Pac-Man is one of gaming’s most recognizable figures, but he’s fallen by the wayside in recent years. The neon-infused Pac-Man Championship Edition games have been the only new titles in the series this generation up until now. In Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, Pac-Man once again steps into the third dimension to tackle the platforming genre, much like he did in the Pac-Man World games. The twist is that Ghostly Adventures is also connected to the cartoon of the same name, but, thankfully, there’s nothing to fear from this tie-in.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (PC, PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360)
Developed by Monkey Bar Games – Published by Namco Bandai Games
Let’s start by getting something out of the way: If you don’t watch the cartoon, the game’s story isn’t going to play catch-up for you. It operates heavily on the assumption that you know the plot of the show and who all the characters are. It’s not impenetrable, but it’s not newbie friendly. The only saving grace to this is that the story easily takes a back seat to the gameplay.
Despite what you might expect from a cartoon tie-in, Ghostly Adventures’s gameplay is impressively solid. It’s your standard platformer: you progress through the game’s 6 worlds and 34 levels while chomping ghosts, collecting Globe Energy, and dealing with the platforming challenges that present themselves. The camera controls are solid, so long as you’re playing with a controller, and Pac-Man’s chomp, essentially the game’s version of the homing attack in Sonic, never sends you careening off a platform when you try to attack a distant ghost.
The most striking feature of the game to me is how open the levels feel. There’s a decent amount to explore and, even if it isn’t always the case, you’re often left wondering if there was a secondary path you could have taken through an area. The worlds follow standard themes, and there is some overlap as two of the worlds are revisits that, while having new levels, only have slight aesthetic differences from the first time.
While a cartoon tie-in might leave you expecting a cake-walk, that’s not the case with Ghostly Adventures. It offers solid challenge with both the variety of aggressive ghost enemies and the complexity of the platforming. You’ll be swinging between poles as a chameleon, navigating narrow paths as a granite ball, dealing with shifting perspective as Metal Pac, and even jumping between disappearing platforms like in Mega Man, only they’re better telegraphed. The biggest flaw to the platforming is that Pac-Man’s shadow doesn’t appear on certain surfaces. The difficulty curve is also a little wonky with bosses, as the final fights are simple affairs that take no time at all to beat.
Ghostly Adventures also has a local split-screen multiplayer mode where players take control of ghosts and have to hunt Pac-Man and his friends. The mode lasts for three rounds, with a round ending when someone attacks Pac-Man, and the winner being determined by points for various actions. It’s not a terribly interesting mode, but it’s a novel distraction, if nothing else.
Graphically, the game looks good, matching the artstyle of the CG cartoon, and it runs well. The PC version, though, is not something I’d call feature rich. The sole video options are a fullscreen toggle and resolution options, and the game has some issues with them, requiring the game to be restarted for changes to accurately take effect. It’s no d pinnacle of graphical technology, but it would be nice to see some antialiasing options and a borderless windowed mode at the least. It also is capped at 30 FPS, which isn’t terribly surprising considering the engine and Namco Bandai’s other PC ports. PC players will also want to make sure they have a controller handy, because the keyboard and mouse controls leave something to be desired, namely a sensitivity option for the mouse’s camera controls. Since the game only accepts one keyboard mapping for camera controls, it isn’t possible to just map it to something like the numpad and play using only the keyboard.
On the audio front, the game has a pleasing soundtrack. While it definitely sounds like something you’d expect from a children’s show, some pieces of music and sound effects from the arcade games make their way into the background music and Pac-Man’s actions every now and then. The voice acting is well done, but, as far as I can see, is not done by the cast of the show.
Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a frightening prospect at first. Pac-Man never has seen too much success in the platforming genre despite all of his attempts at it and the fact that the game is a cartoon tie-in is enough to turn most people off outright. There’s nothing to fear, though, as Ghostly Adventures is a pleasingly solid platformer that manages to be thoroughly enjoyable, even if it’s not particularly memorable. Those of you with younger children or siblings who have an interest in the show should have no qualms picking this title up for them because it manages not just to be a good tie-in but also a good game.