Pac Man Vs. (GameCube) Review

By Adam Riley 13.03.2004

Pac-Man is one of the oldest gaming characters to still be alive and kicking, arriving in 1980 to great acclaim and remaining as immensely popular today. That is definitely an achievement not to be quickly overlooked! How such a simple pizza-shaped creation could become so fashionable is almost beyond belief – but is testament to Namco’s great game design and marketing style over the years. Now Nintendo’s very own Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of Mario, has taken that original Pac-Man blue-print and translated it to the all-powerful GameCube in order to take advantage of the system-exclusive GBA-GC multi-player link-up feature. Read on to find out if this is the future of gaming or merely a gimmick that will be hastily forgotten...

This is what Nintendo was busying working on?!
May 2003 saw the latest E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) arrive, complete with the promise of huge announcements from Nintendo. So imagine the dismay of several gamers when the large unveiling from über designer Miyamoto-san was none other than a multi-player update of the original maze-based Pac-Man title from Namco. Suffice to say there was muffled laughter from the Sony and Microsoft booths. Reportedly even Nokia and its N-Gage crew tittered…But, Nintendo being Nintendo it was not about to be perturbed by such reactions and merrily steamed ahead with the update that requires three players to hook-up their GBAs to a GameCube with the remaining player using a GC pad. There is no back story to the game – basically you just boot-up and play without any delay.

A simplistic look, to say the least…
So we have an all-powerful GameCube that easily outperforms the PlayStation 2 and can manage to keep to the same level of graphical quality produced by the XBOX. Then we have the Game Boy Advance, a system that has proved to be far more powerful than its oft-compared to predecessor the Super Nintendo – generally sporting in-game visuals that match the PSone and now can even support full-blown FMV sequences. Wow, Nintendo must have done something absolutely amazing with this update then, surely?

Well no, it has certainly not. The game looks like it must have taken about a week at the most to churn out and it was a complete joke (an unfunny one at that) to have this as the main attraction of the E3 line-up. The GBA is more than capable of representing the exact layout of the old 1980 arcade Pac-Man mazes, doing so without even breaking into a mild sweat. Then we have the GameCube updates of the mazes included, all of which come with their own special styling for each stage and contain 3D renderings of the ghosts and Pac-Man himself, all moving around at an expected locked-down 60 frames per second.

However this is all quite disappointing, since some proper touch-ups could have been made overall on both systems. Perhaps since Nintendo realised the game would not sell alone it decided that Pac Man Vs did not warrant the extra time and attention. A shame, a real shame...

Wacka wacka wacka wacka...and that is about it for Pac Man, right? Not this time around, however. Nintendo has seen fit to drag Charles Martinet into the fray in order to provide a Mario voice over the top, just so that you definitely realise that this is not a Namco rehash, but a Nintendo re-invention (despite those two things being exactly the same in essence).

Therefore, amongst the usual basic (and that is using the word to its full extent – with the exception of the nicely remixed Pac-Man theme on the title screen) music we are ‘treated’ to such ‘wonderful’ phrases as ‘It’s-a not looking so good-a!’ and ‘Pac-Man ate a Power Pellet!’, all in the mock-Italian squeak that is Mario’s accent. Not quite was expected from Pac Man Vs, but a clever move from Nintendo to stamp its mark on the game. Now if only the company had included some options to actually turn the plumber’s grating voice off…

Screenshot for Pac Man Vs. on GameCube

What happens when one of the world’s most talented game producers gets bored? He decides to whip up a quick remake of someone else’s game! Shigeru Miyamoto turned the single-player arcade Pac-Man into a ‘Connectivity Exclusive’ four-player title, presented it to Namco for feedback and permission to continue with the project and the end result is here today – Pac Man Vs, a title that cannot be played alone. But just how much fun can a multi-player version of a crusty old formula be? Plenty, for sure…

The main reason for the wealth of respect adorned on Miyamoto-san is because of his attention-to-detail and his eye for addictive gameplay. The latter is something that is evident in Pac Man Vs. in plentiful amounts – a very simple concept that can be accessed by anyone who picks up a controller and enjoyed by all, despite nearly sticking to the original concept totally. Look much closer, though, and you will identify some fundamental changes that have been applied – changes that add to the gameplay and increase the level of strategy required by gamers, who over the years have become wise to the movements of original, computer-controlled ghosts in the arcade title.

One player takes control of Pac-Man on the GBA screen, complete with old-skool graphics and the original look maze, whilst one, two or three others control the shots on the large screen thanks to the GameCube. The aim of the Pac-Man controller is to eat all of the dots in the respective maze before any of the ghosts can eat you, and the aim of the other players is to kill Pac-Man as quickly as possible, preferably before he eats a Power Pellet, giving him the ability to kill ghosts! Everything comes down to points and a race to reach the chosen total – eating dots or ghosts adds to Pac-Man’s score and whoever kills Pac-Man receives a nice boost to their total.

Whilst Pac-Man has the advantage of seeing the complete maze on the GBA screen, each of the ghosts has only a limited field of vision when floating around in chase. However, this can be temporarily rectified by eating fruit before Pac-Man does (something ghosts could not do in the original), with screen for that particular ghost expanding slightly. Players expecting an easy ride when controlling Pac-Man will be in for a severe shock as human-controlled ghosts are far more unpredictable than computer ones and mayhem will undoubtedly occur in due course! Tag on the fact that with only two or three players there are some computer-controlled ghosts to fill in the extra spaces that can actually be allied to one of the human controlled ghosts by touching them before someone else does and you have got a very frenetic game on your hands.

Screenshot for Pac Man Vs. on GameCube

Nearly everything has been thought of – hidden Pac-Man control on the GBA, initial screen restrictions for the ghosts, advantages for ghosts who collect fruit and tag-play when playing with less than four players, making the game just as much fun as when played with the full four people. If a few more mazes had been thrown in, as well as a couple of other play modes, then this would be the perfect multi-player experience. For what it is, essentially a freebie, this is should not be missed out on – even if you have to buy your copy from eBay to avoid the very weak R: Racing!

With only six mazes to play through you could easily be forgiven for believing that the replay value of Pac Man Vs is practically non-existent. One of the maps is the original arcade creation whilst the others have been created especially for this revamped multi=player outing. Gamers need to remember that there was only initially one Pac-Man maze, meaning this time there is far more fun to be had, and although more mazes would have been necessary had this been a one-player game, that is not the case here. Dragging three friends around with their GBAs will be riotous due to the nature of play, with the three-on-one scenario leading to many situations where you will find out who your true friends are – but the fun never abating over the months as you can obtain as much fun from Pac Man Vs as with Mario Kart at times! This can be seen as a major triumph for Nintendo’s much-talked about connectivity stance and has been so well implemented that it has even peaked the interest of Sony who is now planning on including a similar idea for between the PS2 and forthcoming PlayStation Portable.

Screenshot for Pac Man Vs. on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Is Pac Man Vs worth buying? To be honest, no. But that is where we are all relatively lucky, because Nintendo thought that very same answer. That is why over in the US the 'experiment' was bundled with R: Racing Evolution, I-Ninja and the Player's Choice version of Pac-Man World 2. Do you see a problem here? I-Ninja's European release was shelved and Pac-Man World 2 sold so pitifully over here it certainly will not make the Player's Choice selection. Thankfully EA has announced it will include Pac Man Vs with the newly titled R: Racing when publishing the game in Europe, but since that game is decidedly average it looks like waiting for the Stars Catalogue to include it would be a better bet. An excellent game that will unfortunately be overlooked in Europe unless Nintendo does something very clever in the near future...

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Puzzle

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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