About a year ago, Namco released Pac-Man Party for the Wii. This year, Pac-Man Party 3D was released, and it's essentially the same game. It's a compilation of fifty or so mini-games that also has a "story" mode that is really just a 3D board game. Toss in the original Pac-Man and two other Namco classics, and a party mode, and what do you get?
Pac-Man has been getting a big push from Namco ever since the yellow dude turned thirty last year. As Mario is to Nintendo, and Sonic to Sega, Namco has crowned Pac-Man their mascot. I think Namco has a lot of more intriguing and modern IPs that would be better suited for this role, but I digress.
So Pac-Man Party 3D includes several modes of play. You have the Story Mode, which has Pac-Man trying to locate a secret recipe that the ghosts have stolen. Via story mode, players can visit the different areas that you will see in other modes. The actual gameplay is a board game, and it's based on the number of spaces you move, between 1-8. What determines that number is the outcome of a variety of mini-games that occur with each turn. You might be throwing a dart at a dart board or at balloons, playing a slot machine, or several other events to determine how many spaces your character will move. Upon moving, you might land at a certain location, like a lab or a mansion, that presents you with four items, one of which you can open to reveal some kind of prize (such as being able to move ahead so many spots, or bonus points). You will also land on spots with buildings that you automatically take over, so that if the opposing player lands there, they lose some points.
Points are actually counted in total number of cookies, with a default game requiring that you net 12,000 cookies to win. Circling the board and picking up various bonus points as you go will get you to 12,000 in less than a half hour in my experience, but frankly that experience was never compelling. Perhaps stuck somewhere between a kids game and something that would appeal to a wider audience, I just wasn't enjoying myself playing the Story mode. The concept was bland, the characters were uninteresting, and the consequences and rewards were nigh meaningless.
I fired up the Mini Games mode next. Players are able to select up to three other CPU characters to compete against. Selectable characters include Pac-Man, Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Woofa, Patra, Roger, and Clyde, several of which I presume are from the Pac-Man World games of previous console generations. Regardless, all characters play the same, they just look and sound different. After character selection, choose your number of rounds and then select that amount of mini-games from the lengthy list of available games. You can take the Recommended Settings or Customize them if you want to adjust CPU difficulty or alter how many Power Cookies a player has. That done, the games begin; a tutorial message at the top will explain the purpose and controls of the game. While I haven't played every available mini-game, I have yet to find one that is very interesting. I will give the developers some credit for the variety of mini-games included -- everything from fishing to chasing down cookies being hit into a baseball field that you have to catch -- but be it the controls, the brevity of the game, or just the game itself, none of them really stood out as something I wanted to visit again.
Moving onto Party Mode, it acts as somewhat of a blend between the story and mini-game modes in that players can choose any character they want to use to play the board game. Whenever there is a conflict of property, a mini-game launches, with the winner taking control of the property. This could be more compelling with live friends, but, that's not something I was able to test at the time of this writing. As it stands, against the CPU, it's mediocre at best.
A pair of other modes allow you to share the game locally and view unlocked content (there are 50 things to unlock). You can also fire up the original Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig Dug, but the presentation of these is horrible. Not only do they take several seconds each to load up, but when they do, the game is situated on just a third of the top screen, while the bottom screen shows you the controls (in other words "use d-pad and press A"). Playing these old games on a fraction of the small screen is pointless when you have so many other ways to play it on other platforms.
As far as the presentation goes, Pac-Man Party 3D certainly is colorful and whimsical, but it doesn't impress. The 3D effects are decent at best, failing to provide anything that would help warrant a purchase of this game. Other than that the graphics and sounds do okay for themselves, but it's not memorable.
To the summary...