Around a year ago, Pac-Man 256 was released for iOS and Android devices.
It was a furiously addictive play on the now legendary kill screen from the original Pac-Man arcade game. Developed by Hipster Whale, who also brought us the popular Crossy Road, it was hugely successful for publishers Bandai Namco so it’s hardly surprising to see it adapted for the new generation of home consoles. The translation from the small screen to the big one also offers a bunch of new features and gameplay enhancements, so if you already own this game on your phone or tablet please take note.
The best way I can describe the gameplay of Pac-Man 256 is that it’s a combination of Pac-Mania (the game that took Pac-Man into a 3D perspective) and that old mobile game stalwart, the endless runner. Just like Pac-Mania, the game is presented with an isometric 3D perspective, but unlike all previous Pac-Man games the size of the maze is not fixed. In Pac-Man 256 the maze-like tunnels go on forever and you keep munching as many dots as you can until you inevitably die! Just like all other Pac-Man games you are also being chased by the ghosts, but this time their characteristics are much more defined. For example, Pinky is much faster than the other ghosts and will rush towards you as soon as she sees you – but can’t follow you round corners. Inky follows a set pattern, Clyde stalks you and newcomer “Spunky” (uh, really?!) just falls asleep at random. Learning the nuances of each of your foes becomes a very key part of the game and helps you escape sticky situations.
Probably the most important part of the game however is “The Glitch”; this constantly chases you and takes over the screen if you don’t move quick enough. This concept was taken from level 256 of the original arcade game that featured a huge glitch where half the screen contained garbled graphics and was almost impossible to complete (hence the name Pac-Man 256!). As you move the maze will continuously glitch from the bottom left of the screen and if it catches you, it’s game over. This is where the endless runner part comes in: you have to keep moving all the time. The ghosts will also get consumed by the glitch if they stray too close to it too. If you are clever you can actually trick the ghosts into doing it, which can be a lot of fun. Of course, you can also kill ghosts the traditional way: by grabbing a power pill and chomping them! The power pills are randomly placed around the maze as you progress and, as before, last for a limited amount of time, but you are now given a very handy meter to see how much time you have left. Another returning bonus is the fruit, which act as bonus multipliers in Pac-Man 256 increasing your score as you eat the dots. The more dots you eat in a row, the higher bonus you receive.
The final feature of Pac-Man 256 is the inclusion of power-ups, and this is also the biggest change from the original mobile version. Instead of being heavily weighted by those dreaded in-app purchases, power-ups can now be leveled up by simply using in-game coins that are earned by munching on the many credit pills as well as attaining specified achievements. These power-ups will appear at random around the maze and generally affect your interaction with the ghosts. For example, you have weapons to kill them such the laser, bombs and tornados as well as weapons to hinder them – such as the freeze icon and magnet. The more you play, the more power-ups you will unlock. I should also note that only three power-ups can be active at any time; it’s up to you to decide which loadout works best for you, so choose wisely!
Another little quirk of Pac-Man 256 is that by entering the warp tunnels that transport you from one edge of the screen to another (another feature carried over from the original game), you also become invincible for a very short time; extremely useful when you are being chased.
There are also loads of cool little features that have been added in to Pac-Man 256. For example, you can completely change the look of the graphics. Among the options are visuals based on previous Pac-Man games such as the original arcade game, Pac-Mania, Pac-Man Kart and Pac-Man: Championship Edition. There are also some more interesting level designs such as a garden, an office and even one that makes the game look like Crossy Road! Whilst it doesn’t affect the gameplay, it’s a neat feature and allows you to customise your experience to suit your preferences.
All in all Pac-Man 256 is just terrific; it’s without doubt one of the most addictive games I have ever played. The difficulty is balanced perfectly to help you progress, the power-up system is brilliantly designed and the gameplay is so simple that anyone can just pick up and play. I am finding it seriously difficult to find any fault at all with Pac-Man 256, especially considering the price of only £3.99! I suppose if you hated the original Pac-Man you may not like it – but even then, it makes enough changes to the gameplay that I challenge even those people not to enjoy it. You can see why this was voted the best mobile game of 2015; it really is that good, and on console it’s better than ever before!