Pac-Man Fever is back, and I don’t want to be cured
HIGH Looks and sounds awesome.
LOW Needs a little more variety.
WTF Only four character models for multiplayer.
Pac-Man is a classic that’s been around for over 30 years. In those three decades Pac-Man has had some great games and some awful ones. A few years back, Pac-Man Championship Edition was released, and it reinvented the series’s gameplay to be faster and more neon-filled. Pac-Man 256 follows a similar approach by taking the elements of Pac-Man that everyone knows and loves, but creates something that feels new and fresh. And thankfully, this creation is a blast to play.
Pac-Man 256 was originally released on mobile devices so I was nervous about how it would hold up on a TV, but it’s made a fantastic transition to consoles—the visuals look great, everything looks crisp, and the colors are vibrant. Using a controller instead of touch controls feels like a huge improvement, and the game also ditches microtransactions—just pay the $5 purchase price and that’s it, with no ads to deal with or any little chests or gifts to buy.
Play-wise, Pac-Man 256 translates the field of the original into a neverending maze that players have to navigate using the d-pad while collecting dots and dodging ghosts. As Pac-Man travels, he’ll encounter power-ups that shake up the gameplay.
There a ton of power-ups (over 15 of them) and upgrading them with credits earned in-game is permanent. Pac-Man 256 is similar to a roguelike in this respect—each run gains the player more credits and moves them closer to unlocking a new power-up. Unlocked and upgraded items make it easier to push deeper and faster into the maze… And the player will need to move fast.
Following at all times is an ever-growing cloud of broken numbers and glitched letters, and if they catch up to Pac-Man, it’s game over. The “256” in the title is a reference to the kill screen that occurs when a player reaches the 256th maze in the original arcade game, and the cloud of broken code chasing Pac-Man looks just like that famous glitch. It’s a cool idea for a game and a nice way to use a well-known piece of game history.
In addition to the core mode, Pac-Man 256 offers multiplayer where up to four people can work together. They each have a separate score, but they also cooperate to get a high cumulative score. It’s a nice bonus, but I’m not sure I want to play it again. Having four players at once is madness because the camera can be annoying, and it’s local-only with no way to play online or competitively.
This lack of modes and any online component contributes to the biggest problem with Pac-man 256—after a few hours, I felt bored. There are some skins to change the look of the game, but beyond that there isn’t much else to it. It seems perfect for quick bursts of arcade fun in a waiting room or right before bed, but sitting down with it for a few hours doesn’t do it any favors. Despite being available on consoles, this is still a bite-sized game.
Despite its lack of long-term staying power, Pac-Man 256 is a fantastic reinterpretation of an arcade classic that looks and plays great, and this port is easily the best version. That said, it’s not meant for extended sessions, so I recommend playing in small chunks to avoid burnout.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Hipster Whale and 3 Sprockets and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on iPhone, Android, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via a code provided by Bandai Namco and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. 2 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E for Everyone and contains: mild fantasy violence. The violence amounts to Pac-Man eating ghosts. There is no blood or screaming. No swearing either. Totally safe for kids of all ages.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Pac-Man 256 can easily be played without sound and there are no subtitles. Any threats are clearly marked and easy to see.
Remappable Controls: No. There are no remappable controls of any kind.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. I’m not colorblind so I can’t say for sure, but some aspects of the game rely on color. Specifically the ghosts. They each have different colors representing their behavior and they flash blue when they are vulnerable to Pac-Man.