When Pac-Man Championship Edition was originally released on the Xbox Live Arcade it was both a commercial and critical success. Rather than attempt to drastically reboot the franchise (like they tried with those god-awful platformers) Namco kept the same tried and tested formula but tweaked a few gameplay elements to make the it feel fresh and exciting, something that the Pac-Man series failed to achieve in over 20 years. Now two years later Namco has seen fit to port Pac-Man CE to the iPhone but with only a touch screen to work with and no tactile buttons just how well does it hold up?
As with every iPhone port the biggest challenge, and key factor to the game’s success is determined by how well the controls translate to the touch screen. Playing a Pac-Man game with anything less than perfect controls could be detrimental to the experience but luckily Namco has provided multiple control schemes to insure players have the precision they need. “Control Type 1” places two d-pads at the bottom of the screen, players have the choice to use whichever d-pad they desire or even use them both in tandem for quicker reflexes. “Control Type 2” replaces the d-pads with left/right control keys and places a rectangle bar in-between them which functions as a down key. To move up players simply have to tap anywhere above the control portion of the screen, it may sound funky but in practice it works well enough. “Control Type 3” introduces thumb swipe controls where you slide your thumb in the direction you want Pac to move and “Control Type 4” is for finger swipes in-case you lost both your thumbs in a freak kitchen accident. Were it not for the dual d-pad option I would have had a hard time with Pac-Man CE, the swipe controls don’t work well enough and Control Type 2 can become cumbersome when the action speeds up and the game becomes more intense. After a few minutes getting to grips with the D-Pad Controls I was navigating Pac through mazes almost as smoothly as I could with the 360 controller.
For those unfamiliar with the Championship Edition or even the 1980’s Pac-Man, welcome to life. In the original arcade game players had to guide Pac through a maze gobbling up Pac-Dots and the avoiding four ghosts who seek to steal his soul. If a ghost touches Pac he loses a life, once all lives are lost the game ends. Ghosts can only defeated by collecting Power Pellets which were located in the four corners on the screen. Once a Power Pellet is obtain Pac-Man has a brief window to eat the ghosts as they turn neon blue and attempt to flee his wrath. Eating a ghost will send them back to their home located in the centre of the screen where they’ll reside for a few moments before re-joining the game. Once all Dots and Pellets are collected players move on to the next level where the maze and rules stay the same but the ghosts receive an incremental speed boost. Unfortunately for Pac he could never win, the game only ends when the ghosts tear his life away from him.| As with many arcade games your goal was not to “beat” the game but to rack up the highest score and reign on top of the leaderboards.
For Pac-Man Championship Edition the basic rules and premise are the same but instead of having to clear the maze wholesome players are required to clear up Dots and Pellets on one side of the screen which will cause a new series of Dots to appear on the other. This process will continue until either Pac dies or your 5 minute timer reaches zero. As the timer counts down the ghosts increase in speed and the placement of the Dots will become more complex, however a skilled player should be able to keep Pac on-the-move collecting a continuous stream of Dots and Pellets for the entire 5 minute interval. Unlike the old games Pac can finally win and doing will unlock new mazes each with varying degrees of difficulty. Completely new to iPhone version of Pac-Man CE are the Challenge and Mission modes however access to most of the Missions and any Challenges requires the purchase of an additional expansion pack. I’m sure Namco would argue that they’re giving players “choice” and not forcing them to pay for content they may not want but the notion of paying extra money for a game that I just paid for just doesn‘t sit right with me.
I’m sure no one was expecting the iPhone version of Pac-Man Championship Edition to be as good as the 360 version but it damn sure comes close and for a fraction of the price too. With Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man Remix already on the app store Pac-Man CE may appear to be just another mindless cash-in but this Championship Edition arguably the best version of Pac-Man since the original arcade game. The new timed mechanic is perfect for portable gaming and the Mission Mode is ideal for quick 2 minute sessions whilst waiting for the bus. If playing Pac-Man on the go is something you can see yourself doing it really gets no better than this.