Review by SneakTheSnake

Reviewed: 11/14/05 | Updated: 12/01/05

Not the old-time Pac-Man, but a surpsingly new gameplay experience

Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures is certainly the game of the Pac-Man series that stands out the most amongst the other games in the vast and influential series. The ghost gobbler has moved from international and influential gaming staple to a humble platform game mascot. Dot-munching has become only part of his repertoire, which now includes rolling, jumping, spinning, and solving puzzles in a fully interactive 3D environment. There have been some games, such as Pac-Man: Adventures in Time and Mrs. Pac-Man Maze Madness, which stick more or less to the traditional formula, but Pac-Man has changed a lot.

Pac-Man 2 signals this change. Called Hello Pac-Man! in Japan, Pac-Man 2 was released for Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Beside some overly superficial graphical differences, there are no major changes in gameplay. The overall gameplay, however, is not what a seasoned Pac-Man gamer would expect.

It seems the ghosts are on the loose again, and Pac-Man will have to put a stop to them, one way or another. Pac-Man must complete quests around his environment in order to move further on.

Pac-Man does not do much dot munching in this game. This game is an action / adventure hybrid, which bears almost no resemblance to the original games, in terms of gameplay concepts. Pac-Man had starred in a platform offering before, but not quite like this at all.

Perhaps the game would not be as much under scrutiny if it were to star just a generic adventure game hero. The fact that it is Pac-Man, of all mascots, in such a contemporary adventuring environment can make seasoned gamers cringe. I was reluctant too, but the game can be quite fun.

Players do not directly control Pac-Man at all. Rather, Pac-Man's movement and interactions are solely controlled with a slingshot and its appropriate cursor. Objects on-screen can be shot at, and Pac-Man will interact with the shot object. Shoot a steel drum, and Pac will walk over and play it. Some objects only change the environment or an object's appearance, and can not be interacted with by Pac-Man afterward. Shoot a tree and a beehive will fall down, or shoot a glass repeatedly to make it break. It's fun just hitting things and seeing what may happen. This type of experimentation is essential to playing Pac-Man 2.

Beside the slingshot, players can also "Point" Pac in the right direction. By pressing a button, a hand will point either left or right, and a voice will shout, "Look! Look!" Pac-Man will look in that direction, and follow the player's lead, whether he is willing or reluctant.

If Pac is thwarted by a pack of renegade ghosts, he can be assisted by the player by being shot a Power Pellet in his direction. At which point, he eats it heartily, and turns into Super Pac-Man. Super Pac flies around with ease, gobbling up the cretins.

Pac's homebase is his house, where his missions are given. Mrs. Pac-Man or one of the Pac-kids will have something for Pac-Man to do. Once the mission is in set, Pac must venture out and fill out his agenda. Once that is done, the mission's complete, and he can go back and get his next mission. Of course, even during a mission, Pac can meander around just about anywhere he wants, if he has the items to get him there.

There is a reward for each mission or mini-task, and Pac-Man must use these items to access new areas. Pac-Man will traverse around his house and the neighborhood, up in the mountains, through the bustling city, and even to the boss's evil lair.

Some of these missions require travel by mine cart or hang glider. The hang glider is really quite fun. The mine cart rides aren't similar to, say, Donkey Kong Country. The player can adjust the speed of the mine-cart, and this is essential in jumping Pac over ramps and crevices. Not only must the player be aware of the area's ceilings, but also, several ghosts will be there to try and get in Pac's way. These ghosts must be shot at in order for them to go away. Pac will also have to jump out of the cart to avoid low rocks and cliffs.

The graphics in this game are colorful and easy on the eyes, but they are also quite articulate. The Pac-Man sprite is not only quite detailed, but he is capable of doing a wide variety of facial expressions. Pac accurately portrays glee, excite, happiness, surprise, bitter taste, discomfort, gloom, pain, anger, dizziness, lightheadedness, impatience, frustration, shock, and fright.

Any external action triggers a surprising and usually humorous response. Set Pac-Man in a spinning chair, for example. The player can shoot the chair multiple times to make Pac spin faster and faster. After the spinning is done, he will look at the player and point at the chair, smiling, signaling to do it once again. Shoot Pac one too many times and he will fume and rant at the player, then give a look as if he's given up, as if to say "Oh, I give up!"

Pac-Man 2's environments are also quite varied. Each location has its own distinct appearance, and it can be quite amusing, walking around the environment.

Tunes and songs are there to brighten the mood. The music is very atmospheric, to say the least. The sound effects are where it's at, however. Pac-Man has been given a very interesting sort of "speech". It can be compared to the sound effect speech of mascot platformers. The speech consists mainly of "Woh-woh-whoa" sounds, but along with the facial expressions, Pac-Man acts and reacts like a real creature. This "voice" gives Pac-Man a new form of expression.

Gamers will love it or hate it. There are certain easter eggs for those who are willing to look, but the majority of the gameplay may be entirely too different for experienced Pac-Man veterans. However, mascots have gone out of their "comfort zone" by breaking out of traditional genres, and have been quite successful for it. I commend Namco for breaking Pac-Man out of his little shell, and I recommend players give this a try before knocking its perhaps ludicrous nature.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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