Tech Up! My Arcade Pac-Man Pocket Player from Lost Universe (Review)

By Shane Jury 22.02.2021

To tell of Pac-Man's humble beginnings is to essentially revisit the birth of the gaming industry. Conceived back in 1979 by Toru Iwatani of Namco Inc, the game was a smash hit in arcades and would go on to garner a wide array of sequels and merchandise. The original Pac-Man would find itself ported to nearly every home and portable system, becoming a staple of gaming culture and making its headlining star a beloved industry icon with public recognisability not far off other such big names like Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse. As part of a line of handhelds dedicated to retro franchises like Contra, Galaga and Bubble Bobble, products manufacturer My Arcade has given the gluttonous one his own portable machine. After taking a look at the Atari Flashback X from Lost Universe, now Cubed3 goes hands-on with this Pac-Man offering.

The Pac-Man Pocket Player's packaging is an indicator for what is to come from the device. Sleek and minimal in size, the box contains the machine itself, the attached lanyard, and an instruction booklet. The viewing flap on the front allows for a direct look at the unit, complete with a quick summary on the underside and a unit overview on the back of the box. The disclaimer at the bottom is the first hint of trouble. It lacks the AAA batteries required to power it portably, or a Micro-USB cable to plug it into the mains instead. It is a bitter pill to swallow when so many other devices provide their own means of energy in the packaging. 
Image for Tech Up! My Arcade Pac-Man Pocket Player from Lost Universe (Review)
The device, however, is lightweight and has a comfortable grip, with easy access to all essential buttons and functions. The Disc-shaped D-Pad may look clunky but is responsive and satisfying to use. The A and B Button order is a little unorthodox but are usable and fine in practice. The Reset and Start buttons above them are ideally placed for pausing and navigational purposes, as are the power switch and volume bar.

As depicted on the box, the Pac-Man Pocket Player comes with three games: the original classic in its full splendour plus another arcade title called Pac-Mania, as well as a home console-focused puzzle spinoff Pac-Panic. The number of titles available is quite low for a dedicated handheld machine, and with no updatable firmware or onboard memory to speak of, its bound to stay that way. That being said, the three on offer here are quite distinctive in their own right and can still provide a good amount of entertainment.

Image for Tech Up! My Arcade Pac-Man Pocket Player from Lost Universe (Review)
First up is the original Pac-Man. Though the industry has made vast strides in visual power, sound design and gameplay, Pac-Man is as simple, fun and accessible as it ever was. Guiding the small yellow muncher around maze-like levels, eating up the dots while avoiding the four coloured ghosts, and grabbing power pellets to even the odds is still a breeze to play through and enjoy on this unit.
 
Next is Pac-Mania, a new take on the classic that shifted from overhead sprites to an Isometric pseudo-3D perspective. The rules are mostly the same as the original formula, but with new features like a two-player mode, three new ghost colours, a jump button, and options for difficulty and movement speed.

Third is Pac-Panic, a title created for the Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive that is a more drastic divergence from the original. This one is a puzzle game that involves rotating blocks of varying sizes to fit neatly into the playing field. The twist is that with those blocks comes sets of ghosts that need to be lined up then removed with a Pac-Man block that moves in one specific direction, thereby erasing surrounding blocks from the field. Normal mode is an endless run with the goal being to aim for the highest score, while Puzzle Mode has a good number of brain-teaser setups to clear as efficiently as possible. Sadly, Pac-Panic doesn't save progress, so you have to use passwords to start from various checkpoints.

Image for Tech Up! My Arcade Pac-Man Pocket Player from Lost Universe (Review)
Speaking of which, powering off the Pocket Player highlights its biggest flaw. None of the progress made in any of these games, or even just the high scores, is saved onto the unit, leading to a lessened sense of accomplishment and competitive drive for players. The screen is also let down by the limitations of the system. While it is a clear and vibrant display, there are no options to reduce or increase the brightness, and the default setting could easily be considered too bright for sensitive eyes. On top of that, though the volume slider is fully adjustable, the quality of the speakers is not, with frequent crackling and buzzing regardless of onboard sound or headphone output. Hardcore fans will likely relish having this classic in a pocket-friendly format, but curious onlookers should consider the questionable longevity and unit quality beforehand, even with its cheap price point.
Image for Tech Up! My Arcade Pac-Man Pocket Player from Lost Universe (Review)

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Offering three fun and accessible vintage titles at an affordable cost should be a win, but the hardware limitations of the Pac-Man Pocket Player hold it back greatly. Those willing to look past the lack of save functionality and poor sound output quality will find a lot to love, but said issues will be too prevalent for most. You can get yours hands on this over at Lost Universe.

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