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PacMan All Stars

 

 

 

Infogrames/Creature Labs 2002

 

Simplistic multi player update to the Pac Man formula. We all know how Pac Man works, gobble gobble, eat the ghosts, etc. This game is set as a four way competition between Pac-Man, Mrs. Pac-man, Pac-Man Jr, and Professor Pac-Man (which for those of you who do not remember was the star of a quiz game in the late 80s) as each attempts to grub out on more pellets than the others.

The levels are still mazes for the most part, although the blue neon wall look has been forgone for more clever mazes made to look more like real environments. Each screen has it's own environmental features corresponding to the overall level (forest, ice, evil laboratory, etc) as well as platform elements like warp tunnels, slides, conveyor belts, spring boards, etc. The pellets are not already situated in the maze but instead appear when the player eats a "magic flower." The longer the pellets are on the screen the larger they become (and thus are more easily collected.) Levels are either timed or ranked (whoever reaches X amount of points wins.)

The game plays kind of like the old Atari arcade game Crystal Castles, and in fact would benefit a lot from a roller controller. A gamepad of some kind essential. Playing with the arrow keys is for the birds.

Throughout the game these little fairy people fly by and drop powerups and such, speed, a dumbbell that lets you stun other players (and makes them drop pellets,) a magnet that attracts pellets to you, etc. Hazards include a wizard's hat that make your controls go screwy, a "X" that takes away your bonus points, and a blindfold that seems to have no visible effect although I'm sure it does something bad. In addition to this the ghosts are wandering around the maze although they don't kill you as in previous games. They do however stun you and make you drop pellets, which could cause you to come in last place and lose a life. Of course if you get a "power pellet" you can still eat them and send their eyes scurrying away in shame. They are usually depicted in skins relating to whatever level you are on (one of them looks like a mummy in the haunted house level, one looks like a robot in the lab, one of them has a bucket over his head in the forest level, etc.) Little touches like this add a lot to the game's atmosphere.

The ghosts also reappear at the end of each world as a sort of boss battle, where you have to clear the maze while the ghosts slowly chase you. Problem is they are waayy too slow, and since they don't actually kill you these boss battles become more like a chore than anything else. The final boss is an extra large ghost named "Wandy," who wears a wizard's hat and shoots fireballs at you. But even this final boss showdown is utter cake.

That's probably the main problem - The game is way too easy, even on it's "hard" level. The other A. I. Pacmans have a tendency to cluster together and go after whatever pellets are on the screen, thus the process for easy victory is to hang back into whatever portion of the screen they are not on and clean up. Their behavior doesn't change on the harder difficulty levels, they merely are more precise and spend less time wandering around. Besides this the game is pretty short, (Fifteen screens) and can be completed in under an hour. Not that there's anything wrong with a short arcade style game, but you're not supposed to be able to beat a game on your first try less than an hour after installing it. Makes me feel somewhat ripped off.

Graphics: Very clear renderings of the characters and environments. The faries that drop bonus items have a tendency to fly through solid objects like walls.

Sound: Sadly there is no "Woca-woca' from the old school games. Light and happy tings, bells, and squeaks round out the roster.

Gameplay: Short and sweet, but also too short and easy. Playing with friends is a lot more fun but even then the game gets a little boring after a while.

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