Gaming

Pac-Man World Re-PAC Review (Switch)

Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

By the end of the 90s, the golden age of slot machines had become a dim and distant memory, and with it the ubiquitous Pac-Man fever of the early 80s. Not one to leave a yellow puck by the wayside, Namco decided to spice up its video game icon by having it star in the 3D platformer that was all the rage at the time. After the first failed attempt with canceled Pac-Man’s Phantom Zone, pacman world eventually came together and proved to be a reliable and successful product in the Pac series. Now Namco has seen fit to revive it once more as Pac-Man World Re-Pac, and while this new release isn’t a standout example of what a 3D platformer can be, it certainly shows why these games are fun.

The story begins with Pac-Family putting the finishing touches on Pac-Man’s birthday decorations when they are suddenly attacked by nefarious ghosts and carried away. It turns out that the ghosts are working for the evil Tokman, who is celebrating his own birthday and sent them to capture Pac-Man. Pac-Man returns home and realizes what happened. Eager to save his family (and celebrate his birthday), he goes on a quest to save them and put Tok-Man in his place.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

The gameplay in Pac-Man World Re-Pac offers an interesting take on the 3D platformer – it’s clear that it was developed at a time when the genre was still in its infancy. Instead of exploring large worlds with a freely controlled camera, you go through a series of mostly linear levels that are viewed using a fixed camera, sort of like playing a 2D platformer level that gives you a bit more freedom of movement. In that sense, it’s more like Super Mario 3D World than Super Mario 64, but that doesn’t mean it feels like less of an experience to take level design in the other direction.

The goal of each stage is simply to break the Toc-Man statue at the end, but the path you take is usually littered with obstacles, enemies, and collectibles hidden in the short side paths. Most opponents can be killed with a simple butt bounce, which can also be used to break certain objects and give Pac-Man a bit more height when jumping. And for those who struggle to make some of the more precise jumps that many levels require, Pac-Man has a useful flutter jump (just like Yoshi’s) that can give you a little more time to get over abyss. Rounding out his moveset is a useful Spin Dash-like move that can be used to take out enemies, charge up certain platforms, or gain speed to climb steep slopes.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

There are a decent amount of tricks to help make each level feel different from the next, which help keep Pac-Man World Re-Pac feeling fresh throughout its relatively short run. For example, one level has you dodging artillery fire from various pirate ships, while another has you running through terrifying clown fun. And while you can get to the end of any level in just a few minutes, if you hurry, much more fun can be found by collecting various collectibles along the way.

For example, you’ll often encounter Fruit Doors that require a specific fruit to open, usually requiring you to explore a side route or retreat a bit. There are also switches that you can press to change part of the level, such as causing hidden platforms to appear.

While the levels differ markedly from each other, even when they share a common theme, we found the level design in general to be rather unimaginative. Once you’ve gone through a few stages, you start to figure out where to find the “hidden” fruit, for example, and it often feels like the stage tricks unique to each level take a backseat to the slopes, doors, and charging platforms that you see in each level. Also, the difficulty stays the same throughout most of the experience.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (pinned)

Part of this is probably due to the non-linear nature of the level progression – you’re immediately offered levels across three worlds – but it makes you feel like you’re not necessarily making much progress when most of the stages are equally suited to being the first player. This is not to say that Pac-Man World Re-Pac is boring; the controls feel stiff and the level design is complex enough to be completed. The problem is that this is a game that constantly gets stuck in first gear, like it’s waiting to show you more difficult levels and mechanics that never materialize.

However, there’s something particularly enticing about a platformer that doesn’t try to confuse you with outstanding effects or mind-blowing stage design, instead focusing on just a few basics that it does really well. Grabbing a power pill and clearing a room of ghosts is great no matter how many times you do it here, and you can’t match the feeling when you finally catch the last collectible letter in Pac-Man’s name that eluded you during your first run. scenes. The bosses are noticeably goofy – the galactic shmup-themed battle stands out in particular – and the whole adventure ends just before it’s no longer desirable. It would be pretty hard to argue that Pac-Man World Re-Pac is one of the best in its genre, but it’s certainly one of the best “B-tier” games out there.

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Shot on Nintendo Switch (handheld/without dock)

In terms of presentation, Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn’t quite as massive a remaster as the somewhat recent Crash and Spyro remasters, but it does a great job cleaning up the PS1’s visuals and updating them for the new generation. The new cutscenes were made to fit the new aesthetic (and to get around the oddities associated with the rights to Ms. Pac-Man), while the worlds as a whole are brighter, crisper, and more connected than before. Sure, it doesn’t feel like a reimagining of a 20-year-old game, but it’s clear that this is much more than just a remaster; Bandai Namco has done a good job of keeping the spirit of the original while smoothing out the rough edges.

The performance of the Switch is predictably uneven, although there is a useful switch between performance and resolution. In resolution mode you see a rather erratic 20-25 fps, while in performance mode the frame rate rises substantially to close to 60 fps with slight dips as the load gets heavier. What’s more interesting is that the drop in resolution for performance mode is almost imperceptible, to the point where you can’t help but wonder how such a minor change causes such a massive improvement in frame rates. If you end up getting over it, we recommend the first thing you do before playing is switch to performance mode.

There aren’t many catchy tracks on the soundtrack, but it does a great job of picking the tone and theme of each world as needed. For example, sea shack-inspired music plays on the beach world levels, and you’ll hear the theremin and lasers as you travel through the space world. Mixed into it all are various classic sounds and track samples from the heyday of the Pac-Man arcade that help tie it all together and feel less generic than it might otherwise be.

Conclusion

Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn’t a game we wouldn’t recommend running and buying right away, but it does a great job of resurrecting a decent 3D platformer for modern audiences. Tough controls, plenty of collectibles, and pleasing level design ultimately outweigh minor performance glitches and a general lack of imagination. If you don’t consider yourself a platformer or Pac-Man fan, nothing here is going to change your mind, and we suggest you skip ahead. If you like classic 3D platform games, Pac-Man World Re-Pac will prove to be worth your time, even if it doesn’t impress as the best game in the genre.




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