Pac-Man Championship Edition

I know I’m a little late to the Pac-Man CE party, but I was also late to the Xbox 360 party, so don’t worry about it.

I managed to find a copy of Namco Museum Virtual Arcade for $20, which has several Virtual Arcade games on it plus a ton of old Namco arcade games, and I had been wanting Pac-Man CE for a while now, which is $10 on its own, it seemed like a no-brainer to pick up the compilation.

It’s kind of hard to explain what the game is without actually playing it or seeing it, but it’s essentially same old Pac Man experience with a few twists.

The maze is divided into two halves, each with a configuration of dots. Eat all the dots on one side and a fruit appears, eat the fruit and the other side of the maze it repopulated with dots, and occasionally the maze is reconfigured slightly. Instead of having to just go forever until you run out of lives, you instead have discrete time limits to score as many points as you can. You still have to worry about running out of lives, but you get lots more (every 20,000 points instead of just one at 10,000).

But this is a game about scoring points. You eat the ghosts, you get points. You eat a second power pill before the first one wore off, you get more points (up to 3200 points per ghost). You stay alive long enough and the dots are worth 10 points, then 20, then 30, then 40, and then 50 (if they get higher than that I don’t know, I didn’t last long enough to find out…), and the bonus fruits get more lucrative as well. Heck, the bonus fruits started go through stuff out of Super Pac-Man (eggs, cake, hamburgers, and coffee), and then from Galaga (enemy ships and the like), and culminated with a Crown which is worth 7650 points. 7650 points, of course, being some kind of pun in Japanese (it phonetically sounds kind of like Namco, I’ve been led to believe).

Death is far less of a big deal here than it had been. You croak and the ghosts are returned to the pen, and you rematerialize back where you stopped, though your point values for the dots reset, that’s kind of a bummer. Even so, death is a bit of a reprieve after a while. As you keep playing the game, the speed gradually increases to the point where you’re zooming around so fast that you get afraid to blink. It was about that time where I found myself missing the occasional turn, which I’d love to blame on the controller, but have to give the nod to my comparatively sluggish reflexes.

Since this game’s on the old 360, there’s also the matter of achievements. There are 12 of them, and I was able to unlock them all in less than an hour and a half. They’re for piddly things like scoring 100,000 points or clearing each of the game modes. Maybe I’m just that good at Pac-Man from wasting a not insignificant portion of my youth in local arcades. But that’s not going to keep me from playing the crap out of this game. It’s way too approachable for that.

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