If you’re expecting a replica of the Pac-Man coin-on arcade classic of the 1980s, you’re going to be in for a surprise. A pleasant surprise. That’s because Pac-Man Championship Edition is the best version of Pac-Man to come along in years, and it’s now available only on Xbox Live Arcade.
Pac-Man Championship Edition isn’t about eating dots and avoiding ghosts. Ok, it is, but there’s a twist. This special edition has been designed for tournament use so rather than play until you lose all your lives, you’ll play only for a period of 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the selected game mode, or until you lose all your lives, whichever comes first. The goal is to score as many points as possible during that time. Wait, there’s another catch, a very unique one indeed.
You see, the mazes in Pac-Man Championship Edition are divided into two halves and each half has its own arrangement of dots. Each side may be full of dots or there may be very few. There may not be a single “Power Pellet” available to drive back ghosts or there may be ample. Each time you consume all the dots on a side, a piece of fruit will appear near the center of the maze. When you eat the fruit, not only will the dots replenish on that side of the maze but it can also alter the layout of the maze itself. As a result, the maze is constantly changing and it’s this somewhat random nature of the game that helps eliminate the pattern techniques that some Pac-Man pros have come to master.
There are six game modes in total. The Championship Mode, clocking in at a maximum 5 minutes of play, stays pretty true to the original Pac-Man, though with a twist or two to keep things interesting. Challenge Mode 1, at 10 minutes, presents a series of mazes with dots intersected by segments loaded with Power Pellets for ghost gobbling action. Challenge Mode 2, also at 10 minutes, presents an interesting challenge. The entire maze is shrouded in darkness and only a small radius of light surrounding Pac-Man reveals the layout. The Extra Modes, 1, 2 and 3, with 5-, 10- and 10-minute counters respectively, present more advanced challenges for Pac-Man players. For example, the first Extra Mode is played at a feverish pitch, with multiple tunnels.
Pac-Man Championship Edition retains the look and feel of the arcade classic with a few enhancements. For starters, the game is in widescreen, eliminating the wallpaper backgrounds you often find in other Xbox Live Arcade titles like Dig Dug, etc. There are also some added color and ripple effects, not to mention a new soundtrack. In all the presentation is really nice.
So is there anything wrong with Pac-Man Championship Edition? Well, I suppose it would have been a bonus if they had included modes that weren’t timed, but that’d be going away from the tournament nature of the game. For me, that’s what makes Pac-Man Championship Edition such a fun, challenging and ultimately addictive game. It compels you to keep coming back to best your previous high score and perhaps make an appearance on the Xbox Live leaderboards. That’s the sign of a great arcade experience and if you’re a fan of Pac-Man, you won’t want to miss it.