The other reason I really wanted one was PacMan.
I loved PacMan as a kid, I played the shit out of it. And then I loved Ms PacMan, and Super PacMan, and... well that's more or less where it ended. I played a bit of Jr. PacMan, and some Baby PacMan, and then Pac n Pal, Pac Land, PacMania... Namco kind of flogged that dead horse a little too long, I think.
But now, finally, they've done good by the old yellow man. PacMan Championship Edition is a bloody great game. It fixes everything that was stale about the original, adds new gameplay challenges without fucking up the original formula, puts in a few new game variations that - again - avoid breaking what made the game fun, and then they bundle it all up into a tiny little ball and release it on Xbox Live.
The original game has not aged well. Like Taito's Space Invaders, what was once entertaining and world-beating has become slow and boring. Even while PacMan was still new it was deemed slow, which is partially why Ms PacMan was released, and even that saw bootleg'd speedup chips installed. And this was rectified officially in PacMan CE: the game is faster. There are several game modes, and some start slow and get faster, and some start fast and get faster still.
The original was too long. Partially as a result of playing slowly, it could take ten or fifteen minutes just to get to the good part, so they fixed this too: PacMan CE is comprised of short time-trial games limited to five or ten minutes each. That's it: You try to stay alive until the time runs out and hopefully beat your old score. It's exactly the kind of 'casual game' I can approve of: one simple mechanic honed to a shining perfection, with simple controls and a concept that is immediately easy to grasp.
I mean, check out the control scheme:
Just move. There are no buttons to press.
And speaking of movement... How the hell did Microsoft make the single worst d-pad since the 3DO? It's not as if there's a dearth of precedent to draw from here! Shockingly PacMan, a game that has always relied on a 4-way joystick, plays better on the 360 when you use the analogue stick. Make no mistake: it's nigh unplayable with the digital pad, but close to sublime with the analogue stick. Of course my father's first reaction was to complain that the whole game was moot without an original Atari stick to play with...
PacMan CE always plays as if you're about to clear a level. The game doles out the dots as you eat the previous set, so when you eat the last dots on the right side of the screen a bonus item on the left side will re-fill the right side with more dots, and often rearrange the maze as well. So you're always eating the last few dots, you're always in a new (often asymmetrical) maze, and as the game is constantly getting faster and faster, you're always slipping into panic mode as you try to stay alive, beat the clock, and rack up a new high score.
PacManCE is the last game to be designed by the original PacMan creator, Toru Iwatani. After reprising his original creation, he retired. Now that's what I call a last hurrah.
It totally gets the NFG thumbs UP.
(screenshots lifted from xbox.com)