In the world of gaming there are many mascots, ranging from Italian plumbers to blue hedgehogs wearing sneakers. One of gaming’s biggest mascots is none other than Pac-Man, a big round yellow blob who enjoys eating dots and floating fruits.
Despite this unbelievably weird premise Pac-Man was still quite successful when it first came out in the arcades back in the 80’s. Namco, building on this success, released sequels to the arcade success, and periodically releasing console ports for those games as well.
Namco then decided however that it wanted to go further with the Pac-Man license. So, in 1999, Namco released Pac-Man World. Pac-Man World broke the stereotype that all next-generation updates of old games are bad with 2D platforming gameplay to die for. Now, Namco has sought out to update Pac-Man to the 3D realm with Pac-Man World 2, a sequel to the 1999 game. Unfortunately though, Namco has dropped the ball on this title, as it is no where as good as the 1999 original.
The game’s plotline is rather simple. Those mischievous Pac-Man-hating ghosts are up to their shenanigans again, releasing an evil monster across Pac-Land. In order to defeat this evil monster, you will have to collect numerous fruits across the land, and interact with other characters like Handy-Pac, Professor Pac, and Sir Pac-A-Lot (am I the only one who sees the vulgarity in that name?)
While the plot is pretty weak, it doesn’t hurt the game too much. What does hurt the game though is its mediocre gameplay. PMW2’s first problem lies in its design. Given that PMW2 is 3D, you’d think the developers would take the power of the Xbox seriously, and make some wide-open levels. Instead, the game is more linear than it is wide-open, almost always having you walk down a single path.
Now games linear in nature aren’t necessarily bad, after all, Final Fantasy X was a pretty linear game and it was awesome. No, what hurts PMW2 so much is the game’s bad execution. The levels rarely meander from hopping over gaps and bashing enemies, and the few things Namco did inject to spice things up (Trampolines, moving platforms, etc.) feel sloppily implemented.
Another thing the game does wrong is that it follows the oh-so-overused scavenger hunt gameplay as well. Throughout each level, PMW2 bombards you at great length with collectable fruits, tokens, and other collectable things. These gathering items are so plentiful though, that it is nearly impossible to collect them all, so people who do go after them all will ultimately get very frustrated.
All these things don’t hold a candle though to the game’s unbelievably terrible camera. Constantly throughout the game, the camera will do everything bad that a camera can do. Getting stuck behind walls, giving you bad angles on jumps, switching camera angles wildly when you do something…all are here and in their full flawed glory. Ugh. Why Namco? Why?
The game also features an arcade where you can open up old Pac-Man games as you go along. This is somewhat cool, as it offers old-school gamers something to play, although it will probably bore people who started playing video games after Pac-Man’s heyday.
Even though Namco did botch the gameplay side of PMW2, they must be praised for the game’s controls. Each action of the game is easy to do with the game’s controls, and the actions on screen happen very quickly after you hit the corresponding button. The game also does a good job of explaining the controls at the beginning of the game through the first level.
The game’s graphics on the other hand aren’t that extraordinary. Because of the game’s linear design, there aren’t any cool horizon-line visuals to display. All the character models look good (or as good as you can make a walking yellow dot look.) Even though the game displays no horizon line though, are any great number of enemies at once, the game still suffers from slowdown. This slowdown is usually a problem too, seeing that it can screw you up when you are in mid-jump, mid-battle, etc. The game also displays some rather crude cut-scenes that, other than trying to push a plot that isn’t there, don’t look that great either.
The voice acting in these cut-scenes though is surprisingly good, although the actual dialogue they are saying isn’t that great. The rest of the game’s audio is good too. For the sound effects, Namco has opted to use old-school sounding sound bytes from older Pac-Man games, along with the normal ones. The normal sound effects sound appropriate, although they won’t win any awards. The old-school Pac-Man sound bytes are cool, although they get a little annoying after you’ve heard them the billionth time. The game’s music is also simplistic, but it fits with the game situation well, and helps set the mood, which is all game music has to do anyway, right?
Pac-Man World 2 is a somewhat decent game, although it is nowhere as good as the original. Gone is the original 2D gameplay of the past, instead replaced with mediocre 3D platforming gameplay, complete with bad camera and unimaginative levels. If you’re really desperate for a platformer or a huge fan of the yellow guy, you might want to check out Pac-Man World 2.