“Pac is back!” Bandai Namco Games declare, although truth be told I’m not entirely sure where they thought he’d disappeared to. While he has enjoyed a brief sojourn in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, those in Europe and Japan were able to romp through Ghostly Adventures earlier this year – after it peculiarly arrived far behind the game’s North American debut.
Fast forward seven months, and PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2 is already upon us. An eyebrow can be raised at the quick-fire sequel, especially after seeing how franchises have suffered under the pressure of delivering annual releases. But developer Monkey Bar Games have found enough time to pluck a handful of new ideas to ensure that this remains an entertaining, if not entirely memorable, follow up.
Breaking the confines of the instantly recognisable blue maze, PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2 continues to transition Pac and friends into the 3D space – always a risky move for a character most known for guzzling pac-dots in quick succession. The throwaway narrative, drawn from the accompanying animated television series, sees the group defending PacWorld against Lord Betrayus and his assorted legion of ghosts and robotic enemies. It’s hard to care about their plight, but then they weren’t aiming to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Everything that there’s available to enjoy is placed within a hub world, terminals and futuristic lifts somewhat inelegantly positioned around a plaza in Pacopolis Park. That will allow you to head to the Round House to meet President Spheros and see the Tree of Life, or visit Sir C’s Lab where he’s working hard on new inventions. This is a clear effort to breathe life into PacWorld, with players able to badger inhabitants and read their character bio’s to see how they fit into the bigger picture.
This all feeds into the Pac-O-Pedia, a terminal that details everything that you need to know about Pac’s universe as well as stuff that you probably didn’t, but it will be the World Map that you’ll be paying most attention to. Split into chapters, your ghostly adventures will begin in Pacopolis, before whisking you to Paclantis, Space, Prehistoric Pac-World and the Netherworld in your quest to defeat Betrayus.
Levels themselves are largely standard platformer fare, with players munching ghosts and beating robots into submission to progress. The introduction of playing as Spiral and Cyli switches things up in allowing you to take to the skies in the Spiral Cherry Copter and Hover Board, blitzing your way through on-rails levels that are a welcome change of pace.
Pac delivers similar variety through numerous power-ups, allowing him to change into forms such as Fire, Ice, Metal, Chameleon, Rubber and Granite Ball, while his colossal PacZilla form will allow him to go toe-to-toe against larger opposition. Not one to be left out, he also has access to his own vehicle stages where you’ll ride in either the Lemon Rocket or Pacerchini.
Responsive controls are appreciated, but PacWorld’s bold, primary colour sheen is undermined by regrettably plain level design that never manages to teeter itself into the realm of excitement. Powers differentiate the experience as best they can, but they’re never able to shine through their mundane surroundings to let them become entertaining enough. Move on to the next, and you’ll soon forget that which came before. And, while this is understandably targeted at a younger crowd as an extension to the animated series, the sickeningly enthusiastic voice acting will irritate you to no end.
The Wii U GamePad allows for permanent Off-TV Play, but that’s been implemented with minimal effort. There’s no option to select it as the primary display, nor to turn it off as an unwelcome distraction – you’ll have to navigate to Nintendo’s own controller settings to do so for that.
PAC-MAN and the Ghostly Adventures 2 has the potential to entertain, but, for a game starring an ever-hungry character, feels largely starved of inspiration in comparison to other games populating the genre. It’s passable and will please those that have been enjoying seeing Pac beamed on their television screens, but others will find more entertaining adventures elsewhere.