Disclaimer: A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer for this critique.
Pac-Man is an iconic franchise that has graced arcades since 1980. Over the years, the loveable yellow hero got married, had a child and has even switched genres from time to time. We’ve seen Pac-Man and friends in party games, platformers, a racer, and even a pinball game. Where else could the character possibly go next? Well, thanks to developer Hipster Whale (The creators of the hit game Crossy Road), our hero can now add endless runner to the types of games he has been in.
Pac-Man 256 is a simple, yet addictive game all about surviving for as long as you can. Pac-Man starts at the bottom of the screen and must outrun a glitch that is chasing him throughout the maze. The ever persistent enemy isn’t the only thing that Pac-Man has to worry about. The iconic ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde) and some new ones are all trying to stop our hero in his tracks. A cool thing is that each colored ghost has a different ability that Pac-Man must look out for. For example, the orange ghosts will run straight towards you upon passing them. Grey ones awake from their slumber and follow you until you can shake them loose.
Compared to the older Pac-Man games, it’s great to see that the ghosts have different characteristics that keep each game tense and rewarding. Pac-Man can also collect power-ups that will help him defeat and evade the enemies on screen. There are bombs that explode on impact. When this happens, ghosts in the area will be killed. There is also a stealth ability that turns Pac-Man invisible for a short time. There are plenty of power-ups that add a new dimension to each run of Pac-Man 256. Players are allowed to pick three power-ups at a time so taking the time to pick which abilities you want in your loadout is heavily advised.
Missions are also available that will award players coins which can be used to upgrade the various power-ups in the game. All of these additions are excellent and it makes for a fun game, but this also highlights the biggest problem with Pac-Man 256. In order to upgrade or unlock a new power-up, you need to collect A LOT of power pellets. Unlocking certain power-ups take a while to achieve.
I forgot that the game was originally a mobile title and that’s when it started making sense to me. Mobile games aren’t meant to be played for long periods of time. You unlock things overtime and play a few games here and there. While trying to unlock everything, I started to lose interest because I would play for long sessions. Pac-Man 256 is the type of title that is good for 5-10 runs at a time before taking a break. That’s not to say that the game is bad, it’s just not something I would see myself playing in a marathon session.
Pac-Man 256 also has a multiplayer mode (exclusive to consoles) that features cooperative/competitive fun. Four players can enter the playing field and work together to eat and destroy all of the ghosts they come across. At the same time, players are also working to get the highest score. It’s a fun thing to see a player attempt to help a teammate only to flee at the last second so they can win. In an industry where most games feature online co-op, it’s cool that there are still games that feature addicting couch co-op multiplayer.
The visual and audio aspects of Pac-man 256 are great. The ears are treated to familiar and pleasing sounds while the glitch styled effects are really cool and eye-popping. The developers took the Pac-Man formula and made it very appealing to look at.
The Pac-Man series is at its strongest when our hero is on a grid trying to collect power pellets and eat ghosts. While his other ventures have been enjoyable, it’s great to see Pac-Man return to form in a slightly different take on the classic game. While the gameplay is addicting, Pac-Man 256 is best enjoyed in short 30 minute bursts instead of long gaming sessions. Xbox One owners looking for multiplayer fun should definitely give this a try. While this isn’t the greatest outing for our hero, it’s one of the best Pac-Man games in recent memory.