By the late ’90s, the arcade’s golden age was a distant and distant memory, and with it the ubiquitous Pac-Man fever of the early ’80s. Not the ones to shy away from the yellow puck thing, Namco moved to revive its video game icon by letting it star in a 3D platformer, which was all the rage at the time. After a first failed attempt with the canceled Pac-Man Ghost Zone, Pac-Man World eventually came together and proved itself as a solid and successful entry in the Pac series. Now Namco has got it right to revive it one more time as Pac-Man World Re-Pac, and while this new release isn’t an excellent example of what a 3D platformer can be, it certainly shows why these games being nice.
The story begins with the Pac-Family putting the finishing touches on the Pac-Man’s birthday decorations, when they are suddenly accosted by the nefarious spirits and led away. It turns out that the ghosts are working for the evil Toc-Man, who is celebrating his own birthday and sent them to capture Pac-Man. Pac-Man returns home and realizes what has happened. Eager to save his family (and celebrate his birthday), he sets out to save them and put Toc-Man in his place.
Gameplay in Pac-Man World Re-Pac offers an interesting take on 3D platforming – obviously this was designed at a time when the genre was still gaining a foothold. Instead of exploring large overworlds with a freely controlled camera, you traverse a series of mostly linear levels viewed with a fixed camera, a bit like playing a 2D platforming level that gives you a little more freedom of movement. In that sense, it’s more Super Mario 3D World than Super Mario 64, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lesser experience to take the level design in a different direction.
The goal of each stage is simply to break the Toc-Man statue at the end, but the route you take to get there is usually full of obstacles, enemies, and collectibles tucked away on short side paths. Most enemies can be taken out with a simple Butt Bounce, which can also be used to break certain objects and give Pac-Man a little more height on his jumps. And for those who have trouble making some of the more precise jumps that demand a lot of levels, Pac-Man has a handy flutter jump (much like Yoshi) that can give you a little more time to get over gaps. . To round out his moves is a nifty Spin Dash-style move that can be used to destroy enemies, charge up certain platforms, or give a speed boost to get up steep slopes.
There are a fair amount of gimmicks to differentiate each level from the next, which helps keep Pac-Man World Re-Pac fresh over the relatively short term. For example, on one level you have to dodge cannon fire from various pirate ships, while in another level you have to run through a terrifying clown funhouse. And while you can get to the end of a certain level in just a few minutes if you hurry, there’s a lot more fun to be had in picking up the various collectibles along the way.
For example, you often come across fruit doors that require a certain fruit to open, usually requiring you to explore a side route or back a bit. There are also switches you can hit that will change some of the level, such as the appearance of hidden platforms.
While levels differ significantly from each other, even if they share a common theme, we found the level design to be rather unimaginative in general. After you’ve played a few stages, you start to know where to expect a ‘hidden’ fruit, for example, and it often feels like the stage gimmicks unique to each level take the back seat to the ramps, doors, and loading ramps you see. in each level. In addition, the difficulty level remains flat for much of the experience.
Part of this is probably due to the non-linear nature of the level progression – you’re immediately presented with three worlds of levels – but it has the effect of making you feel like you’re not necessarily making much progress when most of the stages are equally suited to being the player’s first. This is not to say that Pac-Man World Re-Pac is boring; the controls feel tight and the level designs have just enough challenge to complete them satisfactorily. The problem is, this is the kind of game that feels like it’s constantly stuck in first gear, like it’s waiting to show you more complex levels and mechanics that never materialize.
Still, there’s something striking about a platformer that doesn’t try to scare you off with excellent effects or stunning stage design, instead focusing on just a few basics that it does really well. Grab a power pellet and clear a room of ghosts feels great no matter how many times you do it here, and you can’t beat that feeling of finally getting your hands on the last collectible letter in Pac-Man’s name that eluded you on your first run from a stage. Bosses are remarkably goofy – with a Shmup-themed Galaxian fight being a big highlight – and the whole adventure is over just before the point where it stays welcome for too long. It would be kind of hard to say that Pac-Man World Re-Pac is among the absolute best of its genre, but it’s certainly one of the best ‘B-tier’ games.
Presentation wise, Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn’t quite as extensive an overhaul as the somewhat recent Crash and Spyro remasters, but it does a solid job of cleaning up and updating the PS1 visuals for a new one. generation. New cutscenes have been made to match the new aesthetic (and to get around the madness surrounding Ms. Pac-Man’s rights), while overall the worlds have a brighter, sharper, and more coherent look than before. Sure, it might not feel like a reinvention of a 20+ year old game, but it’s clear that this is also much more than a simple remaster; Bandai Namco did a good job of keeping the spirit of the original and brushing away the rough edges.
Performance for the Switch is predictably spotty, though there’s a handy toggle between performance and resolution. In resolution mode you’re looking at a rather unstable 20-25FPS experience, while performance mode significantly increases the frame rate to what appears to be close to 60FPS, with some minor drops as it gets busier. What’s even more fascinating is that the drop in resolution for performance mode is almost imperceptible, to the point where you can’t help but wonder how such a small change causes such a vastly improved frame rate. If you do pick this up, we recommend that you switch to performance mode before playing.
The soundtrack doesn’t have a lot of memorable tracks, but it fits the tone and theme of each world perfectly if needed. For example, music inspired by sailor songs plays on the levels of the beach world, while you hear theremins and lasers as you romp through the space world. All of this is mixed in with various classic sounds and samples of songs from the heyday of Pac-Man’s arcade, helping to bring it all together and feel less generic than it would otherwise be.
Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn’t a game that we’re recommending you grab and buy right away, but it’s a good way to revive a decent 3D platformer for a modern audience. Tight controls, lots of collectibles, and enjoyable level design eventually outweigh minor performance issues and a general lack of imagination. If you don’t consider yourself a fan of platforming or Pac-Man, nothing here will change your mind and we encourage you to pass. If you like classic 3D platformers, Pac-Man World Re-Pac will definitely prove it’s worth your time, even if it doesn’t impress as the best in the genre.