As someone who has firmly entrenched themselves in Retro TV Games, I love the “Dot Game.” This entire sub-genre of arcade game that I would put forth served as a primordial soup for games as a whole, starting with Sega’s Head-On and the University of Tokyo’s Theoretical Science Group’s Heiankyo Alien, both in 1979, and including games like Rally-X, Raimais, Space Mouse, and arguably games like Bomberman, The Tower of Druaga, and Metal Gear. Of course, this also includes Pac-Man, a great game and an iconic character. A new compilation of Pac-Man games came out recently, called Pac-Man Museum+, and I didn’t have to pay a fucking dime for it (not sure why, since this is the XBox One version I’m writing about). I thought that I would check it out to see if it was any good, or if this was a butchered shit-show designed as a cheap cash-grab (hey Sega, how you doing?).
I’ll spoil the surprise for you all now: Pac-Man Museum+ is actually really fucking good. I thought that the format for this post will be doing a quick rundown of every game on here, then getting into the unique wrapper that ties this whole package together.
It’s Pac-Man. It’s fucking Pac-Man. Is this really something that needs to be reviewed? It does? Okay.
Pac-Man is as good today as it was in 1980. It managed to refine the formula for a nascent sub-genre that was only 2-3 games deep. Still immensely fun to speed around the maze, being chased by and then chasing the ghosts, all while eating dot after dot. I must also mention that the pixel art is wonderful, with the most aesthetically pleasing depiction of fruit in a TV game until the release of Bubble Bobble in 1986. Even after all these years, I still can’t quite explain what it is I love about the old arcade aesthetic; something about bright colors over a black void tickles something in my brain. Maybe it’s because there’s so much character and expression in these abstract 16×16 pixels, as if they have become sentient and are acting in defiance of the limited technology that brought them to life. Pac-Man and the ghosts are not generic stick figures or geometric shapes that would have populated the home consoles of the time, they are full-on characters with personality, and that’s why they’ve become these gaming icons. Anyways, the game rules and it still looks really cool.
For all of you out there who asked (none of you), this is actually my mom’s favorite Pac-Man game. Maybe because of that, there’s a subconscious thing at work there to explain why I don’t like this one a whole lot. Like, it’s not terrible, and I hate to be overly critical to something that’s attempting to change up the formula so as not to be repetitive, but I have never been able to get into Super Pac-Man. Dots have been replaced entirely with fruit, but are all locked behind gates that you need keys for. Then you have to unlock the Power Pellets. Then on top of that there’s Super Pellets that make Pac-Man faster, invincible, and able to break down gates without needing a key, so you have all this extra shit that makes the stuff from the last Pac-Man useless. Plus, I don’t like the design of the mazes in this one as much. That being said, the game is not terrible, but I’m still not a big fan, and most of my runs of this game were to get screenshots for this post, so I won’t be coming back to it.
Pac & Pal
Pac & Pal is an interesting one. It takes the gate mechanic of Super Pac-Man, but adds the element of randomization to it. You roll over a card, which tells you which items to pick up, and opens the gates blocking said item. The thing about the cards though, is that they’re not always next to the item you need. The card you pick might reveal a banana, but that banana could be in the opposite corner just as often as it will be in the tunnel right next to you. So the whole point of this game is to pick a card and find the item it reveals while avoiding the ghosts and dealing with the Pac Pal, Mil. Mil is this cute little green monster that walks around, picking up the items that you’re attempting to pick up. Mil can’t hurt you, but can hurt your score. See, Mil grabs the fruit you need to complete the level, and takes them back to the ghost house that you can’t enter. Not collecting every fruit or item in a level prevents you from getting a perfect clear bonus, which you want, because these are the kind of games you play for score.
Writing all of this out, I realize that Pac & Pal sounds really unappealing and tedious. I can assure you that this isn’t the case at all: Pac & Pal is actually really fun. It fixed the issues that I had with Super Pac-Man, keeping in line with Pac-Man’s mechanics, while maintaining its own identity. Adding Mil was a really neat idea, and I like the maze design a lot more. Good game.
