Friday, January 1, 2021

Non-Adventure Review: Pac-Man Championship Edition

Pac-Man Championship Edition takes the well-known formula of Pac-Man and turns it on it's head with a game focused on racking up the points rather than focusing on completing multiple stages.

Pac-Man is a veritable classic. It defined the maze game genre and became the king of arcades. Its formula has been copied and refined multiple times, with my personal favorite remaining the ever-excellent Ms. Pac-Man.

The character has also been reinvented over the years, appearing in everything from adventure games, to platformers, to kart-racing games. However, Pac-Man is always at his best when he is eating pellets around a maze while keeping away from the pesky ghosts. It's a tried and true formula, and the formula of the maze games haven't really changed much over the years. Pac-Man gets larger in Super Pac-Man and Pac-Man Jr.'s mazes scroll rather than remaining on a single screen, but the way that the games are presented is largely the same.

Pac-Man Championship Edition changes the formula, while somehow maintaining the basic gameplay that made Pac-Man so popular in the first place. The maze stages are gone, and so-too are the cutscenes. In their place is a timer and a fantastic use of the fruit. The goal here is to eat all of the pellets on one end of the maze. Doing this causes a fruit to appear on the other end of the maze. Eating that fruit causes the pellets on the other end to be replenished. This continues until the timer runs out or until Pac-Man has lost all of his remaining lives.

There is also an extra mode, which is my personal favorite. In this mode, the pellet gameplay remains the same, however eating all of the pellets on one side of the maze not only makes a fruit appear, but eating the fruit causes the entire layout of the other side of the maze change as well. Pac-Man also quickly picks up speed in this mode, and so do the ghosts, making it much more exciting.

Pac-Man was originally relased on Xbox 360 in 2007, so it has some modern flair. The mazes are presented in neon colors that light up when a ghost or Pac-Man is near them. This happens while a pulsing bass line plays as the game's soundtrack. The game was successful for Namco, so it has since appeared on other systems, such as the PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, iOS and Android.

An even more interesting port, however, is the official Famicom (the Japanese version of the Nintendo Entertainment System) version created by M2 and a Japanese coder known as Coke774. This version uses the Namco 163 chip, which gives the Famicom additional RAM as well as additional sound capabilities. The Famicom version of Pac-Man Championship Edition uses this chip to present a game that contains the same gameplay complete with a booming soundtrack, mixed with visuals that both mimic the ports on modern systems yet contain graphics from the original Famicom version of Pac-Man as well. This is pulled off excellently, and is by far my favorite version of the game.

With a booming soundtrack, fantastic visuals, and addicting gameplay, Pac-Man Championship Edition is the best maze game in years. Any version is well worth your time, but I'd recommend the Famicom version over the rest. It has a great blend of classic and modern visuals, and makes use of the Namco 163 chip to give the game the booming soundtrack that makes the presentation so special. The Famicom version is available in Namco Museum Archives Volume 1, and is well worth the purchase price for just Pac-Man Championship Edition alone.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

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