Pac-Man Championship Edition DX: Game Review

Pac-Man is in many ways just like Tetris. Aside from being a groundbreaking title that has been enjoyed by untold millions and is pretty much synonymous with video games, even with those who have either a passing interest or none whatsoever, it’s formula is more or less perfect. Impossible to improve upon. Though attempts to tinker with and enhance the original formula have been attempted, and as it relates to the famous yellow dot with the passive aggressive relationship with ghosts, the results have been (aside from the legit awesome Ms. Pac-Man) lame to put it bluntly. Hey, remember Pac-Man 2? You don’t? Good.

Then along comes the original game’s creator, asked to return to his creation after almost 30 years and help figure out a new game-plan, which he did in spectacular fashion. What took them so long? Your guess is as good as mine. Anyhow, the end result was Pac-Man Championship Edition, which harnesses the sprit of the original and takes to such an expected, yet oddly logical, and overall mind-blowing next level. One that makes the transition between Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros seem absolutely pedestrian in comparison. The simple concept of splitting the environment into two halves and having the layout slightly change whenever a piece of corresponding fruit is gobbled up, while Pac and the ghosts get a little faster as thing progress, sounds somewhat tepid. But trust me, it’s still one of the greatest XBLA games that doesn’t get nearly as much praise as it deserves (the iPhone port is not half bad, but without a proper inputs, i.e. a digital pad or preferably a proper joystick, it’s not nearly as fun).

So how does one improve upon perfection? Well you can’t, so all one can do is take the very best parts, put it front and center, and times it by 50. The end result is DX, which plays sorta like Pac-Man, but sorta not. So here are the new rules: you go around, gobbling dots as usual, and again there’s fruit that if eaten, transforms the layout of the level and opens up new dots and fruits to snack upon. As for those power pellets, the stuff that gives you ghost eating abilities, they’re not as liberally distributed as in the past (the first CE was actually the first to cut the usual amount of four per board to a meager two). The ghosts are totally different as well; in each level, most lie dormant, asleep actually. When you pass one by it wakes them up. Also about are regular ghosts that give chase like always, but whereas each has their own distinct personalties (those who are actual hardcore Pac-Man players know this already) and can be left behind, these new guys are constantly on your ass. But unlike their cousins from the past, these guys always maintain the same speed. The key detail, or at least one of them, is this: as you pass by and wake up those aforementioned sleepy ghosts, they end up following the active ones that are gunning form, to form a long chain. Already it’s sorta like the classic cell phone game Snake.

One of the initial goals is to get that chain of ghosts as long as possible, so when you finally do encounter across a power pellet, you can eat like 30 or 40 ghosts in a row. and in a blink of an eye. The sensation is beyond satisyfing. But back to blinking; before you had to be quite mindful of the status of the ghosts to know when your mojo was wearing off, but this time there’s a bar that lets you know how much juice you have left. Though given that the game is all about navigating a maze, with tons of tight corners and the such, you’ll naturally find yourself in a corner, surrounded by the long ass canga line of ghosts. Are you screwed? Not necessarily; eating large quantities of ghosts will garner you bombs, which sends everyone back to their HQ. Does this make the game easier? Yes. Does it make it too easy? That’s debatable, but resorting to explosives will cost you speed and points, which is the ultimate reason to play Pac-Man in the first place.

Another addition that longtime fans of the series are sure to cry foul over (much like Tetris’s recent addition of the “infinite spin” in relatively recent iterations of that game) is the Pac-Man version of bullet time; as soon as you get close enough to a ghost, time slows down and the camera zooms in, to help you figure out how to make your daring escape. Again, it makes things a little easier, but also adds a ton of dramatic flare and is just hella fun. One is sure to find themselves acting more daring in hopes of seeing more close calls (which in turn is sure to lead to more deaths). I can already foresee hardcore fans of the original CE are bitching like crazy over all the additions. Maybe they’re not, but it’s one of those safe bets, cuz gamers love to bitch, especially about their favorite things. And I too had my doubts as to how much the original winning formula improved upon, so it was clearly the smartest move possible to simply try something different. DX definitely does not replace the original CE, nor does it try to.

At the very least, fans of the original might feel that they’re getting their money’s worth; in addition to the new rule system are a host of additional modes that play around with the additions to the formula. Funny enough, there’s one that’s presented like the first CE, with DX’s additions, and the end result… at least for any CE vet… is awkward. Again, the new package doesn’t replace the original, which I personally will still be playing alongside. In the end, it’s sorta almost like how one can still enjoy Street Fighter Zero 3 and Street FIghter 3 at the same time; both do the same basic things, but different, and each are equally awesome. But once more, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is quite simply a brilliant update to an already amazing revamp, and completely worth the asking price or points (and thankfully this time around, PlayStation 3 owners can get in a bit of the action).