Today, Namco released Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions for the Nintendo 3DS. Featuring six playable games, Dimensions is a compilation of old school classics and new experiences in both the Pac-Man and Galaga franchises.
The Pac... Is Back
Three of the six games in Dimensions are centered around that incessantly hungry yellow fellow known as Pac-Man. Last year marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Pac. Included on the Dimensions cart is a special 30th anniversary trailer that shows where the Pac-Man franchise is headed. The trailer is just a few minutes long and supports 3D, although barely -- in other words, it looks pretty much the same with the 3D slider positioned Off.
The movie is worth a watch, but the games are obviously more interesting. The original Pac-Man classic is included, sans 3D support of course. Players can choose between three different screen sizes to play on, but none of them actual fill the top screen. This is understandable due to aspect ratio, but I will say that the visible playing field, while completely showing the whole board, is on the small side. Serious Pac fans will overlook this, but for me, I'd just as soon play the original Pac-Man on a larger, more eye-friendly display.
In addition to classic Pac-Man, the Pac-Man Championship Edition game is also included. This rendition of Pac-Man has several twists that make it more interesting than the original. However, overall, gameplay is similar to the original, but you're up against the clock, whose time runs anywhere from about five minutes to ten. Additionally, there are only a handful of playable levels, but their design is more interesting than anything I personally have played in Pac-Man. Also, while the entire maze is shown, the maze is never completely filled with dots. This is another twist in Championship Edition; as you collect dots and fruit, more of the maze fills up. The goal is to much as many Pac-Dots, Ghosts, and Fruit as you can in the time allotted.
The third Pac-Man game in Dimensions is Pac-Man Tilt, which makes use of the gyroscoping functions of the 3DS. Over Twenty-five stages are included, although you have unlock them in sequence. Pac-Man Tilt plays a whole lot like a classic Sonic game, right down to Pac rolling up into a ball for extra speed, loop traversal, and jumps. You collect dots, but unlike Sonic where rings pop out of you when you get hit, Pac-Man dies if he gets touched by a ghost or falls victim to an environmental hazard such as electricity or a chasm. The stages are pretty short, most of the ones I have played through are over within five minutes, but they're pretty cool, making sensible use of the tilt controls to manipulate the environment to get Pac-Man through.
Galaga Takes Flight
In addition to the three Pac-Man titles, Dimensions includes three Galaga games as well. The original Galaga is offered, but similar to the original Pac-Man game, only the top screen is used and the aspect ratio is such that the actual visible playing area is pretty small. Granted, it's a very old game anyway that doesn't need 3D or anything fancy, but if you're interested in playing Galaga, you're probably better served on a bit of a larger screen.
Galaga Legions is pretty cool -- glitzy, colorful graphics fill the screen as you pilot your ship against endless hordes of Galaga ships. There are a handful of modifiers, or gameplay mechanics, that make it differ from the original. For one, certain Galaga ships, which are very apparent in the field of play, will destroy numerous other Galaga ships if you are able to penetrate defenses and blast them. You also have satellite ships in the four cardinal directions that you can call upon to temporarily help you shoot up, (in conjunction with the only direction your ship can shoot), left, right, and down. This is neat, but my biggest issues was having to constantly press right trigger and the face buttons -- it made my hand hurt within just fifteen or twenty minutes of play.
Galaga Legions also has a neat path-prediction gameplay mechanic where these glossy orange lines quickly appear on screen and draw out the path that the next wave of Galaga forces will take. I think this was a great idea; it makes those annoying ship-to-ship collision deaths far less common, and besides, it just looks really neat. I also liked the female computer voice that announces 'Red Alert' and other similar things -- the game just has a great cyber-retro vibe if that makes any sense.
My favorite game from Dimensions would have to be Galaga: 3D Impact. This is the most impressive use of the 3D in 3DS in this entire release. A first person space shooter on rails, 3D Impact boasts some cool graphics and addictive, yet challenging gameplay. Your puny ship can earn upgrades as you play, with the ability to upgrade your default lasers an astounding 30 times over. In addition, you unlock other powers, including a shield and bombs. Upgrades are primarily unlocked by using the tractor beam on enemy ships, but for the most part, you will be blowing them away with lasers instead of defeating them with the tractor beam.
Level design in 3D Impact is neat; sure, it's the same game every time you play it, but they did some fun things with the visuals, giving you a real sense of being inside the cockpit and facing enemies from all sides. An "Adjust" button is located on the bottom screen to snap you back to the default view if you get mixed up, too. There are at least four stages to 3D Impact, embarrassingly I cannot manage to get past the boss on the 3rd stage. You can continue to your heart's content from the start of the stage, but you lose any upgrade progress you had in your previous stage-attempt, so without some kind of luck or breakthrough, you're basically left to keep grinding until you manage to beat the boss.
With that, lets get to the summary...