Pac-Man (Xbox 360) review
"Blinky is riding you like a cowboy on a bronco and youíre doomed if you donít reach the side warp in time. Every millisecond counts. You round a bend and you need to head left for safety, so you press the button. What happens on-screen? Pac-Man moves down."
Jbob007 can take his 327,340 points and his number one rank and go fly a kite so far as Iím concerned. Pac-Man on Xbox Live Arcade is tough like nails. Itís so tough--so relentlessly unforgiving and frustrating--that itís beyond me how anyone could possibly spend the time to attain such a high score unless he: a) is a masochist; b) has no life; or c) has an arcade stick (I'm willing to bet it's the last of those three for our friend Jbob).
Thereís one reason the game is so tough, one factor that steps in and slaps you around the minute start playing: the controller. Scoff all you want but know in your heart of hearts that the Xbox 360 is not meant for games you like playing with the d-pad. Itís just not. You want precision and you want split-second reactions or youíll never stand a chance of ridding the screen of all those pesky pellets. What you get instead is a series of half-assed dance moves. Pac-Man moves as if in a drunken stupor, particularly if youíre trying to quickly negotiate a series of turns with a ghost riding your butt.
Maybe youíre not even in danger, though. Maybe you just want to boost your score so youíve snagged one of the four power pellets and now the ghosts are briefly fleeing from your wrath, quivering blue blobs. You start after them and they cleverly duck through a tight turn. You try to proceed down the same path but instead Pac-Man moves off to the left. By the time youíve recovered, itís too late. Going after your victim now will almost certainly prove fatal. The ghosts have already begun the flashing animation that lets you know theyíll soon revert to their ferocious selves. Youíll arrive too late.
Hereís another scenario: youíre playing a level--maybe itís the first or maybe youíve made it all the way up to the 20th--and youíre rushing through one turn after another, sweating it because the power pellets are gone. Blinky is riding you like a cowboy on a bronco and youíre doomed if you donít reach the side warp in time. Every millisecond counts. You round a bend and you need to head left for safety, so you press the button. What happens on-screen? Pac-Man moves down. Down into the red ghost and his pink friend, down to doom, down in the direction thereís no damn way you wanted to go.
This happens not once in awhile, but nearly every time you play. So the result isnít the exhilarating rush youíre supposed to have when youíre playing Pac-Man. Itís not that feeling youíve had when you played it in the arcade or on the Playstation or Nintendo. Dread settles in like bad breath on a first date. What if you try to turn that corner and it doesnít happen? What if youíre trying to duck quickly between two ghosts and instead you rush directly toward one? Youíre suddenly trapped in this alternate reality where Pac-Man sucks and itís all because of the controller!
Now, some might say ďHey, thereís an analogue stick!Ē Those people are right. There is an analogue stick, and it improves things. Slightly. However, it doesnít capture the arcade feel at all. Adapting to it proves difficult and itís clear from the very start that this is not how Pac-Man was meant to be played. Itís like eating a sandwich with chopsticks.
The port gets nearly everything right that it possibly can, of course. The familiar munching sound is rendered perfectly and nothing looks deformed. Youíve got the panel art on either side of the screen, reminding you how cheerful Pac-Man looks when heís not having his flesh devoured by cheap ghosts. It shows him leading them on a merry chase and reminds you that when itís done right, thatís how Pac-Man plays.
There are achievements, too, and they should be easily accomplished without resorting to anything cheap. One rewards you for eating all four ghosts after snagging a pellet. Thatís a gimme. Another boosts your gamerscore for the same accomplishment, executed four times in a single stage. Thatís tougher, but doable. The others, though, all have to do with how many levels you can survive. Can you grab the fruit in stage 2? How about the bonus item in stage 21? Not with the stupid controller, you canít. Good luck even reaching the second cinema sequence. Clearly, someone realized this was the case because they implemented an insulting Band-Aid in the form of a stage select. Yes, you can actually choose to resume play in the stage where you left off, so that all you have to do is keep continuing to eventually get all but two of the accomplishments. This sort of feature shouldnít even have been necessary.
To round things out, Namco Bandai also included leader boards. You can compare your score with that of your friends and worldwide rivals. This works great, and it serves a purpose: if there ever comes a time when the Xbox 360 arcade sticks are worth the price of a small island or just a sports car, youíll know which players to rob. Theyíre the ones at the top of the charts, the ones that arenít using the same hardware the rest of us are stuck with. Those lucky bastards!
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 09, 2006)
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.
If you enjoyed this Pac-Man review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!