The original Pac-Man Championship Edition was a textbook example in how best to do a reboot of a classic franchise. It was respectful of its heritage without feeling old-fashioned. But it was also a completely fresh take on Pac-Man that made maze running feel brand new and was more addictive than ever. The sequel, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, takes everything you loved about its predecessor and cranks it up to 11. There are more mazes, more modes, more ghosts and an even more addictive hook in the form of Leaderboards that are an ever-present part of the game.
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Played)
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genre: Pac-Man (That’s right, “Pac-Man” is a genre now)
Release Date: November 17, 2010 (XBLA), November 23, 2010 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Pac-Man Championship Edition changed the classic maze game into a free-for-all where players had to chomp all of the pellets on one half of the maze to reform the pathways on the other half all within the too-short time limit. It was frantic and fun and won more than a few Game of the Year awards in 2007. More than a simple update, Pac-Man CE DX is a full-fledged sequel that adds sleeping ghosts to the playfield for some seriously insane Pac-Action.
Running past the sleeping ghosts will add them to a train of ghosts chasing Pac-Man that can number up to 30. To combat this army of specters, Pac-Man is equipped with a limited number of Pac-Bombs that’ll blast the ghosts back to their hideout. But, of course, the ultimate way to dispatch the ghosts is with a Power Pellet. As you can imagine, chowing down on a train of several dozen ghosts is just plain… let me consult my 80s slang book… tubular!
With so many ghosts looking to scare Pac-Man to death, speed becomes more integral than ever before. Every round of Pac-Man CE DX has a dynamic Game Speed counter that increases with the accumulation of points and decreases when Pac-Man launches a bomb or dies. Whipping around corners when the Game Speed is locked in at 50 is a huge rush, and CE DX introduces an action-slowing bullet-time mode to help Pac-Man avoid the increased number of ghosts. Evasive maneuvering becomes much easier, and the game becomes more about the maze than the ghosts. Managing all of Pac-Man’s new moves (there’s an odd phrase to write) is the key to acquiring a bodacious score.
The new mazes include Spiral, a twisty, turny maze; the tight corners of Dungeon; Half, which only uses half the screen; and Championship II, the new “main” maze. In addition to the new mazes, Pac-Man CE DX also includes a variety of visual filters that change the look of the game, including a pixelated display that is just radical.
Having your initials appear at the top of a Pac-Man High Score table and being crowned king of the arcade was a point of pride back in the 80s. This feeling is recreated in Pac-Man CE DX thanks to the way the Leaderboard is even more integrated into the game than ever before. Every menu option lists your ranking in the worldwide fraternity of Pac-Players. And when you finish a round, your ranking is updated instantly, so you can see if you climbed the ladder, even just a little bit. The game even translates all of your individual best scores into a gamewide total score that is also ranked against other players. Thanks to this tight integration between the player and the community, the sense of one-upmanship and the addictive pull of “just one more game” has never been stronger. Although Namco’s baffling decision not to include your own score on the Friends leaderboard is heinous.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is a neon-coated piece of gaming candy that’s a steal at $10. Namco has continued to make Pac-Man relevant to a new generation of gamers while recognizing what old school Pac-Fans want from him. The title won’t change people’s perceptions of Pac-Man and his place in the modern-day game world like the first Championship Edition did, but it is my hands down favorite game from 2010.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.