I still remember the first time I saw a Pac-Man arcade machine in the entrance of a local store. I watched over the shoulder of the kid who was playing, patiently waiting my turn. I was hooked after the first quarter I dropped into the slot. Every time I had some change in my pocket, I would walk to that store to get my Pac-Man fix.
Here it is, 25 years later, and although his name and likeness have endured in my (and millions of others’) mind, the little yellow guy has appeared in numerous mostly forgettable games. In honor of Pac-Man’s 25th birthday, Namco once again gave everyone a dose of the world’s favorite pellet-chomper, this time in the form of a new 3D action platformer called Pac-Man World 3.
Appropriately, Pac-Man World 3 begins on the eve of Pac-Man’s 25th birthday party. Suddenly, he is mysteriously teleported to a dark and unstable world where the ghosts abide by the wished of the evil genius Erwin. It’s up to Pac-Man and his ally, Orson, to stop Erwin’s evil plans and save Pac-World once and for all. To do this, players go up against more than the ghastly ghosts; they also face-off against evil robots and scary monsters, punching and jumping their way through the game’s platforming levels. In a surprising twist, Pac-Man at one point teams up with two ghosts from the original Pac-Man game, Pinky and Clyde, who help players solve puzzles and access special areas.
Still, my favorite part of Pac-Man World 3 is when you teleport to a bonus round and find yourself playing through old-school Pac-Man mazes. The newer 3D levels involve punching, butt-bouncing and rev-rolling (a Sonic the Hedgehog-style move) to defeat enemies, but this just wouldn’t be a Pac-Man game unless there were plenty of pellets to gobble up. You will also find pieces of fruit scattered along the way, eating all of which will unlock secrets, as well as power-up pellets that feature special powers. And yes, the classic power pellets work just as they did in the original Pac-Man: eat one and every ghost in the area turns blue and can be chomped up for extra points.
It’s obvious the Pac-Man series can only innovate so much, especially in the action-platformer category, because the rest of the gameplay “innovation,” as it were, comes in the form of other power pellets. The ribbon loop pellet, for example, allows Pac-Man to create a special energy trail that follows his every move, use the trail to close a circle around a group of enemies to instantly destroy all the ghosts. Then there’s the chrome pellet, which gives you temporary invincibility, and the super stomp pellet, which gives you a powerful butt-bounce move. And last but not least, the electro-shock pellet allows Pac-Man to create a powerful electrical burst from his hands (like a Dark Sith Lord) that arcs to any nearby foes. As you may have guessed, the electro-shock is very useful against evil robots.
The environments come in many varieties and spice up the gameplay from level to level, but the graphics themselves are below average by today’s standards. The sound effectsare fitting for the game, and as old-school as they are, they incorporate a lot of the original sounds from the arcade game. The music tracks, too, are forgettable, but they fit perfectly into the Pac-Man world.
Pac-Man World 3 includes a variety of power-ups and enemy-dispersing moves (pole swings, butt-bouncing and trampoline jumping), but it adds nothing new to the genre or to the Pac-Man lore. Still, it avoids completely trashing the action-platformer genre, so if you have a touch of Pac-Man fever and can’t find an arcade with the coin-op machine, you might just want to check this one out.
- Gameplay: 7
- Nothing new, but its basic platforming action is still solid.
- Graphics: 5
- Classic character or no, the graphics are outdated by modern standards.
- Sound: 6
- Old-school-style sound effects and music.
- Replay: 6
- Plenty of unlockables, but once through is probably enough.
- Overall: 6.5
- Nothing special, but it’s a pretty good platformer at a bargain price.
— Randie Kilgore