"Pac is Back": Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Review
When Pac-Man Championship Edition released in 2007 as part of the Xbox Live Arcade, it helped breath new life into Bandai Namco's classic franchise. While the success of Championship Edition ensured a sequel, Bandai Namco wasn't content to rest on their laurels and instead continued with try new things with the franchise before returning to Championship Edition for a second outing. Now, with Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 finally upon us, we'll see if Bandai Namco's decision to wait for the sequel was the right one.
It's not difficult to sum up the parts of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, after all, it's Pac-Man. The goal of the player is to guide Pac-Man through the various mazes in the game and attempt to attain the highest score possible in a set amount of time. With much of the game being focused on achieving the highest score possible, Championship Edition 2 becomes more about pattern memorization and finding the best way to clear each stage of a maze in the quickest way possible. The game mixes this up by adding multiple modes that affect the number of ghosts and Pac-Man's speed. These factors may not sound like they would effect the game much, but when Pac-Man begins a new maze at his highest possible speed and with four ghosts nipping at his heels, it really shows just how intense the game can get.
After playing enough of the Score Attack mode, the player will also unlock an Adventure mode. This mode offers set objectives across dozens of levels. Progression in adventure mode is achieved through unlocking stars as you play the stages. Each stage has three difficulty settings, each unlocking an additional star for beating the stage in shorter amounts of time. The end of each set of stages culminates in a boss fight, a new mechanic to Championship Edition 2. During these fights, a giant ghost will continually hit the maze in an attempt to keep you from finishing your objective. Sadly, boss fights don't add any significant change to the overall gameplay and, in the end, the boss stages feel more like a normal stage with a minor difficulty increase.
While boss fights feel like something of a missed opportunity, the overall package here is incredibly tight. Folks who enjoy pattern memorization and score attacks will have plenty to like in Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. The game offers plenty of replay for new and old players alike, and I urge you to try the game as it is easily one of the best Pac-Man experience I have ever played.
Rating the game based on its presentation, however, is where things get a bit more tricky. The game tries to add plenty of bells and whistles to the standard Pac-Man presentation with flashy effects, but at the end of the day, it's still very basic.
Putting basic textures on the dividing lines in the mazes and placing light and strobe effects behind the action doesn't offer much and makes this one of the blandest titles on the current gen consoles, even with its $20 price tag. These additions also mean that gamers with epilepsy are going to have to sit this experience out, which is a real shame.
The one thing I do appreciate that Bandai Namco did in this game is the various styles available to players. While I mentioned about that many of the maze styles and effects feel very similar, they have added multiple graphical styles for Pac-Man and the ghosts, which can add a little flair to the otherwise bland visuals. These even include styles based on Dig Dug and Galaga, giving a nice bit of nostalgia for fans of these classic franchises.
Pac-Man Championship Edition spiced up the classic Pac-Man formula with the addition of music, and while Championship Edition 2 adds to this with nearly twenty music tracks, a majority of the tracks just come off as repetitive. Music isn't a necessity if you're used to playing the older Pac-Man games, but for those who want some music to listen to, you may want to keep your computer or phone nearby for your ambient noise of choice.
It's strange that a franchise that has dipped its toe into nearly every genre out there finds the most success when it returns to its roots. Thanks to multiple game styles, visual styles, and maze layouts, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 offers the most variety of any traditional Pac-Man title I've played. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is a fantastic game, and I'm happy to have it in my regular rotation for the foreseeable future. With its adventure mode and emphasis on score attack modes, this game will likely see more play from me than any Pac-Man game that came before it and I cannot recommend it enough.