You don’t often see Pac-Man outside of a maze, so whenever it does happen, it’s often a weird and sometimes wonderful sight. Over the years, we’ve seen the dot eater cameo in fighting games like Super Smash Bros. and even race around in karts in certain other games, but did you know he’s also featured in his very own 3D platforming adventures?
Yes, back in 1999, Namco actually released a Pac-Man 3D platformer exclusively on Sony’s original PlayStation console. Keep in mind this was the same year that companies like Rare and Insomniac were pumping out games like Donkey Kong 64 and Spyro 2. Although Pac-Man never had a chance of competing with these industry-leading juggernauts at the time, it was still satisfying enough for some platforming veterans waiting on their next fix of Super Mario and Crash Bandicoot.
And this brings us to Pac-Man World Re-Pac – a "full remake" of the same PlayStation game. There was a Game Boy Advance version released in 2004 as well, so it sort of makes this second in line, but this one is more than 20 years later, to be fair. So how is ‘Re-Pac’ compared to the OG experience?
For anyone who hasn’t played the classic version before – long story short, Pac-Man’s family is captured by Toc-Man, who has locked them away on Ghost Island. Pac-Man’s job is to save the day by working his way through six themed worlds (featuring pirate levels, carnivals to space), defeating ghosts and various other enemies, solving puzzles, gobbling up dots, eating fruit and taking down multiple bosses.
If you did happen to play this game back in the day, you should have no issues jumping straight back into it with only your memory to guide you, as Bandai Namco has put in a lot of effort into maintaining the overall look, feel and design of the original - right down to movesets. This includes attacks and abilities such as the butt bounce, throwing dots, fluttering like a Yoshi and rolling around like Sonic the Hedgehog. There are some subtle changes to levels and more, that you may or may not notice as a returning player.
The controls have also been drastically improved, thanks to the modern tech, and other aspects like new graphics and improved sound give the title a fresh look, as you would hope from a retro revival like this. Any setbacks are mostly tied to the dated design of levels and mechanics. While some parts of Re-Pac are quite smooth thanks to these new enhancements, other sections don’t necessarily do such a good job hiding their age and may feel quite rough if you’ve been playing one of Super Mario’s games. For example, you’ll often find yourself backtracking to activate a switch, missing jumps or falling off ledges that wouldn’t be an issue in other games.
That last point about falling off ledges is often due to the combination of side-scrolling and 3D navigation. As Pac-Man can move about at all angles, and the game is more like a side-scrolling platformer a lot of the time, you might find yourself slipping, or falling into lava due to a misstep. It’s not as much of an issue as it was in the original game, which is a relief, but it might still cause some extra frustration at times. Taking your time to carefully navigate levels is often the better approach here, especially in the later stages.
Although levels don't always perfectly flow, the pacing of the game is a bit better this time around. The 3D mazes return as well - providing a nice break in-between the sometimes overly lengthy levels. The updated boss encounters are also just as refreshing - with regular style battles as well as others that transform the action into a kart racing game or shoot ‘em up experience. Apart from this, what you’re getting is a relatively straightforward single-player adventure from start to finish. If you’re collecting everything in the game, it might take longer, but if you’re a platforming veteran, it’s still rather short-lived.
For anyone looking for traditional Pac-Man, you’re better off with something like Pac-Man Museum+. However, if you are hungry for some 3D platforming, or just want to relive old times, Pac-Man World Re-Pac should be enough to keep you invested until the credits roll. Sure, it’s not up there with the likes of Mario, but it’s a part of Pac-Man’s own unique history as one of the video game industry’s leading mascots that we’re happy to welcome back with open arms.