This year’s “sequel that no one asked for” award goes to Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2. Although the iconic, yellow, pellet-chomping hero has been a part of gamers’ lives for nearly 35 years, it might be time for him to retire. While there’s plenty of homage to the ever-hungry nibbler’s past, much of the gameplay seems broken or unfinished. When first powering up Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2, players are greeted with that familiar eighties eight-bit tune. The music quickly turns into a rock ballad and gets you pumped for Pac-Man’s adventure. Unfortunately, things quickly go downhill.
The game’s biggest issue may be its lack of narrative. Even though Ghostly Adventures 2 is a sequel, new players should at least be introduced to supporting characters. The only real introduction of the bad guys is one with the main boss talking to his henchmen. The scene isn’t even really needed and the sloppy comedy is reminiscent of a Leslie Neilson movie. One of the henchmen is actually named “Buttocks.” While the game does carry an ESRB rating of E 10+ for “Cartoon Violence,” it could have done without its attempts at forced humor.
"The music quickly turns into a rock ballad and gets you pumped for Pac-Man’s adventure. Unfortunately, things quickly go downhill."
Gameplay is derivative and consists of Pac-Man just running around and chomping everything in his path. You name it. If it isn’t a wall then it’s probably edible. This is where it gets annoying. You can practically spam the chomp button and make your way through most levels without much challenge. What made the original Pac-Man great was its difficulty and necessity for quick reflexes. Ghosts were constantly in pursuit and nothing could be done until one of the large yellow orbs was eaten, which made the Ghosts temporarily vulnerable. In Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2, however, attacking enemies is really no different than consuming yellow orbs. That isn’t a challenge.
On a positive note, the game being separated into five worlds, each with their own play styles and challenges, is a nice touch. As someone who played Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64 for countless hours back in the day, Ghostly Adventures 2 has its moments of pure nostalgia. While the game’s overall design has potential, the maps feel unfinished. There are large open areas where I can’t tell if I’m supposed to just run across blindly or if there are hidden ghosts that need chomping before moving on. There are also too many recycled elements that feel too repetitive and outright lazy.
"Gameplay is derivative and consists of Pac-Man just running around and chomping everything in his path. You name it. If it isn’t a wall then it’s probably edible."
One particular level is very reminiscent of the old Pac-Mac games. The end of the level has maze-like pathways that are filled with little “Pac Pellets” for collecting. Jetting out of the walls is steam that turns on and off, requiring perfectly timed movements as Ghosts fill the maze. Yes, I can just chomp the ghosts once and they’re gone, but those jets of steam look pretty dangerous. Well, that is until I realized I could just jump up on the pipes that made up the walls and travel along them and jumping down when I needed to. Collecting the pellets is too simple and the attacking Ghosts are helpless against Pc-Man’s powerful chomp attack.
Throughout the game you also get to play as some of Pac’s pals. In a couple of levels, you get to pilot through the city similarly to classic shoot em’ ups. The problem is that you’re never actually told why the gameplay switches away from our hero. You simply fly through the sky collecting items and shooting at ghosts until you reach the end of the level. You need to be careful though as half of the collectibles are near the edge of the screen and sometimes when you get near the flight path, you hit an invisible wall that causes damage. Ultimately, the flying missions just aren’t needed.
"There are obvious attempts at paying tribute to classic Pac-Man titles while trying to keep relevance for a new generation of gamers, but that is all they are…attempts."
Two of the game’s most impressive features are also its most frustrating. Throughout the game you can find different power-ups in the form of berries, which grant our hero with unique powers. These powers include Pac turning into a ball that can bounce really high or come smashing down on buttons, or the ability to freeze enemies and water fountains in order to climb hard to reach places. While great in theory, running around in a 3D environment provides little to no accuracy. With no way of controlling the camera, you are stuck with whatever camera angle you’re given for the map. The directional pad is hardly used and controlling the camera angle would have been an ideal use for it. The second greatest and most frustrating element is the game’s attempt to go from a 3D to 2D. A power-up that is available in some levels lets Pac turn into a magnet and walk up walls and on the ceiling. I thought this is great! However, when doing this, you are locked into a 2D environment that typically has you walking across and under steel-like girders and if you fall, it’s game over.
There are obvious attempts at paying tribute to classic Pac-Man titles while trying to keep relevance for a new generation of gamers, but that is all they are…attempts. So, if you are a franchise devotee looking for a 3DS adventure that’ll help you pass some time and you don’t mind its plethora of bugs, then you might get a kick out of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2. For everyone else, there are far better nostalgic alternatives out there, even within the Pac-Man universe.
Review by: Mike Ackerman | Reviewed on: Nintendo 3DS