Pac-Man And The Ghostly Adventures – Review

Title   Pac-Man And The Ghostly Adventures
Developer  Namco Bandai Games
Publisher  Namco Bandai Games
Platform  Windows PC (reviewed), PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS
Genre  Platform/Action
Release Date  7th March, 2014
Official Site

Recently, I have witnessed the resurgence of a fallen giant. Big in the 80s, a powerhouse in its field, it has fallen on hard times. The 90s saw a fall from grace and, other than a couple of brief glimmers of a return to what created the glory days in the first place, a fade into obscurity has been inevitable. Finally, though, that spark has reappeared, there’s optimism everywhere, and the glory days surely aren’t long in returning. Unfortunately, as this is a gaming website, that’s as much as I can say about Liverpool’s win at Old Trafford the other day. Instead, I suppose we’d better talk about yet another nail in the already pretty firmly sealed coffin of Pac-Man’s gaming relevance.

The nail in question is a game based on the latest attempt to reboot Pac-Man’s image for a new generation. Ghostly Adventures is a spin-off from the cartoon of the same name, and actually does remarkably well in capturing the aesthetic of the cartoon. The cutscenes could quite easily be lifted from the series, and the grating voices of the main characters certainly seem to be – although, on closer inspection the cartoon’s voice actors aren’t used for the game. The story underpinning the adventure is as simple as it comes – Betrayus, the big bad ruler of the Netherworld (the ghosts’ home), has hatched another nefarious plot to take over Pac-World, this time by stealing some doodad (a Fridgidigtator in this case. No, me either), which will give him ultimate power. As the story progresses, some of Pac-Man’s friends are inevitably captured, and thus the flimsy pretext is set for several levels of mind-numbingly generic platforming.

Let this be said up front: this is not a bad game. It is simply painfully average in everything it does. Pac can jump, double-jump, attack and secondary attack. He eats power pellets in the same way that Sonic collects rings. He chomps specially coloured pellets in order to don a variety of different outfits, each with unique powers – just like Mario. The mechanics are neither terrible or brilliant, simply functional. Gameplay never flows, but simply happens. There are various bits and pieces to collect that grant extra lives or more health. There’s a fire level, an ice level, an Aztec level. Graphics are clean and bright, but that’s really all that can be said for them. The modern re-imagining of Pac-Man and his buddies is, frankly, horrible, although this is down to the cartoon and so can’t be deviated from. Environments are reaonably detailed and nice enough, but ultimately very simplistic. Ghostly Adventures looks like a middling Xbox 360 launch-era game – it’s functional but rarely any more than that.

The camera is sluggish and can cause real issues when trying to keep track of the multitudes of ghosts that are attacking at once, and is, at times, a real hindrance to judging even the simplest of platform jumps. This isn’t helped by the jumping and movement feeling somewhat sluggish, leading to a lack of precision in the platforming. Luckily, the game is extremely forgiving, barely presenting any kind of a challenge – until the boss battles arrive, that is. A modicum of inventiveness has gone in to these – the Aztec boss requires guiding Pac-Man as a giant stone boulder (with neat retractable nose) – but they still rely on the tired tropes of avoiding easily-memorised attacks, before hitting the boss three times to win.

This truly is Pac-Man for a new generation. Canon, such as it is, is thrown out the window – Pac can now chomp on ghosts indiscriminately, rather than needing a power pellet to send them in to their classic blue, scuttling state. Speaking of ghosts, Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde make their obligatory appearance, but as friends of Pac-Man. Now, I’m not steeped in the lore of Pac, but this strikes me as particularly nonsensical, though I suppose if Pac-Man can now eat any ghost he fancies, nothing is sacred.

Perhaps it’s harsh to criticise Ghostly Adventures for its lack of ambition, seeing as it’s quite clearly aimed at kids. Actually, no. Scratch that. It’s entirely justified. Kids these days have an amazing range of games aimed squarely at them. Games like Skylanders, Disney Infinity and any Mario title that you’d care to mention are so far ahead of this that it almost defies belief that Ghostly Adventures is currently listed for £30 on Steam. This game is a long way from deserving a purchase at full-price.

Namco Bandai Games are attempting to cash-in on the brand here, which is mis-guided at best. Pac-Man has so little resonance with modern gaming that there’s little to no goodwill to leverage here. I actually interviewed ‘A Child’ while reviewing this, asking him simply if he knew anything about Pac-Man. The response? “He’s from that really old game on the iPad, isn’t he?” This is the crux of the problem. Pac-Man is no longer relevant, and Namco Bandai aren’t going to fix this by releasing substandard games like this, despite all of the production value that has clearly been lavished on the title.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is extremely difficult to recommend. There are so many other games targeted at this age range which are far more fun for both kids and adults alike. The splash promotional image for the game on Steam proudly proclaims that ‘Pac is back’ – I hate to break it to you, Namco Bandai, but unfortunately not only is he not back, but he’s been gone for a very long time.

  • Looks nice enough
  • Platforming and gameplay are functional
  • Boss fights show that there's at least a tiny bit of creativity somewhere in here
  • Boring gameplay
  • Bereft of ideas and originality
  • Reeks of the pungent fragrance of cynical cash-in
  • Pac-Man's voice. Seriously, find a video somewhere. It's HORRIBLE

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is a boring, generic platformer aimed at a fresh audience that simply doesn't care about the little yellow ball. This is a game that's bereft of ideas or creativity, and even lacks enough retro harckbacks to make this an appealing prospect for hardcore Pac-lovers. Avoid.

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