and present a worthy obstacle relative to what the player just finished traversing.
In an interesting decision by developer Namco Bandai, each of the game’s levels can be accessed from the get-go save for one, which requires you to clear the others before visiting it. Want to conquer the skies? Take to the clouds and save the city for later. Does the Temple of Slime sound more exciting than the Forest? Put on your Indiana Jones hat and jump in. You don’t see this level of immediate accessibility in many games, especially so for licensed titles. It’s a small gift that goes a long way in leaving a positive impression on the player.
This freakish pup is no less fearsome on the 3DS.