Pac-Man World 2 (GameCube) review
"The variety from level to level isn't so huge, but there are 6 different worlds, each of which is quite distinct. You have your usual intro levels, the forest world, the ice world, the fire world, the water world, and the boss world. Each world has 3 or 4 stages and a boss encounter."
The Pac-Man franchise is nearly as old as I am, and is a fair amount older than many of today's younger gamers, but that doesn't mean it's not still worth a look. Namco continues to produce new titles in the series from time to time in an effort to spice things up. The latest such effort is Pac-Man World 2 for the Nintendo GameCube (and Playstation 2), a game that manages to be terrific fun despite the fact that if you've played many games before, you've seen all of it before.
The game begins with the traditional screens, then from the company information, you're treated to a simplistic cartoon. In it, the purple ghost--I forget her name--is picking flowers and dreaming that Pac-Man is in love with her. Pac-Man is asleep at the time, but his dog isn't, so the creature barks at the ghost and scares her away. She races throughout the Pac-Man village with the other ghosts, until they come to the giant tree and its golden fruit which lies at the village center. The ghosts pluck the fruit from the tree and are playing games with it when suddenly a monster crawls from under the tree, which had imprisoned it. The monster promises to help get rid of the Pac people if the ghosts help keep the fruit separated and away from the tree.
It's a weird opening story, to be sure, but it's all just an excuse for some great gameplay. When you gain control of Pac-Man, you are in the village center and you will learn about the world you will explore. This first area contains fruit in simple locations and pellets and such, as well as the arcade. Go into the arcade and you'll see a fine collection of older Pac-Man games that includes Pac-Mania (my personal favorite) and Pac Attack, as well as the typical other two that seem to be on nearly any Pac-Man collection Namco produces.
To play those games, you'll need to collect tokens from the main game. There are 8 tokens in each of the game's true stages, and you can get 2 bonus tokens if you collect everything and if you are able to complete a stage in record time on the time trial mode. Very nice. The first problem I have with the game is that if you want to unlock those classics, you're going to have to get pretty darn good at the main game. Unlocking Mrs. Pac-Man is nearly impossible.
What the main game consists of is typical, to say the least. You run and jump through 3D stages, collecting items and avoiding death until you reach the goal. Pac-Man is rather weak, which means he can hop and butt bounce, or roll into a Sonic-like ball and then let go with a strike that will damange tougher enemies. Also, he can hang from ledges. Later in the game, he can also swim, skate, and pilot a submarine, but for the most part his skills are limited to those I described above. By picking up a power-up in the stages, he can also gobble ghosts for a time, or turn invulnerable, a skill mostly useful for getting past saws or walking through vapors.
The thing is, the simplistic game design works very well. If you're not opposed to the cuteness factor inherent in any Pac-Man game, you'll find a lot to like. The variety from level to level isn't so huge, but there are 6 different worlds, each of which is quite distinct. You have your usual intro levels, the forest world, the ice world, the fire world, the water world, and the boss world. Each world has 3 or 4 stages and a boss encounter.
The typical level involves you starting and looking out at a vast landscape. There's no slowdown, no pop-up, and all is good. You race about, collecting pellets scattered about like coins. Enemies try and make things difficult, but you bounce them and they're toast. Some crates are to your side, so you crash them open and snag the items, then keep moving as you collect different fruits hanging around throughout the level. Then you find a key, so you snag it, only to be whisked off to a maze that feels very much like the Pac-Man games of old. You complete it and exit, then continue from the checkpoint it has created, until you reach the end of the area.
This layout varies slightly depending on the level. Most of the time, for example, you must look pretty hard to find the key I mentioned. But it's the basic formula, and like I said it works. Very nice.
Eventually, you'll complete enough stages to meet a boss. These encounters are very much like those you might experience in a game such as Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil. The ghosts each pilot giant machines, and only your rev rolls and butt bounces can take care of them. If you die partway through but you've triggered a second or third phase of the encounter, you continue from that point onward. Boss battles usually aren't all that difficult, especially if you have stockpiled some lives.
Right now, you must be wondering just what it is about this game that makes it special. After all, it sounds like it's just a collection of all the usual platformer elements, right? Right. It really is. What makes it good is that in nearly every way possible, Namco has done things 'right'. Graphics are not stellar, but they're very, very good. Sound isn't the best you've ever heard, but it's catchy and you might find yourself humming along. Add that to the very cool sounds that have always been a part of any Pac-Man title and the audio department rocks. Play control is tight, too, so you'll have little difficulty getting through the stages exactly as you should, provided you have the appropriate skills. In fact, my only real gripe is the camera system.
There are few times when the camera becomes an issue, but when it does you'll definitely notice it. I'm not saying things are anywhere near as bad as they are in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, not by a longshot, but there are moments where you'll be trying to negotiate a series of ledges and you'll have to guess. Fortunately, camera problems seem to crop up mostly in areas where you've just passed a checkpoint and grabbed a life, so it's not like your game will be cut short because of it. You just might have to try the section an extra time. Still, it's worth noting.
Also worth noting is that despite how bland my review might make the game sound, it really is a lot of fun. I had quite a lot of fun working through it. There were of course moments where I shouted uncomplimentary things at my television screen, and the maze level at the end had me gripping the controller more tightly than I normally might, but all in all this was a game very much worth playing. I heartily recommend that you at least rent it. Personally, I think it's worth owning, the best platformer the system has yet seen.
Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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