You can’t stop the ghost train!

pmce2

HIGH Building and eating ghosts trains.

LOW Controls feel off.

WTF The bosses are disappointing.


 

Decades after Pac-Man hit the scene, the little yellow dude is still eating dots and getting new games. But recently the Pac-Man games have changed. No more are they trying to recreate the classic arcade titles, instead developers are taking the iconic gameplay, imagery and sounds and building something new with them.

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is the latest of these reimaginings. A sequel to the beloved XBLA classic, CE2 is similar enough that fans of the previous game might enjoy it, but some of the changes make it a lesser experience.

Like its predecessor, Championship Edition 2 is all about making ghost trains. Pac-Man still zips around the maze and eats dots, but now the goal is to wake up ghosts dotted around each area.

To do this, players just need to get close to the sleeping ghosts – once he does, they shoot off and join a ghost train. This ghost train is led by a larger ghost that can kill Pac-Man if he touches him. Well, depending on the game mode.

This is one of the biggest changes in Pac-Man CE2. In many modes ghosts can be touched a bit without being killed. But there is a limit, though — bump into them a few too many times and they’ll fly into a fit of rage. Once the player has angered a ghost, that’s when they need to start avoiding them or they’ll lose a life.

As the ghost trains get bigger, players will need to move on to new mazes. To do this, Pac-Man needs to eat a certain number of dots. Once enough dots are munched, a fruit appears and the player eats it to jump to the next map. Occasionally this fruit will be replaced with a power pellet. If so, Pac-Man is then able to chase down the ghost trains and eat them, head first — it’s a satisfying feeling to build a huge train and then devour it all.

New cinematics in CE2 show the ghost train lifting out of the maze, like a ghost stairway to heaven, and Pac-Man chomps each ghost up. These cinematics were neat, but also nice because they gave me a chance to catch my breath and refocus — something I needed to do a lot in Pac-Man CE2.

On paper, being able to touch ghosts sounds like a strange change, but in practice the change is necessary because Pac-Man CE2 moves fast. Really fast. So fast, in fact, that at some points it felt like I was losing control of the character. I would miss turns consistently, and many courses are filled with jumps where Pac-Man can leap across the board, but these jumps aren’t always laid out in a logical way. The mazes can also have moving images behind them and different skins for Pac-Man and the ghosts, some of which are visually distracting.

All of these factors end up making CE2’s action hard to follow. There were often times where I’d miss a turn and my eyes went to where I thought Pac-Man should be, but instead I’d run right into a ghost. In light of this, it seems clear that the change of allowing Pac-Man to bump into ghosts is what makes this game playable. Still, something about it feels off. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I never felt completely in control, and I always wanted a little more precision.

In terms of content, there are two modes in Pac-Man CE2, time attack and dungeons.

Time attack uses different mazes and skins, but the same basic ghost train gameplay is found in all of them.

Dungeons offers challenges, like ‘eat all the dots in so many seconds’ or ‘reach the 5th maze in certain amount of time’. Once the player finishes enough challenges, they face a super ghost in a boss level, but this sounds more exciting than it is.

The boss levels play nearly the same as the time attack levels, but a large ghost in the background smacks the screen and causes smaller ghosts in the maze to go aggro. I didn’t spend a ton of time with Dungeons — the controls and movement just didn’t feel precise enough to make me want to take on specific challenges.

A good time might be had by folks who haven’t played the first Pac-Man Championship Edition, but returning fans might see CE2 as more of the same with a few tweaks, and the loose controls and distracting visuals might make them go back to the original if they’re craving more. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is tough to recommend when the first game is still around. This new entry sure is a sequel, but that’s about it. Rating: 7 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This game was developed by and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. This copy of the game was obtained via Publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 6½ hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There is no multiplayer mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E for Everyone. There are no content descriptors available from the ESRB. There is no violence, adult language or adult situations. It’s just Pac-Man eating dots and ghosts.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I encountered no moments where the sound was necessary. Though some players might find it useful to hear when ghosts go angry. No subtitles are available.

Remappable Controls: No. You can switch the bomb and brake buttons, but that’s it.

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. Sleeping ghosts, ghosts who are part of the train, non-dangerous ghosts and the ghost train leaders have different colors and that could cause a problem for some players.

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