Pac-Land is amazing. One of the first side-scrolling platformers ever; Super Mario was influenced by this. The PC-Engine port is among one of my favorite games on the system. Pac-Land is a game that tends to get a lot shit, critically speaking, these days. Ah, it’s slow, it’s boring, it’s not Mario!! That shit does not matter to me. I love Pac-Land because it’s this odd thing; this chill platformer where Pac-Man goes on a walk. He goes from left to right, dodging obstacles and avoiding ghosts until he finds a Power Pellet sitting on the ground. Plus there’s a bunch of secrets that are always fun to find.
Luckily, this is the Japanese version of the game, where Pac-Man has his long nose and expressive eyes, rather than the US version, where he looks like a fucking monster. Yes, I understand that the graphics were designed to look like the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, but here’s the thing: that cartoon looked like shit. He can keep his hat and that theme song, but not his weird “trying to look like a chubby human” face.
Now, I must mention that due to some weird legal issue, Ms Pac-Man is not in this collection. Not her game, nor her actual appearance in Pac-Land. So instead, we now have someone named “Pac-Mom,” this Last Season Of Family Matters Harriett Winslow recast. Not a fan of this. Once again, the suits up top do something fucking stupid, and everyone else has to pay for it.
Boy I really don’t like this one. It’s slow, you can’t even see the whole maze, don’t like the faux 3D graphics or the Lego block aesthetic. I find it boring. So boring, in fact, that I don’t feel like loading up the game again to get better screenshots. Skip it.
It’s shitty Tetris. I played it once, and never touched it again. A problem with Pac-Attack, aside from it being terrible, is that it’s a game that has to be unlocked. And to unlock the game, you have to play…
This is part of the compilation where I question some of the decisions that were made regarding what games were included. Pac-In-Time is a hastily reskinned Amiga game called Fury of the Furries. Now, I need to talk about this, because I’m sure I have some readers with a fond memory for this thing:
There has never, ever, been a good Amiga game.
You may be asking, but what about- no. Hey, this was totally a great- no. But- no. Not even- NO! Never been a good Amiga game! Don’t care if you spent your childhood playing The Antisemitic Adventures Of Angus McScroogle And His Stupid Fucking Egg Friend Named Eggy Because This Is England And Everything Is Word Plus The Letter Y At The End. Never been a good one. At least, because this is the SNES port, you can use an actual D-Pad and not have to click on what direction you want to go in with a mouse. Not like it fucking matters, because this game controls like absolute shit at the best of times anyway. This is a terrible game with bad controls and terrible levels and horrific sound and it can’t even be an original terrible game because it’s a reskin. If Namco wanted more non-Dot Maze Pac-Man games, Pac-Man 2 was right there. Hell, I would even take the SNES version with the horrible sound over this. Fuck Pac-In-Time, a game that, despite the title, does not actually have a time travel gimmick! Unless you count “Woods” and “Forest” as different time periods in history.
This one’s pretty cool. It very much feels like an evolution of the base Pac-Man. You got all the regular dot eating going on, but then have additions like warps and new ghosts and spots on the map that can make Pac-Man do an invincible dash attack.
Definitely the kind of game for someone who wants more Pac-Man, but not all the things that change the formula too much (Pac & Pal) or completely fucks it up (Super Pac-Man, Pac-Mania). Not much else to say about it, it’s really good and I like it.
Pac-Man Arrangement (again)
This is a second Arranged update. Mostly the same as the previous one, mechanically. Now it’s got 3D graphics, conveyor belts, temporary abilities like jumping, and boss battles.
This is another fun one. Now, this originally came out in 2005 as a bonus for another Pac-Man compilation of the PSP, but it really does feel like something that would have been home on the original Playstation (maybe not as high a graphical fidelity, obviously). Really wish it had been a Playstation game; would have preferred that to all those Pac-Man World games I never played because I am only kind of an idiot, not a total one.
