Digital Competitive Eating

HIGH Planning out my route and eating a whole string of ghosts at once.

LOW Getting blockaded by red versions of Pac-Man.

WTF The theme DLCs.

Pac-Man is a game that, I presume, needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular arcade games of all time, involving a yellow circle floating around a grid eating pellets, ghosts, and the occasional fruit. Players avoid the ghosts until Pac-Man is in an invulnerable state and generally try to survive until they clear the board of pellets.

Since its worldwide release in 1980, Pac-man has seen numerous iterations, many offering slight changes to the basic formula in order to keep things fresh for players old and new. Pac-Man 99 takes the basic gameplay format and turns it into a 99-person endurance battle.

The main mode (the only mode included for free, provided a player has a Nintendo Online subscription) has gamers facing off against 98 others online, with everyone trying to survive for as long as possible. The basic gameplay is the same as the original, but clearing the board doesn’t do anything – the board can be reset by eating fruit which occasionally pop up, giving players more pellets so they can continue eating and out-maneuvering the ghosts.

In order to pace the game and help eliminate players, obstacles can appear on the board to hamper progress. White Pac-man will slow down the player, while red Pac-man can appear and must be avoided at all costs, or else it’s game over.

Making it to that number 1 spot can be tough, especially when going up against so many players from around the world — the best I personally got to was rank 6.

Playing the base mode can be a great time with some real nail-biting moments when it gets down to the final 10, and any single mistake in input can be a gamer’s downfall. This is essentially all that is available for a free download, and makes for a solid pick-up-and-play experience with matches that last for 5 to 10 minutes at most.

In order to unlock more options, DLC can be purchased. The DLC includes many themes which change the character models, animations, and even give animated backgrounds for the game and menu. Other DLC includes more modes, in particular single player content such as CPU (where gamers can hone their skills against 98 computer players) and a time attack mode where gamers can test how long they can last on the board as difficulty ramps up over time.

Private matches, which allow gamers to play with their friends specifically instead of random players, is also DLC. This is the only piece of DLC I would really like to see included with the game, as it can only work if all players involved have the necessary DLC.  

Overall, Pac-Man 99 offers a solid, simple multiplayer jaunt for short-term bursts of competitive action. It’s a shame that some of the things that are locked behind DLC, but since the game itself is free (with Nintendo Online) it’s hard to complain.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Bandai Namco. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 1 hour of play was devoted to the single-player modes. 3 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Fantasy Violence and In-Game Purchases. The game is safe for kids, it’s all very pixelated and involves a yellow circle “eating” various things.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles, but there is also no dialogue. The only text is related to menu options, such as “Start” and “Game Over.” No sounds are necessary for gameplay. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.

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