Few gaming icons have had quite a fall from grace as much as Pac-Man. One of the most iconic video games of all time that even your grandparents recognize has not been relevant in how many years? Aside from the arcade games, the only games I have seen that are remotely well received have been the Pac-Man World trilogy of 3D platformers. I am quite fond of 3D platformers contrary to what those who think I only play RPGs and visual novels believe, so I thought I may enjoy this game.
I initially bought it during a PSN sale in 2016 along with Heavenly Guardian, but I barely played it. It seemed alright enough but didn’t interest me enough to keep me playing. Within the last few months I started it up again for no real reason other than that my PS3 happened to be set up and I had it there, and I figured I likely wouldn’t play it any other time so I should do so now.
At first the game seemed to have a solid foundation. Levels were largely linear and the game functioned as a pseudo 3D platformer similar to that of Crash Bandicoot only you are going from left to right instead of from backwards to forwards. It is thus important to note that it isn’t an open ended platformer like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. Another thing that it has in common with the first Crash Bandicoot is that you cannot use the analog stick to move, which is to be expected as both were released early in the PS1’s life cycle. What’s that? Pac-Man World was released in 1999, a whole two years after Sony created the first dual analog controller? Well uhh…. that’s pretty stupid… Okay technically it does but it’s still limited to eight directions because the game was supposedly designed (albeit poorly) with the D pad in mind.
This usually isn’t a problem in game, but there are some points that were not made for a D-pad. The first phase of the horrifically designed Anubis Rex boss battle for instance. Just… I don’t know how to describe it so I’ll post a link to a video of the fight for reference.
You see those turns? Yeah, you are making those with a D pad and without control of the camera. This naturally results in some wonky controls that will always kill you on the first attempt. Of course the actual fight is even worse but I will get to that later because the controls are the least of this game’s problem.
Story wise there is nothing more than an excuse plot where Pac-Man’s family has been captured by Toc-Man, an evil mechanical version of Pac-Man that I have no idea where he originates. You then need to go through 6 worlds to rescue them, each with either two or three levels and a boss.
Gameplay is designed more like your typical sidescroller rather than an open ended 3D platformer and is thus very linear. Unlike the 2D sidescrollers that everyone likes, the level design throughout most of Pac-Man World is dull and unengaging. Rather than create levels that offered interesting puzzles or challenges, most are based around needing to find hidden fruit or hit switches to collect fruit from treasure chests in order to unlock doors. The first of many problems is that you often need to backtrack through levels in order to find these doors which only serves to pad out the length of the levels. This means that a single level will often take anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to complete.
This would not be a problem all on its own if it were not for a few things. The first of these is that Pac-Man World uses a lives system and the shit you collected is not saved if you get a game over or if you reach the exit. The former of which is a problem because the game only gives you five lives and there are some moments with cheap difficulty that only serve to screw you over. I am sure that the idea of having to redo up to 20 minutes worth of backtracking and collecting speaks for itself, but thankfully it is not too difficult to farm lives between the various end of level mini games (unless you are playing the horrendous GBA remake that is missing all that shit and will only allow you to farm lives by picking them up in levels).
But as I mentioned, you still need to pick up EVERY collectable in one run through of a level or it will not count. If you miss just one of the “Pacman” letters that they totally didn’t rip off from Donkey Kong Country, you need to do the entire level again. This is even worse in regards to Pac-Man’s captured family members that require you to find a key to rescue them from a cage, a key that is sometimes in a completely different level. On top of this, there is a powerup that temporarily turns Pac-Man into metal so he can sink to the bottom of the water (which they totally didn’t take from Super Mario 64) and destroy floating treasure chests that can’t otherwise be broken. These powerups do not respawn after you collect them the first time, so if you don’t break open the box with the collectable you need in time then you get to start the entire process over again; and this WILL happen a lot! Oh, and freeing Pac-Man’s family members is required in order to unlock the final boss.
The bosses in Pac-Man World are a mixed back. The first boss in the game is fairly easy but the second boss is the aforementioned Anubis Rex, the hardest and most shittily designed boss in the game (although Krome Keeper offers stiff competition). The fights against King Galaxian and Clown Prix were both pretty fun despite using mechanics that were not used in any of the previous levels, and I heard the final battle against Toc-Man was pretty good but I rage quit before making it to him.
Pac-Man World also includes the original Arcade game because of course it does, and it also has 32 new maze levels in the same vein as the original arcade game. Unfortunately most of these maze levels needed to add gimmicky hazards that only made them more frustrating, but I was never good at the original arcade Pac-Man to begin with so you can take that with a grain of salt or twenty.
Also there is the subject of the GBA version. I haven’t played it but I have looked up some shit related to it. It’s almost universally agreed the the GBA port is horrendous. It’s missing half the content of the original game and the inability to farm lives kills any enjoyment one can get out of it. Okay technically my enjoyment was already killed by all the repetition in the original, but even if you could tolerate that it is recommended you keep at least a parsec of distance between you and the GBA version.
As for the original game, there were some fun moments and it was a decent attempt. The music is catchy, the graphics are decent, and the base formula could have worked if there was a bit more fine tuning. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this game to anyone other than the most dedicated of platformer fanatics. I have heard good things about the sequels, but it is still sad that the original game went from Pac-Man Fever to Pac-Man Cancer.
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