Cast your mind’s back to August of last year. Local Aussie studio 3 Sprockets came together with Hipster Whale and Namco to release a brand new Pac-Man experience for mobile. If none of that sounds familiar to you … well, seriously dudes, you’re missing out. Pac-Man 256 stands as one of the best mobile experiences out there, and now it’s all supped up and multiplayer like for its console debut.
Here’s the skinny if you really don’t know. Pac-Man 256 takes the time honoured tradition of eating pellets and gobbling ghosts and places it into a creatively designed ‘endless runner’ mode. A constantly scrolling map lays ahead as you attempt to last as long as possible whilst a number of different ghosts types try to hunt you down and a few bugs in the system creep up from below. The 256 in the name comes from the glitched ‘last’ level of Pac-Man itself, for those of you unaware, and that comes into play here.
Apart from the usual power pellets that turn dangerous ghosts into friendly food portions, you’ll also have a number of power-ups strewn across the field. More can be unlocked and upgraded by collecting coins, allowing you to deal more damage or allow the power-up to last longer upon pickup. There’s no real end goal, the challenge is as simple as setting that high mark for others to try and beat.
As easy as it would have been to just port the existing game across to the new platforms, 3 Sprockets have made a few tweaks and added some extra content on top of the existing framework. The most obvious addition is a new multiplayer mode, which acts as both a competitive high score challenge and a co-op mode. Four players, each guiding their own Pac-man (or Crossy Road chicken, if they so desire), all glide across the field at once. How you play it is entirely up to you, since there’s no real rules involved. You could just as easily screw someone over by leading them into a ghost trap, though it’s way more fun working as a team and saving each other from certain oblivion. Trying to revive a friend can also lead to some amusing and chaotic moments.
On that note, I wonder if an online multiplayer mode is out of the question? I do like the fact that it’s local co-op, but surely an online mode would work too? Just a thought.
Power-ups can be upgraded by spending the necessary coins you’ve collected along the way. Originally you had to wait for the upgrade to complete before being able to use it again, a mechanic that’s common on mobile platforms. Here, 3 Sprockets have seen fit to do away with that entirely, allowing you to automatically upgrade whatever you wish and using it straight away. They’ve also removed the need to use real world money to purchase some of the extra content, character and world skins to be precise, having them unlocked from the get-go. It’s a decision that makes perfect sense.
There’s a few other additions. I noticed way more coins on the field this time around, and a few extra power-ups ‘warp’ their way into play at random moments.
Everything else stacks up rather nicely. The controls are clean, the visuals are crisp and the sound effects are more than adequate. Everything feels a little more polished compared to being on a tiny mobile screen. I’d go so far to say that the sound effects are way more effective with the right sound system. I don’t have any complaints at all, though I feel like a few added skins or characters to choose from would have been a nice addition, certainly not something I’m going to cry home about considering how cheap it is in the first place.
Given this is my second go around with Pac-Man 256, I feel like it’s actually found a true home on consoles. It may have been designed with mobiles in mind, but the use of a proper controller always improves an experience over swiping a touch screen. The added multiplayer mayhem perfectly balances the very affordable package, it’s a great party game to get a few people crowding around a TV screen for.
There’s room there for extra DLC down the line, maybe a few skins or play modes based on my other favourite Pac-Man title, Championship Edition. What’s here, however, is well worth the asking price. All teams involved should be proud of the work they’ve done, it’s the perfect example of how to take an existing IP, change up the rules and make it just as fun again, if not better.
Pac-Man 256 can be found on Xbox One, PC and PS4, along with the previous mobile editions on iOS and Android. Go check it out and let us know what you think!
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist and Editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson.