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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: XBLA: PacMan Championship Edition DX
OK, so Namco/Bandai (or is it Namco Generations now?) released PacMan Championship Edition DX yesterday, and I - because utterly adored the first one - I bought it immediately.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacManCEDX-1.png]

Well, I kinda regret it, I think.  I'm not yet sure but I think the game might be incredibly dull.

Update: Much of this review is completely wrong.  My controller mod causes the game to run at half speed, making it suck mightily.  It does not, in reality, suck.  In fact it's quite awesome, and I take it all back.  Here's a revised review!

Here's how it works: You get a time limit and you have to see what kind of score you can rack up before the time runs out.  You do this in typical PacMan fashion, eating dots and ghosts, but now there is a twist: the ghosts chain.  They'll be sleeping around the maze until you pass them by, at which time they'll wake and join the train behind you.  You'll soon have forty ghosts on your tail and the noise they make when you eat them all in a row will give you geek wood.

But here's the problem: the maze always appears in the same order, the ghosts always in the same spot, and the only random element is the one or two or three old-style ghosts that start appearing towards the end of the time limit.  In effect you're following a script that never changes, and ten games in a row my score was virtually the same.

You have some choices to make: you can just eat dots, clear more mazes and eat more high-point fruit without expanding the train of ghosts following you, but the ghosts are the biggest score component so you probably don't want to do this.  So yes, one option is not chaining ghosts, just as you can chose to park it in a corner and not do anything at all.  It's possible but why would you?

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacManCEDX-2.png]

The random ghosts are random, but they fear PacMan.  They might accidentally come towards you on occasion but will always take the first opportunity to run away from you so they're never really a threat.  On the unlikely chance you do get close to one, the game slows and zooms in and makes it easier for you to sort it out.  This effect is actually quite cool at first, and enhanced my panic factor, but in later games it just made it easier to survive.

It sounds great, looks great, and if you take a very superficial view of the game like Ars did you might give it a glowing review.

But for the life of me I can't work out the fun factor here.

There's got to be something to it.  While every single one of my scores is about 720,000 points I did get one top score of 990,000.  That's a 50% bonus score for no reason I can work out at all.  

So perhaps I'm missing the point.  Clearly there's something I'm missing, but unless someone tells me soon what it is I'm not going to consider this $15 well spent.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacLine.png]
BLEARGH
This post was edited on 2010-11-20, 23:41 by NFG.
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Is the old mechanism of powering up to eat blue ghosts still there? The idea that you might miss that fourth ghost and not get the final 1600 points is what usually caused scoring variances in the old game. And for all four ghost personalities (six in Pac-Mania) the escape pathfinding was truly random when turned blue.

I haven't played the game myself, but I think some of the adversarial charm of the old games is absent from this newest edition. An army of sleeping ghosts standing around waiting to chase you is appropriately monolithic for our times, but loses a lot of the original narrative. Insofar as Pac Man ever had a narrative.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Yeah, you power up to eat 'em, but this just adds another layer of complaint to my inability to understand this game: there's one power pill on the stage, and the game doles out more with a fairly impressive reluctance.  You get 'em on occasion but it's a rare occasion indeed.  Over the course of a 5 minute game you might get six of them.

What this means is your score lurches upwards at the same six set-points and the narrative doesn't ever change.  The ghost scores max out at 3200, and with scores upwards of 720,000 you really don't care one way or the other if you miss one or four here and there.  The final result won't vary much.

The sole power pill that you get at the start can be used any time, but there's not much point: the ghosts don't ever seek you out, the train moves at the same speed you do, and the most you'll do is knock back a smaller train at a different interval.

Oh, and the game has bombs.  You can trigger one at any time, and it knocks any nearby ghost to the centre of the screen.  Your point-per-dot reward goes down a few notches and your speed drops a bit, but this mechanism serves only to make a very easy game even easier.

