Pac-Man has been a gaming institution since his debut over 30 years ago. Since then, he’s gone from arcades to consoles, to handheld devices fairly seamlessly. The move to mobile gaming has worked out fairly well so far for him, and Pac-Man 256 takes things in a slightly new direction. You will still run through a maze and eat ghosts – but a lot of new wrinkles have been added to it.
The game came about when Namco executives were impressed with Crossy Road, and so the developers met with Namco and came up with this concept. It blends Pac-Man with an endless runner and adds in new power-ups and gameplay elements. Unlike most Pac-Man games that use an overhead viewpoint, this one emulates Pac-Mania to some degree with a 3/4 overhead isometric perspective.
Pac-Man is a franchise that requires precision and timing when it comes to making turns; that can be a killer if the controls aren’t up to snuff. Navigation is a breeze, and you move Pac-Man around with swipes of your finger in the direction you want to go. Playback on a TV is possible with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, and it uses the remote’s directional inputs for menus and movement fairly well.
New elements such as coins, alongside sleeping ghosts, have been added. These were inspired by sleeping bats in Spelunky, and each ghost also has their little traits. Pinky has a line of sight to him, and it turns the game also into a stealth game. You know you’ll want to be near a power pellet, or a power-up icon when you’re nearby.
Collecting coins can be used to gain access to better power-ups as you keep playing. Power-ups don’t just end with the power pellets enabling you to eat the dark blue ghosts; you can now get things like lasers to defend yourself against enemies even if you don’t have a power pellet. It turns the game into a more offense-based affair, and there’s even a touch of rogue-like gameplay thrown in too.
While the laser is a fantastic power-up for those seeking a sense of power, the tornado is probably your best bet for stealthy gameplay. It seeks out enemies and will take them out passively – allowing you to move forward at a faster pace.
The rogue-like elements in Pac-Man 256 include a pseudo-permadeath option with a freemium twist. Normally, all of your progress on the endless board will be lost with a death. It includes your power-ups, point totals, and overall progress on the map.
If you’ve had some exciting last-ditch saves from the abyss known as the glitch that follows you from the bottom to the top of the screen, then that session will be lost in the mists of time. If you wish to continue an epic play session or keep your momentum rolling on a particular stage, you can do so simply by viewing an ad.
While some may be upset over seeing an ad to earn a continue, the ads are short, and you can always mute them to minimize their impact on the game. When you’re in the zone, you don’t want to be distracted and the short ads never get in the way of the gameplay itself.
You can’t pay to earn a continue either, and the only thing you need to pay money for would be a particular visual theme for the game itself. No game content is locked behind a paywall, and that is fantastic news for players.
Pac-Man 256 looks fantastic and puts an isometric spin on the classic franchise. The sprites all have a sense of dimension to them that is usually lacking from the overhead games, and the shift in perspective does take some time to get used to. Pac-Mania veterans should have a pretty smooth transition, though, as it has pretty much the same viewpoint as this game – but 256 delivers a much better experience. There’s no slowdown here and the crisp art pops on both phone and tablet screens.
From an audio perspective, Pac-Man 256 fills your ears with the usual music and sound effects offered up. The traditional Pac-Man theme plays in both original and remixed forms only while you’re moving, and the sound effects for pellet consumption, laser usage, and ghost-gobbling sound like they should – with a flair for the simplistic to fit the game’s retro feel, but with modern nuances too.
There’s more depth to them than there would be in the original arcade game or later home versions, and it feels like modern technology was at least used to ensure that things sounded good to the ear.
Pac-Man 256 is an outstanding game and finds a way to modernize the classic formula in a new way. While Pac-Man Championship Edition DX may offer up a complete experience, 256 gives players something entirely different that is both familiar and refreshing. It controls easily using swiping, and can even be used on the Fire TV Stick using the remote control for those wanting a TV-friendly experience.