"This museum could use an audio guide or two."
Pac-Man Museum is Namco's latest Museum collection of arcade games, and the first to focus entirely on Pac-Man. It sounds like it would be a nice look back on the history of one of gaming's most iconic characters, but it unfortunately fails to deliver.
Pac-Man Museum includes nine games (plus one DLC title) spanning 30 years of the character's history. Unlike you would in an actual museum, you won't learn much about the content on display. Aside from a page of instructions, no information is included about any of the selections. No trivia. No arcade flyers. No anything. Instead, Namco has included what essentially amounts to an ad for the “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures” cartoon. By completing objectives in the games, you can unlock characters and objects from the show, which will appear in a 3D room that is displayed on the menu screen. Whatever resources went into this diorama would have been better spent elsewhere.
Of course, the original Pac-Man, which started it all, is present. There's a good chance you own several versions of this title already, and even if you don't, you are probably familiar with the iconic dot-munching, ghost-dodging gameplay. In a... bold move by Namco, Ms. Pac-Man is only available as DLC. The add-on is free until the end of March, but after that point, it will cost $5, on top of the collection's already hefty $20 price tag. Selling Ms. Pac-Man separately from a collection of Pac-Man arcade games seems similar to releasing Super Mario Bros. 3 DLC for Super Mario All-Stars.
Next on the Pac-Man timeline are a couple of weird experiments you may never have heard of. Super Pac-Man and Pac & Pal are two games that feel more like strange ROM hacks than proper sequels. Both involve collecting items to open gates, granting access to fruit and items, which you collect in lieu of dots. Super Pac-Man introduces a power up that will make Pac-Man huge and powerful enough to force his way through gates without opening them. Pac & Pal's gimmick, on the other hand, is the inclusion of a female ghost named “Miru” who will wander the maze, picking up items and bringing them to the ghost house. Whether Miru is much of a “pal” is debatable, since you'll earn no points for items she steals. These two games are sort of interesting from a historical standpoint, since they're mostly forgotten today, but they're not very much fun.
Two games that stray even farther from the traditional Pac-Man gameplay are puzzler Pac-Attack and platformer Pac-Land. Pac-Attack is actually a pretty interesting spin on Tetris, with falling blocks that can be used to create lines that disappear. The twist is the inclusion of ghosts, which will get in the way and prevent you from completing lines. Pac-Man himself will occasionally fall into the playfield, munching any ghosts between his landing spot and the bottom of the screen. It's certainly a better puzzler than Pac-Land is a platformer, with its bland level design, repetitive music, and floaty physics. These two selections are the worst casualties of one of Pac-Man Museum's most confusing design decisions: the inclusion of a border around (almost) every game.
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (March 03, 2014)
Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.
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