Since debuting in arcades way back in 1980, Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man has munched its way onto nearly every gaming platform under the sun – even Windows Phone! Heck, that version was my very first review for Mobile Nations.
Even though Xbox 360 Pac-Man is already backwards compatible, it only makes sense for Xbox One to receive a fresh release as well. Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man is the latest re-release of the classic arcade game. Does it bring any new features to the table? Read our detailed review to find out!
The original arcade game
The original arcade game that introduced Pac-Man and his ghostly antagonists to the world. This game was so popular that strategy books for it actually appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and the song “Pac-Man Fever” reached number 9 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.
For those that may not be familiar with this classic, the game consists of a single maze filled with tasty dots. Pac-Man’s goal is to eat all 256 dots while avoiding the ghosts. If he succeeds, he’ll move on to the next level. The maze always stays the same, but the ghosts get faster each time and the duration of the Power Pellets gets shorter and shorter.
Those Power Pellets were the first power-up in video game history. Eat one of the four that appear in each level and the ghosts turn blue for a short time. The more ghosts Pac-Man chomps while the Power Pellet lasts, the greater the score bonus he gets. The ghosts don’t stay gone, though; they quickly respawn and resume their hunt for our hero.
Pac-Man has always been a challenging game. To do really well, you have to memorize the perfect path for every level. And other than the difficulty, nothing changes from level to level. Sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, and especially Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ offer a lot more variety and fun. But gamers should know their roots, and that definitely includes the original Pac-Man.
Presentation: Xbox 360 versus Xbox One
Pac-Man for Xbox 360
Pac-Man debuted on Xbox 360 way back in 2006, and that version is playable on Xbox One. Why would anyone get the Xbox One version? New features, of course!
The Xbox 360 Pac-Man had a scant few enhancements over the original arcade game. Visually, the screen size and position can be adjusted. The widescreen border looks okay but can’t be turned off.
In the gameplay department, players can set the number of starting lives and the score target for additional lives. You can also choose to start on any level you’ve reached before, making it so much easier to see higher levels. The Achievements are also quite easy, but they only give a total of 200 Gamerscore.
Xbox 360 Pac-Man doesn’t offer many visual or gameplay options, but their integration deserves recognition. The screen size and position and starting level options are integrated directly into the emulated arcade game’s interface rather than external menus.
Xbox One version. Note the level select is an external menu.
Pac-Man on Xbox One clocks in at a much larger file size than the 16 MB 360 game – a whopping 916 MB! This version was developed in Unity and then ported to multiple platforms, which seems to be the reason for the increased file size.
Unity or no, 916 MB is a lot of space for what started out as such a tiny arcade game. Thankfully storage space is less of an issue on Xbox One. Besides, this edition actually has some nice enhancements over previous console ports. There are so many options, they come in three different menus: Display, Sound, and Game Settings.
The Arcade Game Series Pac-Man’s Display Settings provide a welcome degree of control over how the game appears on HDTVs. You can still zoom in and out, and also add scanlines for an old-fashioned monitor effect. You get two different widescreen borders to choose from, one in a muted color palette and one with bold colors. Both borders are nice, but this version really should have offered some of the original arcade bezels as well as the choice of disabling borders entirely.
The biggest visual enhancement option is the ability to rotate the display 90 degrees. Pac-Man arcade cabinets use a vertically-oriented monitor, which is why console ports always have so much empty space on the sides of the display. Finally, this version allows dedicated fans to hang a monitor vertically and play with a much truer aspect ratio than you’d ever get from a horizontal monitor.
On the sound front, players can adjust the quality of the sound, boosting and reducing certain elements as well as adjusting reverb length and depth. All of that goes over my head. But I do greatly appreciate the sound test, which allows us to sample all of the game’s music and sound effects. I’ve never seen a port of the arcade game offer that feature before.
In the Game Settings, players can enable the option to start on any previously reached level and adjust starting lives and frequency of extra lives, just like the Xbox 360 version. And like that version, changing these settings will prevent your score from being submitted to the leaderboard.
Hardcore players can even disable the Round 256 bug. This bug causes the game to become unplayable upon reaching the 256th level of the game due to the level count being stored as an 8-bit integer with a maximum value of 255. Few of us will ever reach that round (even with the option to start on previous rounds), but supremely dedicated players will appreciate being able to beat Round 256 at last.
The Xbox 360 version of Pac-Man offers 12 Achievements worth 200 Gamerscore, all easy to get but one. On Windows Phone, the Achievements share the same value but are dramatically harder to get because it doesn’t let players select the starting stage (argh).
Pac-Man on Xbox One offers 20 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Out of those, all players should be able to get 14 Achievements and just over 500 Gamerscore. Even if you don’t go for the challenging ones, you’ll still earn twice as much as both previous Xbox ports put together.
In the tough-but-doable range, four Achievements involve eating all four ghosts multiple times in the same round, and doing so while eating both fruits. You’ll have to study a guide and follow the perfect pathway through a level to do that, which took me about 30 minutes of attempts.
The final two Achievements require players to beat three levels without dying or eating a ghost, and eat the fruits from the first 8 levels in one playthrough. Both are tough, especially the latter. You can sort of abuse the save system by going offline to prevent cloud backups, but who wants to do that?
Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man is the best home version of the original Pac-Man arcade game yet. Whether or not the new features warrant an upgrade from the Xbox 360 version depends entirely on your devotion to this Pac-Man game and whether or not you care about Achievements. If you do like both Pac-Man and Achievements, this release is a no-brainer.
This version of Pac-Man sells for $3.99 on its own or as part of a $7.99 3-pack that also includes Galaga and Dig Dug. The 3-pack is easily a better value since you basically get one game for free. Note that Ms. Pac-Man (the superior sequel to this game) is not included in the 3-pack and must be purchased separately.
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