Nearly six years after Bandai Namco produced the nearly-perfect Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, the spinoff series returned a few weeks ago with the inexplicably named Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. As the third entry in the Championship Edition series, fans expect to see gorgeous neon-lit mazes and high-speed Dot chomping, and Bandai Namco delivers. But the publisher also added a few new moves to Pac-Man’s repertoire for CE2… along with boss battles.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Version Played)
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Bandai Namco
Genre: Extreme Pac-Man
Release Date: September 13, 2016
ESRB Rating: Everyone
These changes are evident from Pac-Man Championship Edition 2’s title screen, which includes a Tutorial and an Adventure Mode. I’ve never had to be taught how to control Pac-Man before, but the teleportation portals and the ability to jump are big changes for a character that was originally designed by removing a slice from a pizza pie. However, the biggest change Bandai Namco made to the series has to be that touching a Ghost is no longer fatal to Pac-Man.
Some fans might howl in shock at this news… “Unthinkable!” “Impossible!” “Sacrilege!” But it’s true… gaming’s most famous maze runner can now “bump” into Ghosts three times before they get angry enough to chase him. This mechanic is a pretty fundamental change to what most players think of as Pac-Man. It makes the whole thing feel much more reminiscent of bumper cars, but I also thought it provided an interesting new challenge.
So what does Pac-Man do with his newfound power? Pac-Man Championship Edition 2’s gameplay is designed around building Ghost Trains by bumping into sleeping Ghosts. These Trains get quite large, chasing Pac-Man as he searches for the final Dots or pieces of Fruit. Eventually, they attach themselves to tracklines that criss-cross the maze and wildly dart around in every direction after the player gobbles up a Power Pellet. Pac-Man will need to chomp the Trains to continue, but it’s very tricky to predict where they’ll go on the track, forcing the game into a state of utter chaos. This is in stark contrast to the original Pac-Man Championship Edition (and its sequel), which prized precision running and Dot collection above all else, and the ultimate goal was to work out the optimal path for a “perfect” run. Championship Edition 2 is much more random.
Though this focus on chomping Ghost Trains puts Dot collection somewhat on the back burner, the majority of the mazes still require players to eat all the available Dots and transform the layout of the maze into a new design. This is also how the boss battles work in the Adventure Mode. Rather than actually fighting the boss, players are given a timer and must gobble enough Dots and Fruit across multiple mazes to create a gang of Pac-Men to topple the boss. It’s silly, but it works. And it feels like a very Pac-Man-y way to stage a boss battle.
While Championship Edition 2 feels very different than the previous games in the series, the lure of pushing your best score higher and higher on the leaderboards is still quite strong. It retains the high-speed running that made the first two games so popular, and the new mazes offer a lot of twists and turns for veterans of the franchise.
And naturally, the game’s neon-coated graphics are just as hypnotic and awe-inspiring as ever.
Perfection is an almost impossible goal, but Bandai Namco nearly made it with Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. I think I prefer the more precise pathfinding found in Championship Edition DX, but this sequel is still a tremendously good game. I’ve already sunk dozens of hours into it, and I’m sure I’ll return to it again and again in the coming weeks and months.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 was provided by Bandai Namco for the purposes of this review.