We all know Pac-Man – he’s that horribly deformed guy who fights for justice by rolling around hot underground maze parties in Tokyo, munching on pills and spreading peace, love, understanding and respect until he centers his chi energy and becomes able to consume the flesh of ghosts. Here is a list of some ghosts Pac-Man has eaten: Slimer, Ghost Dad, Casper and Abe Lincoln. Consuming the souls of the departed boosts his “high score” – an abstract representation of the acceptence of deformed head-mouths in Japan.
Paccy’s one of the true originals in gaming, but god in heaven has he been milked until Namco weren’t so much beating a dead horse with a stick as stiring a greasy puddle where the horse used to be. Pac Man Championship Edition was a breath of fresh air in that respect – just before he retired to go teach, Toru Iwatani, the inventor of Pac-Man came back to produce his final thesis on games and Pac-Man. He stripped the game to it’s very core, threw in a few neat twists like levels that constantly change and re-draw themselves as you eat and turned the game into a timed score attack frenzy with some keen bonus multiplier mechanics for the high-level players, gussying the whole thing up with some tasteful graphic flourishes. A perfect portable game – and one that was immediately launched on Xbox 360, the most static console in the history of things you can’t move around.
Namco finally stopped teasing us and threw out a portable version. While good sense would seem to suggest a PSP Go! or Nintendo DSi release, it’s hit the iPhone. And it works. Swipe a finger up, down, left or right to turn Pac-Man. There are some other control schemes, but they’re not nearly as precise. The whole thing actually works a lot better than mashing on the 360 pad, and the playing field stretches elegantly across the screen. There’s a little area where you can swipe your finger that doesn’t get in the way of the action, which is thoughtful and good game design and makes me happy. Thank you for making me happy, Namco!
Consider this something of a first impression – I’ve had a couple of hours to get to know the game and it feels very robust, very fun and very Pac-Man. Beware though – while the app may seem like a steal for the asking price, most of the content is locked off until you purchase downloadable content at around five times the cost of the original application. There’s enough content here to justify the inital outlay, but I went from feeling like I’d scored a bargin to abject disappointment in around about three seconds. More updates on the game, and a look at the possibly needless mission mode once I’ve toiled in the salt mines long enough to buy the whole thing (space year 2021).