PAC-MAN Championship Edition 2 Review
Over the past five years or so there have been a number of games that have taken the classic PAC-MAN gameplay and mixed it up into a new arcade challenge, most recently with PAC-MAN 256. . The first game that started it all was PAC-MAN Championship Edition and now things are coming full circle as the long awaited sequel to that game, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, is here.
Championship Edition 2 isn't a simple re-release of the original updated for a new generation of consoles and PC hardware - there are some gameplay changes here as well. So many, in fact, that this is the first PAC-MAN game that I can remember that comes with an extensive set of tutorial levels. Probably the biggest one of these changes, and the one that may be a bit difficult to believe at fists is that PAC-MAN doesn't die when he hits a ghost. The first and second collision are forgiven, but hit a ghost three times and you'll make it angry. Once it is angry, though, it will take out PAC-MAN with a single hit, so you'll need to stay clear of it until it cools down and is no longer angry with you.
The opposite is true of the smaller sleeping ghosts you'll see in the mazes. These ghosts will wake up as you pass them and start trailing the nearest ghost. You can also eat these ghosts with a few hits in a row, but you will want to avoid doing that and not just because it will slow you down a bit. As you keep waking sleeping ghosts, the trail of ghosts behind the main ghosts will continue to grow, making them look like ghost snakes winding their way through the maze. When a power pellet appears - they are not simply sitting around the maze for you to grab at your leisure - the goal is to chomp the major ghost at the head of the line of ghosts. Hit the ghosts in the tail and you'll cut the tail off at that point and the ghost tail will be smaller. You want to keep the tails as long as possible because when you get the ghost at the head, your score will keep chaining higher for each ghost in the tail.
Another difference you'll find here from prior PAC-MAN games is that you don't clear mazes by eating all of the dots. Instead there is a target number of dots to eat in each maze, and once you eat that number a fruit will appear. Eating that fruit will end the level and warp you to the next one. The levels are timed, so your score will depend on how fast you can get through the mazes. As such, success in the game is tied to determining the best path through a maze to pick up the required dots as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes it will take some experimentation to find the optimal path, a task further complicated by numerous off screen connecting paths and jump pads that can send you crisscrossing through the mazes. As an aid to getting out of a maze faster the game provides you with a limited number of bombs. These bombs don't blow anything up, but they will instantly transport you to the small square safe zone where the fruit originate.
Some of the game's levels end in a boss battle, but they're not boss battles in the traditional sense. You must make your way through a series of challenge mazes while a massive ghost floats around in the background. Complete the sequence and you'll reach a final maze that will eventually generate a power pill if you can eat enough dots, and if you chomp that power pill it will kick off an animated sequence in which PAC-MAN takes out the giant ghost.
PAC-MAN Championship Eidtion 2 certainly takes a number of liberties with the traditional PAC-MAN gameplay, but it stills manages to feel like a PAC-MAN game at its core. The dual challenges of trying to clear the mazes as quickly as possible and building large ghost chains to maximize your score forces you to make choices on the fly and keeps the game from being an exercise in maze memorization. It's a challenging arcade game that simultaneously requires quick reflexes as well as your mind as you need to keep thinking two moves ahead. Anyone looking for a casual, classic PAC-MAN arcade experience should avoid this iteration of the franchise, but anyone else looking for a challenging arcade game will find it here.
Final Rating: 85% - A game with a few twists that you never thought you'd see in a PAC-MAN game.