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Platform

GameCube

 

Genre

Platformer

 

Publisher

Namco

 

Developer

Blitz Games

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q4 2005

 

 

- Clean sense of humor and non-violent action make this a good pick for kids

- The dialogue and soundtrack are surprisingly good

 

 

- Not much here that plaforming fans haven't seen before

 

 

Review: Viewtiful Joe 2 (GC)

Review: Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (GC)

Review: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GC)

 

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Pac-Man World 3

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

In Pac-Man World 3, when our hero comes home to a surprise birthday cake and says "25 seems so OLD," you know what you're in for—two pints of chunky monkey, a highlight reel from the 1998 Putnam County Wildcats football season and some quiet sobbing. (How fast the stream flows from January to December! We are swept on by the torrent of things grown so familiar that they cast no shadow. We float, we float . . .)

 

pac-man world 3           pac-man world 3

 

Yes, Pac-Man is 25, and, as his comment about feeling really old at that age should indicate, this latest 3-D platformer by developer Blitz Games and publisher Namco is a game geared primarily toward pre-teens. Older fans may legitimately gripe that the game sticks pretty close to tried and true platforming conventions, with players jumping, climbing, shimmying, and object finding their ways through various challenges. But, I'd imagine that parents of young kids might be pleased with the game's mostly cuddly enemies, easily mastered controls, straightforward levels and squeaky-clean sense of humor, all sans guns or explosions. The game also sports an unexpectedly good soundtrack, and a decent set of extras, including a video interview with Toru Iwatani, creator of the original Pac-Man arcade game.

 

The game begins as Pac-Man's birthday is rudely interrupted. Teleported into a junkyard by his buddy Orson (a "reformed" ghost), he discovers that the world is about to end. An evil genius named Erwin has discovered a way to suck energy out of the spectral realm—home of the Pac Land ghosts—which will soon cause the entire Pac Universe to collapse if he is not stopped.

 

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Since Orson's teleporter is on the fritz, you are left to fend for yourself in a world filled with cute monsters and evil robots. The fighting system is simple enough—Pac-Man can punch, roll at enemies at high velocity, or deploy his powerful "Butt Bounce" on top of their heads. Several cool new power pellets also come into play, primarily when you're facing larger groups of enemies. These give you special powers, such as a temporary "electro shock" attack that works best against robots, or, my favorite, the "ribbon loop," which creates an energy trail that can encircle several enemies at once and then smash them.

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The old fashioned "turn all the ghosts blue" pellet also make regular appearances whenever you are attacked by groups of evil ghosts, who appear from rifts in the spectral realm and are invulnerable to regular attacks. In a nod to the original Pac-Man game, these fights also require you to eat all of the dots in the immediate area before you can close those rifts and move on to other parts of your quest. This works well in some places, such as areas within the spectral realm where rocks and lava are grouped together to look like a maze. In other places, particularly when you are running around in tight quarters, finding all of those dots can occasionally get a little tiresome.

 

The various levels of the game are all well laid out. Platforming pros might find them a little on the easy side, but for younger or more casual gamers the experience is generally challenging, without being too frustrating. Borrowing a page from titles such as Jak and Daxter, Oddworld and Ratchet & Clank, the design of the various areas alternates between otherworldly wilderness and massive industrial complexes. That's some pretty steep competition in terms of art, and this game doesn't break much new ground in that regard.

 

One exception is the spectral realm itself, which Pac-Man must visit several times on missions such as rescuing his old enemies Pinky and Clyde, who can afterward be summoned in a few specific areas to help with a few specific problems. Orson informs our hero that the Spectral Realm is a world of infinite possibility, which manifests itself based on one's personal expectations. Judging from that, it appears that Pac-Man believes his ghostly friends and enemies live in a world not unlike a 1981 Yes album cover. Subterranean lakes and steep, imposing cliffs here are bathed in an ethereal purple light, and simple puzzles involving "time rings" cause huge circular platforms to descend from the mountaintops, providing passage to other challenges. 9 lava lamps out of 10. Very groovy.

 

pac-man world 3          pac-man world 3

 

Oddly, one of the only areas where this game really breaks from the pack is its dialogue. The jokes are admittedly silly, ("Ghosts at 3 o' clock? Well, I guess I've got plenty of time), but the humor is often funny and always clean, which is a real accomplishment. Pac-Man's running dialogue with Orson also does a great job at communicating information, and Clyde's tough guy misnomers give his character a lot of personality during the handful of times he makes an appearance.  It’s all very conversational and easy going, and it never gets tripped up by trying too hard for a laugh.

 

There are a few minor problems. The camera can be a little cantankerous at times, occasionally hiding behind rocks or other scenery when you're fleeing ghosts, or worse, when you're trying to jump from place to place, which resulted in several lava baths and deadly falls for me. You can always use the control stick to adjust your view, but it's also generally tough to look down, which can be a real drawback in any 3-D platformer.

 

In addition, some platforming fans might find themselves frustrated by a quirk of the control scheme. The "butt-bounce" attack is deployed by tapping "A," the jump button, twice or more. This works just fine when you're on the ground, surrounded by enemies. But personally, I'm so accustomed to the "double-jump" feature used in so many other platformers, that I sent Pac-Man aggressively plummeting to his death too many times to count.

 

Overall, Pac-Man World 3 is a good pick for the kids. If you parents want to stay up nights playing the original arcade hit, it's right there in the Extras section from the time you first load the disc. The game doesn't really try to break the mold in any way, so older fans might find it a little stale. But, the design is solid throughout, and hey, it's Pac-Man.

 

- M. Enis

(February 6, 2006)

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