Genre: Maze Game Developer: Namco Publisher: Tengen Players: 1-2 Released: 1991
In the early ’90s, puzzle games were the craze. Thanks to the Tetris fiasco with Nintendo, as well as the eventual response of other publishers to Tengen’s Klax, the gaming world was deluged with puzzle titles. Thus, it was time for our old friend Pac-Man to make an entrance. Throw in the obligatory “It’s the nineties and there is time for…” line, and you have the basic gist of Pac-Mania. Our favorite yellow pellet-eating hero is back once again, and this time he has decided to upgrade his adventures to 3D (well, almost 3D). He brought along his favorite ghosts, Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde as well as three new ghosts, Sue, Funky and Spunky for the ride as well. Does this game compare well to the storied history of Pac-Man? Well. let’s find out if this is the best Pac-Man you can play for our beloved machine!
The game includes four levels of play, Block Land (which is a Lego-themed area), Pac-Man’s Park, which is a clear translation of the original Pac-Man first level, Sandbox Land, which is a desert-themed map, and an unselectable Legends Of The Hidden Temple-style map called Jungly Steps. These maps are generally nondescript and don’t really elicit any feelings either way towards the overall gameplay. Three of the four maps are selectable from the beginning, and bonuses are offered if the player chooses the two more difficult maps (Pac-Man’s Park and Sandbox Land) from the start.
When it comes to graphics, Pac-Mania does a fairly good job of using everything the Genesis has to offer to deliver a new and fresh perspective without trying to outdo itself in any individual facet. Simply put, this is 3D Pac-Man. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t any differences from the classic arcade game. It’s obvious that the developers wanted to distinguish Pac-Mania from the original. It may not seem obvious to the player, but next time you play, pay attention to where Pac-Man is on the screen. He does not move, but rather, the camera moves around him. Tricky, Namco, tricky.
Now, that really isn’t a true deterrent when it comes to playing this game. The only thing in my opinion that is a problem is that it gets fairly repetitive after just a few run throughs of each map. That can be a big problem in some games, and I believe that in this one being too monotonous is the biggest pitfall. However, there are some interesting extra items that help Pac-Man “eat dem pellets.” There are two spheres, one green and one red. The green one is a super-Pac boost which makes Pac-Man move wicked fast, even faster than the stock Pac-booster that you can turn on in the option menu. The red pellet either extends the length of the regular super pellet, or can get Pac-Man out of a tough jam if you get all six ghosts following you. It does not last very long if you use it without already having a super pellet active, but if you do, it does seem to give you more time than if you did not have it. Also, they have some other non-basic Pac-Man items that just give you thousands of points as well.
I almost forgot to mention this, but every point in this game is worth ten times more than it is in the two famous coin-ops. So, dots are worth ten points, which multiply for which level you choose. Enemies are worth more, and it takes 100,000 points to get the extra life. And new to the Pac-Man series, you only get one extra life. Also, Pac-Man can now jump! It works wonders when you get cornered by a couple of ghosts and you need to save your last life. I believe that this is a great addition to a great game. I have no idea how or if the game ends, so I don’t know if it freezes like the arcade cabinets do for the regular and Ms. Pac-Man.
The music is… well frankly, it’s quite awful. I often turn it off because it’s just not fun and can be irritating. The sound effects aren’t too special either, but Pac-Man was never really a sound pioneer anyway. During every cut scene there is another semi-3D cut scene that either has Pac-Man eating the ghosts or the ghosts chasing him with some saying that definitely looks like it could have been translated better.
Is this the best Pac-Man game in the hero’s long and storied history? Probably not. Is it the best game in the series on the Genesis? Well, being that its only opposition is a weirdly programmed scrolling version of Ms. Pac-Man, or some weird, out of character scrolling game in which you control Pac-Man by a slingshot (don’t get me started), I would say it is. It’s not going to be on anyone’s top ten lists, but this game is worth at least two hours of play. And considering how long it has been since the ’90s were new, why not pop this cart in for a few runs at Pac-Mania?
SCORE: 7 out of 10