Pac-Man Championship Edition
God damn, what an amazing game this is. Back in “The Day,” Pac-Man CE was a very good reason to own an XBox 360. Just as good now on XBox One, and still much better than its sequels and upgrades. This is an extremely addicting game where you get as many points as possible in five minutes. Simple, but very effective. The only real downside to playing this on an XBox One is that I can no longer plug my iPod in and stream any five minute songs I had on there. That’s less of a game issue, and more of a sad reminder that actually useful and cool features on consoles have been stripped away to try and get people to pay for a fucking Spotify subscription and iTunes and YouTube Music and some other bull shit, instead of letting us listen to the music that we already own. Man, fuck Capitalism. Anyways, back to covering a nostalgia-driven compilation made by a company that’s part of a major Japanese conglomerate.
The original Motos is a pretty neat Namco arcade game from 1985. You played as a little car thing, and you had to bump colored balls off a stage, before they could do the same to you. Namco then gave the game a 3D facelift and put Pac-Man in it. You can argue that is another reskin, but unlike Pac-In-Time, Motos isn’t a shitty Amiga game and is actually good and worth playing and wasn’t made on TERF Island.
Anyways, Pac Motos is a fun little game, much like Original Motos being a fun little game. I didn’t play both games side-by-side and see if the levels are exactly the same, but they do share the same power-ups, like hitting things harder or being able to jump and break the floor beneath you. Not a super deep game, so I don’t have as much to say here, but it’s cool.
Pac’n Roll Remix
You know, I don’t hate this one. It’s decent enough, even though I don’t see myself ever coming back to this. Pac’n Roll is a game where Pac-Man rolls around like a fucking weirdo, picking up dots to open up gates and get the goal. My big problem with it is that I feel like this is the kind of game that should be played with a trackball, not an analogue stick or, god forbid, a D-Pad. It can be very difficult to control. Even with a dedicated brake button that stops you on a dime, it’s a very wild and chaotic experience that I wasn’t feeling. Not a horrible game, but not for me.
Pac-Man Battle Royale
This one was kind of a bummer. It’s like regular Pac-Man, but smaller. It’s smaller because this is a competitive versus game, where picking up Power Pellets lets you eat the other Pac-Men in the maze. You win by eating the other guys, or if they eat shit by touching a ghost. Playing this alone, I couldn’t figure out how to get more than one CPU opponent. I imagine this is a lot more fun in multiplayer, but I’m a lonely fucker who doesn’t have XBox Live (assuming this even has online support), so it’s just whatever.
The final game is another pretty cool game. Less of a Pac-Man, and more an endless runner with a basic Pac-Man mechanic. You constantly move forward, eating dots while avoiding the bottom of the screen. You can get temporary power-ups like lasers and bombs, which are neat. I don’t spend too much time with endless runners, admittedly, but I did like the time I spent with Pac-Man 256. It’s neat.
Now with every game being reviewed, I will now spend a little time on the overall package.
I like it. There you go.
No, really, this is actually a really good compilation. There’s no paid DLC, or any DLC at all, for that matter. If there are any issues with the in-game emulation, it’s nothing immediately noticeable.
What I do like about this is the ability to customize the arcade that houses all of these games. We will never get anything like the original Playstation Namco Museum collections ever again, but this is a fine compromise. Buying and unlocking furniture, figurines, wallpapers, it all sounds superfluous and unnecessary, but I am big sucker for trying to recreate my Animal Crossing basement with Pac-Man stuff.
You get your fake in-game currency by playing the games, then you can spend time on things to look at when you aren’t playing the games. It works, I like it, and more retro compilations should give me a digital doll house to mess with.
Pac-Man rules. Outside of a few dodgy game choices and a legal thing that’s out of everyone’s hands (Ms. Pac-Man), this compilation rules too. You should play it.