I Ain’t ‘Fraid of No Ghosts!
Every once in a great while a game comes along so completely unexpected, so gloriously surprising and enjoyable – lightning strikes and inspiration is born. Pac-man Party is not such a game, however. It’s a game for the sake of being a game, and even those who carry with them fond memories of pellet-eating bliss from decades past will do well to steer clear of this holiday abomination.
Following in the footsteps of the Mario Party series, Pac-man Party offers a mini-game compilation for up to four players. You can take on the game solo in Story, or against friends and/or CPU opponents in Party Mode. The Mini Game mode allows you to handpick specific mini-games, and the Rewards section is where you can admire achievements you’ve unlocked. Lastly, you’ll get the Classic Games area, which we’ll get to in just a moment.
The Story mode is straightforward, and to be honest, there are a handful of decent ideas tossed into the mix. Unbeknownst to me and likely the rest of the gaming population, those little white pellets Pac-man’s been nibbling away at all these years are cookies, and it’s up to him to retrieve a special recipe and return it to its rightful owner. There’s a ridiculous plot at play here, and the dialogue between Pac-man and the infamous Pac-man ghosts is boring and unnecessary. To be sure you don’t accidentally slip into a comatose state, however, the developers have graciously added the option to skip past the game’s cutscenes.
Similar to Mario Party games, you’ll move around virtual spaces on a gameboard, and for each space you land on, you’ll erect or battle to secure a castle with your icon on it. Castles earn you extra cookies each time you completely circle the map, and successfully winning mini-games turns an opponent’s castle into one of your own. It’s an interesting concept, one that works quite well, but once you’ve played through a single board, you’ve seen pretty much everything that Pac-man Party’s Story mode has to offer. There are five board types to choose from, but the changes are cosmetic.
Surprisingly, one of the more entertaining elements of the actual board gameplay is determining how many spaces you’ll move during a specific turn. Rather than simply have you roll virtual dice with a simple button press, Pac-man Party has you shooting darts, popping balloons, and playing through a quick game of pachinko. There are a few other neat features as well, and gameplay in Pac-man Party’s Story mode seems to focus more on the actual board game than mini-game gameplay.
That’s probably for the best, too. Though there are over fifty mini-games to rip through, none are standout gems and a few of them are downright broken. Take for instance Spaghetti Rollup, which has you making circling motions with the Wii Remote to roll up spaghetti on a giant fork; the player with the biggest ball of spaghetti on their fork at the end of the mini-game wins. The control in this particular mini-game feels fine, and the Wii Remote reads your motions accurately. The mini-game itself, however, simply isn’t satisfying to play through.
Showdown with Arachne, on the other hand, is just plain broken – end of story. In this mini-game, the object is to save butterflies by running over them with your character. To control your character, you’ll have to hold the Wii Remote sideways and steer like a car. My character continued to get locked in corners of the platform, and regardless of which way I moved the controller, my character would move in the opposite direction.
Among the mini-games on offer in Pac-man Party, there seem to be an equal number of successes as there are failures. What truly brings down the experience, however, is that nothing about this package is relevant or particularly fun. Each little element of the game is plodding and forced, making the experience feel more like more work than play.
The only real saving grace in Pac-man Party is the Classic Games mode, which offers three arcade favorites older gamers will likely appreciate. The package includes original arcade versions of Pac-man, Galaga, and Dig Dug. If you haven’t played these classics before, this might actually be the only viable reason to invest in Pac-man Party. Each game still holds up incredibly well today, with Dig Dug perhaps offering the least entertainment value of the three.
With regards to the main portions of Pac-man Party’s gameplay, the presentation is perfectly solid, but it’s also fairly lackluster. Everything has a bright, clean look to it, but low-poly textures and uninspired art design make the game a sad legacy to this once-great arcade gobbler. New characters make cute additions to the franchise, but when it’s “lights, camera, action,” Pac-man Party hits the ground limping. The visuals “get by,” and that’s about it. Impressive lighting and reflection effects are undermined by a pervading feeling of by-the-numbers craftsmanship.
The aural elements are something of a joke as well, and gosh darn it, if the theme playing during the mini-game intros wasn’t lifted lock, stock, and barrel from Mario Party 7. It’s no crime to want to emulate a financial success, but some of what’s here is less homage to a more prominent franchise than it is a poor copy-and-paste job. The squeaks and gibberish spoken by the characters sound terrible, and the lack of originality as a whole is unequivocally offensive.
Don’t yet own any or all of the three Namco classics previously mentioned in this review? Now’s your chance to give those games a whirl. If, for any other reason, you’re considering putting Pac-man Party under the tree this holiday season, I strongly urge you to consider the mistletoe; for the loved one who receives this coal in their stocking will surely be sore. There’s no nostalgia here outside of the great games contained within the Classic Games mode, and though at least half of the mini-games are functional, nothing about this endeavor feels necessary or relevant to gaming. Pac-man Party is a shameless attempt at ringing one last bit of change out of a destitute franchise, and if you value good taste, you’ll waste no time on this uninspired holiday offering.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The visuals are bright, even impressive in some respects. The overall art style and design, however, simply don’t inspire fun. 3.0 Control
Some mini-games are spot-on, while others are out and out broken. Nothing about Pac-man Party, however, is particularly fun. As an aside, the controls for the classic games still feel good and translate well to the Wii Remote. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
In terms of technical quality, the music and sound effects are fine. However, most themes sound suspiciously familiar, and the vocal gibberish is annoying and unnecessary. 2.5 Play Value
The Classic Games mode is admittedly alluring. Is it worth $40? No, not really. The rest of Pac-man Party feels uninspired and gratuitous. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best