Pac-Manâ€™s 25 you know. That makes him roughly the same age as me, and I havenâ€™t starred in even one mind-bogglingly successful arcade game. Thatâ€™s not allâ€”I can eat stuff AND I can move in more than four different directions. Admittedly, now Pac-Man can too, which is progress. He seems quite an agreeable sort of yellow sphere these days. Throughout Pac-Man World 3 he displays a fairly laid-back attitude and a sense of humor. He seems to acknowledge the ridiculousness of his situation and regularly comments on it.
During a refreshingly brief introductory sequence, we see Pac-Man about to crack into a birthday cake. But before he can turn the cake into a self portrait by taking a slice, he is teleported away. Pac-Manâ€™s friend and former nemesis, Orson, is responsible. He needs Pac-Manâ€™s talents because he is, as is so often the case, an evil genius is trying to destroy the world.
In fact, Pac-Manâ€™s foe, Erwin, is trying to destroy the world(s). His scheme involves sucking raw energy out of the Spectral Realm, the home of the ghosts, and using it to power robotic henchmen and machines in Pac-Land. You will encounter a variety of these robots throughout the game, along with an array of monsters and, of course, ghosts.
Although this title is a familiar sort of 3D platformer, the developers have attempted to keep a strong sense of Pac-identity. The graphics are suitably chunky and simplistic. Pac-Man now sports arms and legs and even a nose, but is still unmistakably himself. The sound also subscribes to the view that less is more. There is no constant background music, as is so often the case. Instead, the mood is created by retro bleeps and beeps while you chomp on Pac-dots and pellets. You could argue that game sounds have moved on a long way, but I think that would be missing the point. Besides, there are a whole host of background noises and actorsâ€™ voices. It is just that the traditional Pac-Man sounds are what give this game its character.
Another Pac-theme that recurs is that of the original gameplay. On a couple of occasions you play the original 2D incarnation of Pac-Man in order to reprogram computers. To be honest, I hate that game. I know that it was another age back then, but I have always hated it. When playing it, I always felt like failure was only ever a step away, an ever-present companion waiting to descend on me. It was too similar to real lifeâ€”I play games for escapism, damn it. I donâ€™t want to recreate the everyday sensation of constantly postponing catastrophe. These reprogramming segments are mercifully short, so I canâ€™t justifiably complain about them.
More common are the 3D versions of the old Pac-Man maze. These mostly occur in the Spectral Realm, but you can come across a posse of ghosts at almost any time. Sometimes they are on a patch of open land. Sometimes they are in a maze. I say â€˜inâ€™ a maze, but it is more â€˜onâ€™ a maze. The pathways are strewn with dots and pellets alike. Between the pathways is some sort of lethal spectral sludge which will deduct a bar of health from Pac-Manâ€™s meter. You run along these pathways evading ghosts. Eat a pellet and, as is traditional, you gain the ability to eat the ghosts, rather than vice versa.
The inclusion of the old 2D game inadvertently highlights a flaw in the 3D version. In the original, you can see the whole area and react accordingly. In the newer version, visibility can be a problem, particularly in more open, non-maze situations. You find yourself charging towards a pellet with a trail of ghosts behind you. You reach and eat the pellet and whirl round to eat your pursuers, only you canâ€™t see them. All you can see is Pac-Man grinning inanely and charging towards the camera. Itâ€™s important to spin the camera round at times like this, but being as the effects of the pellet only last for so long and considering that even if you do this, Pac-Man runs in an irritating little arc instead of a straight line, you will still need a modicum of luck at times in order to complete these sections.
The bulk of this title is a good solid platform game. You jump, you solve puzzles through jumping and you jump on enemiesâ€™ heads. Itâ€™s all quite enjoyable, but youâ€™ll feel like youâ€™ve been here before. The puzzle sections are a matter of finding things, attempting difficult jumps and manipulating scenery to access different areas. At times, you can also call upon Clyde and Pinky, two ghosts with different abilities. Pinky can render platforms solid that are invisible to Pac-Man and Clyde can hunt ghosts without needing power pellets, unlike Pac-Man. Both promise a little bit more than they deliver, although the woozy graphics when using them are quite a nice touch. In common with much of the game, if thereâ€™s the option of switching to one of these two, then you do so. The devices for calling them are always there for a reason.
When fighting enemies, Pac-Man has a handful of moves at his disposal: He can punch; he can perform a â€˜butt-bounceâ€™ where he descends on enemies andâ€”well itâ€™s all in the name, really; and he can do a â€˜rev roll,â€™ where he makes use of his shape by rolling at high speed. The latter two moves are used to activate various plates throughout the levels. In addition to these, there are various power-ups that come in the form of pellets. There is the classic power pellet, where Pac-Man turns from ghost prey, to ghostbuster. There are electro-shock pellets, where Pac-Man can send an electrical burst from his hands. These are supposedly good against robots, but I was much more adept at butt-bouncing them. There is a ribbon loop pellet, where you produce a trail. If you encircle a foe then the looped trail constricts and your enemy combusts. There is a super stomp pellet, whereby your butt-bounce becomes super-charged, and there is a chrome pellet, which renders Pac-Man invulnerable.
Occasionally, you do need to persevere. I came across a couple of passages of play where the gap between save points was a touch too long. I would negotiate a stretch of difficult jumping, devour some ghosts and then drop off a ledge in attempting a difficult leap. I would then have to go through the previous ten minutes of gameplay in order to get a second opportunity to plunge into the void. If youâ€™re a slightly haphazard jumper, like me, you could find these sections getting trickier with repeated attempts as the adrenaline rises in you and the desire to kick Pac-Manâ€™s ball-shaped body becomes all-consuming. It never quite got to that, but the threat was always there.
Pac-Man World 3 is well-produced on the whole. The acting is good, regularly funny and the cut-scenes are non-intrusive as they are usually short and to the point and often take place while you are ascending an elevator or something like that. The Pac-Man branding is all over the game, from the sounds to the graphics and occasional stabs of gameplay. Itâ€™s a solid affair, but far from revolutionary.