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Arcade Archives: Pac-Man (PlayStation 4) artwork

With the arrival of Namco's 1980 coin-op classic into the Arcade Archives catalog, veterans and newcomers alike will have an opportunity to take control of the iconic yellow circle. Long time acquaintances already know the deal, but what can potential novices expect from such a "simple" game with a basic concept?

Pac-Man is about a yellow sentient orb, your titular protagonist, who traverses black and blue colored mazes in an attempt to eat all the yellow dots that are littered everywhere. Collect every dot within a maze in order to progress to the next one. However, getting in the way of this goal are four ghosts, each one starting in a "cage" in the middle of each maze, successively coming out until all roam free in search of your character; let one of these ghosts touch you and a life is lost, but thankfully any dots you've devoured remain excluded from the stage upon Pac-Man's default respawn location. Of course, having such oppressors give chase in an already-cramped, rectangular-shaped maze can be tricky, but you have offensive options at your aid. Placed at each corner of a stage are Power Pellets, which, once obtained, temporarily allows you to chomp on the now-fleeing ghosts and gain more points in the process.

But Power Pellets aren't the be-all, end-all scenario to your success; they prolong your survival rate when used appropriately, but they only give so much leeway. This is where Pac-Man's real appeal starts to shine through. You can simply run around the stage and hope for the best, but a keen combination of fast reflexes, a good handle on the stage layout, and a general idea about the ghost AI functions will get you through more stages. Each ghost, for instance, is programmed to react a certain way: the red ghost will aggressively hunt you down directly, the blue and pink ghosts have been coded with ambush-like behavior in mind, and the orange usually roams aimlessly, until they all eventually converge on your current whereabouts.

Even once you understand the ghosts' pattern behaviors, the game doesn't necessarily become less challenging. Mazes still feel like frenzied battlegrounds as you must simultaneously collect dots and avoid trouble coming your way, and this only gets harder since ghosts increase in speed as you complete more stages. Nevertheless, your better understanding of the AI will help with navigating each maze and with more purpose. Your opponents will try predicating where you're going to be, and you can use that as an advantage to manipulate their behavior; at times you can "herd" them into a specific location to free up an escape route in the opposite direction. Of course, this becomes tougher when they're faster, which often leads to some chaotic maneuvers and close calls.

Sounds like a relentless good time that you want a piece of? If that's the case, then purchasing the game on the PSN Store should pose no problems... That is, until you realize there's actually two Pac-Man releases available: this 2021 Arcade Archives edition and an earlier 2016 version under the Arcade Game Series label, with the 2016 release having a notably cheaper price tag. Any differences? With the AGS title, you won't notice anything at first... until you get into a hectic chase. Successfully turning corners quickly is an essential tactic when escaping or reaching for a Power Pellet, but unfortunately, the AGS game doesn't give you that luxury with its questionable input lag. If you even attempt to play a serious session with this port, then get ready for a sore thumb due to how hard you're pressing the analog stick or d-pad in the high hopes of making a proper turn.

Now let's say you play both versions back to back, starting with the rugged AGS "interpretation." Memories of those awkward, uncertain controls immediately melt away when you grab hold of Arcade Archives' take; now you're gliding around those corners with no effort like some kind of drift king. Granted, if you're new to Pac-Man, you'll still likely die a lot, but you'll definitely know it's your fault for sucking, and from there you can play a proper session and improve without the hassle of dreadfully-vague control lag.

That's good, because if there's one thing a conversion should not fail at is be a genuine representation of what a classic game initially felt like. The Arcade Game Series version was an unfortunate blemish that might have given new gamers a wrong first impression, but that's finally been rectified with Arcade Archives: Pac-Man. Whether you're a seasoned pro that understands the game from the inside-out, and thus able to reach the coveted stage 256 kill screen, or a casual player looking for something entertaining, Pac-Man is a solid endeavor that has withstand the test of time.

When it's correctly ported, that is.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (November 25, 2021)

Happy New Year.

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honestgamer posted November 25, 2021:

I'm disappointed to hear that the Arcade Game Series edition of Pac-Man features poor controls that sound like they're the equal of the awful controls Bandai Namco went with for the Xbox 360 version of the game. I'm especially disappointed because I recently purchased Mrs. Pac-Man in that same line, and I suspect the issues will carry over to that. The only reason I bought Mrs. Pac-Man is that it's the most recent version released for any console, and I wanted to make sure I got it. But now I'm suspicious that it may be an awful time. Curses!
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dementedhut posted November 25, 2021:

You know what's funny? I wouldn't have realized this if it wasn't for the fact that the AGS version was on sale when I was browsing the PSN Store a few weeks back. I bought it on a whim and played it, and I was really confused why I kept getting stuck when I tried making Pac-Man turn in a fast chase. That eventually lead to my curiosity as to how the AA version played. And that pretty much motivated me to write a review for the AA game.

Thanks for reading!

Edit: also, I didn't mention this in the review, but as an additional slap in the face, the AGS game is somehow 838 MB, while the AA version manages to do the game at 33.6 MB.

Edit 2: Most of the recent Arcade Archives games that came out have been Namco titles, so hopefully Ms. Pac-Man could get the same treatment soon! (I couldn't see any rights issues getting in the way, since an AGS version exists)
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honestgamer posted November 26, 2021:

I bought the Ms. Pac-Man game because when Bandai Namco announced its upcoming Pac-Man collection, there were a lot of people complaining because Ms. Pac-Man wasn't part of it, and then a lot of discussion about how @Games has locked down the rights so there isn't a more recent console version than the one I just bought (and may not ever be again). Better safe than sorry, I figured. And yes, large file download sizes for a tiny game make very little sense to me.

Edit: Looking around online, it seems Bandai Namco and AtGames finally reached some sort of agreement and a court dismissed their ongoing legal battle at the end of last year, which may have prevented Ms. Pac-Man from appearing in the upcoming collection but might not prevent her from making an appearance in some other form soon. Hope springs eternal?

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