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Pac-Man Museum (PlayStation 3) artwork

Pac-Man Museum (PlayStation 3) review

"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.


Yikes! That's a lot of wasted screen real estate. For whatever reason, there's no option to turn off the border or expand the image, so if you have your heart set on playing Pac-Land or Pac-Attack, I hope you have a big TV. Thankfully, the other games fill more of the screen and aren't as hard on the eyes.

Pac-Mania and Pac-Man Arrangement are more of a return to form, adding interesting (yet minor) new mechanics and obstacles to the classic formula. Pac-Mania allows Pac-Man and the ghosts to jump over one another, but is held back by its strange, slightly-rotated camera that's always too near the action. You can only see a small area of the maze at one time. Pac-Man Arrangement, on the other hand, is a lot of fun. Arrangement slowly adds new elements to the game, such as elevators or boost pads, as well as boss battles every few levels. The only down side here is that it's not the 1996 arcade version (which had a great simultaneous multiplayer mode), but the completely different game with the same title included in the PSP game Namco Museum Battle Collection. It's a fun game in its own right, and one of the more compelling reasons to grab this collection, but it's a bit disappointing if you go in expecting the arcade experience. Why not include both?

The last two games in the collection are two modern ones, Pac-Man Championship Edition and Pac-Man Battle Royale. Aside from the “Minis” version, this is Championship Edition's first appearance on the PS3, so it's a welcome inclusion. It's the same game you may have already played on the Xbox 360, with a great theme song, lighting fast gameplay, and mazes that change as you clear them. It's a quality game on its own, though perhaps unnecessary in a world where the fantastic Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ exists. Playing the original Championship Edition may not do much more than give you the itch to play the sequel instead.

Pac-Man Battle Royale is making its home console debut in Pac-Man Museum and it's both very welcome and very disappointing. I first played this game at Pac-Man's 30th anniversary party in 2010. Battle Royale is a four player head-to-head twist on the traditional dot-munching gameplay. Four Pac-Men scramble around the maze (which changes in a similar fashion to the maze in Championship Edition) gobbling dots and quarrelling over power pellets. When a power pellet is collected, the lucky eater grows to a gigantic size, and gains the ability to eat the other players. This is incredibly fun, like the Super Smash Bros. of Pac-Man, and I've waited four years for a home version of the game.

Unfortunately, Namco didn't make any of the necessary changes to really adapt the game for play at home. It's still just as fun with three friends as it is in arcades, but they'll have to all be in the same room, since there's no online multiplayer. The single player mode is practically pointless, thanks to the lack of bots. You can only play against one computer player at a time, making the game much less fun and frantic than it is at its best.

It's a shame that Namco chose to release this half-baked collection instead of putting more effort into Battle Royale itself. As a $10 download with simple online play and the option to play against up to three computer controlled characters when playing offline, the game would have been a no-brainer recommendation. As a $20 collection (or $25, if you want to buy and play Ms. Pac-Man after the end of this month) with quite a few duds, few options, little love and history, and giant borders that you can't turn off, Pac-Man Museum simply isn't a very good value and should probably be avoided by all but the most nostalgic of Pac-Man fans, unless you can grab it at a deep discount.

Roto13's avatar
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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