Monday, 30 September 2013

REVIEW - Pac-Man Championship Edition DX + (XBLA)

Wakka Wakka Wakka

Still officially one of the best games on XBLA, as voted by me, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (Phew!) is one the greatest updates to a classic game ever created, as well as being more addictive than the tastiest of crack rocks. I have ploughed many, many hours into the 2010 release, shunning such trivial necessities such as sleep and food in order to spend hour upon hour munching dots and ghosts to a psytrance soundtrack. Now, 3 years later, we have some fresh new DLC to devour like the gluttonous Pac-Man whores we all are. 

Part free update, part paid-for DLC, DX+ adds some welcome improvements to the online leaderboards - including the ability to challenge friends to score attacks - and new in-game achievements and medals, all gratis. Should you wish to throw money at Namco for more pill gobbling goodness (and who wouldn't?) then you can savour four new mazes, new music tracks, and some wonderful visual options that pay tribute to classic Namco arcade titles. You can choose to buy each DLC item individually, or buy the whole lot - dubbed, the 'All You Can Eat Add-on pack' for a discounted price.

2007's Pac-Man Championship Edition, for those who don't know already, was a vastly revamped take on the classic arcade maze game from 1980. The visuals received a modernised, neon look and the soundtrack consisted of pumping trance tracks that kept your heart racing. In 2010, Championship Edition DX was released and was a massive improvement over its predecessor. There were now eight mazes instead of just two, new game modes including a variety of time trial challenges, and new gameplay mechanics that really elevated the game to fantastic new heights. Pac-Man CE flipped the script by tasking you with munching all dots on one side of the screen before the next load would appear on the opposite side and, instead of being chased by four ghosts with additional critters joining the chase along the way, you now had to contend with sleeping spectres that would awaken as you skimmed past them, joining a lengthy conga-line of adversaries chasing you. 

Nabbing a power pill - as has always been the case in Pac-Man - turns the tables on your enemies, granting you the ability to chomp them, leading to one of the most satisfying mechanics in gaming as you begin a long combo chow-down on everyone following you. Some ghosts have power pills inside them, meaning you have to be in power mode in order to nab it, increasing the length of time you are the hunter rather than the hunted, and racking up potentially huge scores. Bombs can be used by players, effectively working as a smart weapon, eradicating every ghost on screen, but rather than making the game too easy, these feel like a last resort and fill you with a sense of disappointment as you watch the huge line of ghosts - potentially enormous score-fodder - disappear from the screen.

Now, three years after the release of DX, DX+ has aarrived and, while it is basically business as usual for DX players, the additional content is well worth having for any fan of both Pac-Man CE DX and Namco's classic games. The four new mazes;  Championship III, Highway II, and Mountain and Big Eater are all great fun to play, offering some tricky designs to navigate around and will put your hand-eye co-ordination to the test. The new visual modes are wonderfully retro and are true fanboy fodder for 80's arcade addicts like myself. Both Dig Dug and Rally-X are represented here, with a graphical overhauls that perfectly replicate the sprites and backdrops of both those games, with cool remixes of the original themes to accompany the action. These were a definite highlight for me, and I will simply never get tired of playing Pac-Man as Dig Dug. There is also a theme called Pac is Back, which uses a more cartoon-like style that resembles Pac-Man box art from his many games - complete with ridiculous Pinocchio nose. Other music additions include an awesome re-working of the Entrance theme, imaginatively titled, Re-Entrance, and - finally! - a drum & bass track that brings to mind those cool 170bpm tracks in the classic Ridge Racer series.

With the free update sorting out the leaderboard and medals side of things - which include a rather large focus on sharing your accomplishments on Facebook - and the paid DLC giving you some exceptionally enjoyable levels and Namco fan service, DX+ is an absolute must-buy for existing fans of Pac-Man CE DX - indeed, I am sure most of you will have already spent the £5 on updating your copy of DX. For newcomers, I simply cannot recommend DX+ highly enough as it is the definitive version of Pac-Man Championship Edition, and is one of the purest, adrenaline fueled arcade videogames of all time, and as such, should be experienced by anyone with even a passing interest in the medium of gaming.

The Good :

  • More of the same awesome Pac-Man DX Gameplay
  • Four excellent new mazes 
  • Four new music tracks, including an excellent Drum & Bass track at last.
  • You can play Pac-Man DX with Dig Dug or Rally-X graphics
  • As incredibly addictive as ever

The Bad :

  • Er... I would have liked some other Namco game graphics (i.e. Mappy), but this is just nit-picking.

Title : Pacman Championship Edition DX+
Developer : Namco Bandai
Year : 2013
System : XBLA
Also on : PS3, PC