There's something else going on here but it's not obvious, not in the instructions, and it makes a huge difference.  I really hope I find out what it is before I lose interest.
BLEARGH
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Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Quote by NFG on 2010-11-19, 11:08:
The sole power pill that you get at the start can be used any time, but there's not much point: the ghosts don't ever seek you out, the train moves at the same speed you do, and the most you'll do is knock back a smaller train at a different interval.

That's just wrong. The whole point of having the differently colored ghosts is that they each behave differently. Blinky is just as fast as you but smarter and knows the exact times it takes to travel the different paths of the maze. Pinky is faster than you but careless and gets lost easily. Inky is slow and it's possible to run through him before he remembers to kill you. Clyde is persistent and consistent. And Sue hangs around not looking for you, but somehow being in an inconvenient spot. And Funky jumps, but we pretend Funky doesn't exist. :)

If the ghost train moves as fast as you do, and doesn't employ any tactics in the chase, then this is just another variation of a worm game you see in tons of browser windows and on cell phones.
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I need to rewrite the whole damn thing.  It turns out my hacked up controller, which had the analogue pots removed, caused the game to run at 50% speed.  This artificially hampered my scores and totally diminished my enjoyment of the game.  I just spent an hour halving all my times, doubling all my scores and moving up from dead fucking last in the global rankings to top five percent.

So now I really like the game.  At full speed it's awesome.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacStars2.png]

Yeah, the ghosts don't have personalities anymore, but that's hardly a problem.  In many respects this is PacMan IV: Rainbow Legend.  Or something.  If we toss out the PacDreck like PacLand, Pac & Pal, PacMania und so weiter then we have four very solid games in the series: PacMan, Ms PacMan, PacMan CE and PacMan CE DX.  The ghosts only had personalities in the first one two.  And, in DX, there are so many ghosts that having personalities would be problematic.

The ghost train matches your speed but only rarely complicates your pathfinding.  It maxes out at thirty ghosts and they tend to condense after a certain number is reached, so the train reaches max length at about half full, and doesn't get longer.
BLEARGH
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Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Revised Review!
So in light of my rather surprising controller fuckup, here's a revised review.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/pac.png]
Vector art by me, taken from an 80s poster I used to own

Here's how it works: You get a time limit and you have to see what kind of score you can rack up before the time runs out.  You do this in typical PacMan fashion, eating dots and ghosts, but now there is a twist: the ghosts chain.  All the ghosts, whether they're sleeping around the maze or moving about randomly, will be alarmed by PacMan's close proximity (Metal Gear style!) and will join the chain if it passes them by before they forget you exist.  You'll soon have up to thirty ghosts on your tail and the noise they make when you eat them all in a row will give you geek wood.

It's a scoring game, so for consistency the randomized elements are kept to a minimum: the maze always appears in the same order, the ghosts always in the same spot, and the only unpredictable element is the movement of random ghosts, the old-style ghosts that start appearing towards as your time progresses. 

So basically you start off slow, chain thirty ghosts, and eat 'em.  If you remember the first PacMan CE, the left and right levels are rearranged and repopulated when you clear one and eat the bonus fruit.  In DX, the levels are arranged so that power pellets appear when your ghost train is likely to be at maximum size, and if you keep the left and right sides synchronized you can achieve massive chains with the ready-to-eat ghosts that appear right when you need 'em.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacManCEDX-2.jpg]

The random ghosts are random, but they fear PacMan.  They might accidentally come towards you on occasion but will always take the first opportunity to run away from you.  This is a great solution to the flow problem: if they actively tried to kill you the game would be far more frustrating as you die more frequently, each death making you slower and dropping the value of eaten dots.  On the unlikely chance you do get close to a ghost the game slows and zooms in and makes it easier for you to sort it out. 

The result is a game that plays with a lightning swiftness and does its best to keep it that way.  Achieving max scores becomes a battle of compounding pressures: the rearranging maze, the high speeds, the controller (which seems to hate you more and more as your grip gets tighter and tighter) and capped by a time limit that always comes too soon.

It sounds great, looks great, and if you like video games at all, you should be playing it right now.  It doesn't get much better.

[Image: http://nfgworld.com/grafx/games/PacLine.png]
BLEARGH
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