Pac-Mania - Retro Reflections

I would like to introduce our first Throwback Thursday review of PacMania. An arcade game all the way back from 1987.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Article by: Hamza 

Pac-Man... but with differences. The first and foremost is that it’s in isometric view that boasts pseudo 3D-graphics. With this one particular camera view that I love in video games, it was only natural that Pac-Mania was not restricted to one screen. The maps may be limited in number but are twice the size of the maps in Pac-Man and take nearly about twice the amount of time to finish them, too. The second noticable feature is that there are more ghosts here than probably in any other Pac-Man game – bar Pac-Land. Though Pac-Mania retains the basic formula of the original games and plays exactly like them albeit from a different perspective, the cool new feature is that the titular yellow dot can also jump. Unfortunately, so can the ghosts!

But first, I’m pretty sure many of you are thinking, “why improve, modify or re-create a bonafide classic?” I thought the same, too, until I played Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Land and Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures – all ofwhich surfed on the giant waves the original had caused. Since I loved all of them and was confident that any yellow dot related game or spin-off would not be a disappointment, I tried out this game and left with a smile on my face. Once again a Pac-Man-related experience that has left me rightly satisfied.

The gameplay is simple and familiar to those who have played the original. With now the ability to jump, the yellow dot must collect/eat/chomp/chew all similarly colored pellets. But of course a gamer’s main aim is to gain the highest score possible and not lose all three lives in the process. When one map is completed, the player proceeds to the next one. The big pellets temporarily turn the ghosts into edible phantomswhich the protagonist can then gobble them up for further points. The phantoms then become floating eyes and float all the way back to the pen, where they immediately become ghosts again. In this version, the protagonist seems to give them a small nibble, and there’s a considerable distance between him and the ghost. This faulty programming, in reverse, often results in unfair deaths. You can clearly see there’s a good distance between the two inhabitants, yet Pacmanloses a life.

This version is not as big as the others and really not at all polished or graphically defined. The outlines are quite-fuzzy and give off a chromatic aberration effect. But the movements – jumping and all – are very smooth and responsive. Never once did the controls suddenly decide to become stubborn and refuse to obey me. They worked perfectly and all the deaths witnessed were partly my fault. I say partly because apparantly cats and toddlers find it irresistible to start randomly typing away on my keyboard as if they will become the next Hemingway by doing so.

Coming back, Pac-Mania is a simple little game good enough incentive to come back for more. The level designs themselves are worth the replay. The first is simply made up of Lego blocks; the following one has neon walls and crazy corners. Though not wildly inventive or catchy, they are fun to wander in for long periods. But despite anything and everything, I just cannot see Pac-Mania fall under the ‘great games’ banner. It lacks that certain unspeakable charm, an intangible quality. It’s worth the time, yes totally, but not worth the adulation in a praising compilation or category.

Score: 8.5 / 10



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