There isn’t a name as recognizable in gaming as Pac-Man. Namco’s ghost munching quarter-circle has had an iron fist on the arcade scene since the 80s. Being such an early arcade game, Pac-Man has a very simplistic design. Namco, over the years, had made many attempts to translate the 2D arcade action into something more active. There were some gems in there, but mostly very poor titles. In the late 90s, gaming took a shift to 3D. All of a sudden, Mario was collecting coins and power stars in a new dimension while Sonic was… well Sonic was dying out with the closest thing to a 3D game being a flicky collecting simulator by Traveller’s Tales. Dozens of beloved gaming mascots made the jump to 3D in this era. Not the least of which was Pac-Man.
While on the way to celebrate the big man’s 20th birthday, many of Pac-Man’s beloved friends and family are kidnapped by Tok-Man and his evil ghost pals. The ghosts have set flyers promising a spooky bash at Ghost Island with a promising guest appearance of Pac-Man himself. Being a good husband, wonderful father, amazing pet-owner, good friend, and gluttonous goof, Pac-Man sets off to save his friends and his birthday! It’s a simple plot, but sometimes those are all you need. I found myself laughing a lot at the games multiple pre-rendered cutscenes. They scream “early PlayStation” from miles away.
Pac-Man World released for the original PlayStation in 1999. It aimed to reinvent gamings biggest icon into a 3D platformer. It took a lot of notes from the best of the era while also keeping true to the franchise’s roots. You’ll find a lot of early 3D Platformer conventions now sprinkled with the magic Namco touch! I find Pac-Man himself controls with a rather heavy weight that feels similar to Crash. This didn’t drag the experience down, but it did make a few jumps awkward.
Pac-Man himself has a simple, but robust, moveset. He can perform what the game calls a butt-bounce by pressing the jump button a second time in the air. The butt-bounce will allow you to attack enemies, open chests, and jump on trampolines. You gain more height with the butt-bounce than a regular jump, and you’ll basically be using it as a replacement for a regular jump. As another main attack, Pac-Man can throw the pellets he collects in the levels! They’re quite plentiful, so you shouldn’t worry about using them, but I didn’t like this attack compared to the butt-bounce. Last, and most certainly least, Pac-Man can perform a rev-roll by holding square and then letting go. This move allows him to travel up steep hills and on “helivators”. The game tells you it can be used as an attack, you’re never going to use it as an attack. When you collide with an enemy, you go flying in a completely random direction. It’s uncontrollable, and I don’t like how they push it for certain encounters.
The basic moveset isn’t all you’ll have at your disposal! There are a few power-ups that will help you across your journey. The chrome ball will turn Pac-Man into… Metal Mario… you sink to the bottom of water to get collectibles and can defeat previously unkillable enemies. You’ll also be able to pass through certain hazards like poison and fire. Later in the game, you’ll find the ultra butt-bounce. The next time you butt-bounce, you’ll wipe out every enemy on screen. The last power-up is the series-staple power pellet. Which will turn ghosts blue and allow you to eat them.
As a 3D Platformer, Pac-Man will be exploring various levels across the six worlds. They are much more similar to Crash Bandicoot than something like Super Mario 64. You’re aiming to get to the end of a stage from point A to B. You’ll be collecting many pellets along the way. Sometimes you’ll come across power-ups, some fruit, or a key. The fruit in this game are the same eight from the original arcade game.
You’re constantly searching for the current world’s key to open a cage holding one of your friends. Collecting fruit allows you to open a fruit door. Fruit doors can lock switches, keys, P-A-C-M-A-N letters, and more behind them. You’ll want to make sure you nab everything.
Levels are more akin to 2.5D than a full 3D platformer. Like the side-scrolling stages of Crash Bandicoot. They feel like they’re both a straight hallway, and a deep maze to explore. It’s a hard feeling to convey. You have dozens of split paths, and secrets, but they don’t all connect at the end. Level design never felt unfair to me. There are quite a few janky, and awkward, jumps over the adventure. I can’t fault the game too hard, it’s on the PSX.
The Galaxian door will always put Pac-Man into a maze that is based off of the original Pac-Man. These mazes implore stage-specific gimmicks into them. They have too many straight pathways, and too few breaks, to feel like I can properly dodge ghosts. I really disliked these mazes. None of them felt fun. They didn’t even make me angry. I’d prefer terrible to mediocre.
Pac-Man World also features boss battles. Most of them are relatively unmemorable. I didn’t feel like most of them were bad, but they either dragged on for too long or were too easy. There is one very notable exception to this. Anubis Rex, the boss of the second world, is the hardest boss I have fought in a video game. His patterns are random, and pixel-perfect precision is required to fight him. I will never be revisiting this game in the form it currently exists. Just because of this stupid boss.
Pac-Man World is not a pretty game at all. Its menu systems are quite clunky, and bland looking. Pac-Man World isn’t pushing PSX hardware, but it never tried to. For what Pac-Man World loses in visual fruit, it gobbles up in music and sound design. Every track, every sound effect, and most importantly, every wakka-wakka was pure pleasure to the ear. Pac-Man World definitely has one of the best soundtracks for the few PSX titles I’ve tried.
Pac-Man World offers the original arcade Pac-Man as a bonus mode. It’s emulated well, and responds great to my inputs. It’s not something I care about, but it’s a completely inoffensive bonus on top of an already complete 3D Platformer.
I like Pac-Man World a lot. I never would have considered myself a Pac-Man fan if I hadn’t played this game. I actually picked up the other games in the franchise to try on my own time whenever I’m not reviewing games for this series. If you can, I highly recommend picking up Pac-Man World. It won’t be for everyone, but it just might surprise you.
Pac-Man is one of the worst represented franchises in Smash. I genuinely don’t understand why. Bandai Namco are the developers behind the game, with Masahiro Sakurai at the helm, they’re doing all of the dirty work! Pac-Man joined the franchise in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. The first games in the series Bandai Namco worked on. They had to get their mascot in! Pac-Man had two stages, Pac-Land and Pac-Maze from the arcade, Pac-Maze was removed in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for some jarring reason. The only other content Pac-Man has are a few music tracks, and five spirits. Pac-Man doesn’t even get proper alternate colors! He stays yellow in every one of his alts. Only the color of his shoes and mitts change.
While the extra content is severely lacking in a storm of baffling decisions, Pac-Man is also on the roster proper. He has an absolutely wonderful moveset that serves as a love-letter to the classic arcade title, and Pac-Man World. I’d certainly like to see him do more from the World games, but I can’t fault them for playing into his roots. Pac-Man as a character just about makes up entirely for the utter lack of extra content.