Death, Taxes, And A Pac-Man Compilation
These are the three things that will stand the test of time for days, weeks, months, years, and decades to come. As Pac-Man celebrates his 42nd anniversary, an obligatory collection was due for release to celebrate. Pac-Man Museum+ is the latest offering in the Namco Museum series of Bandai Namco classics. This compilation is actually a sequel to Pac-Man Museum, released on PSN and Xbox Live Arcade in 2014. Every game from the original Pac-Man Museum, except for some differences, returns with some new titles never before seen in a compilation.
As many times different variants of Pac-Man were included in a compilation, it's hard to imagine that there are rare games in the franchise that most will see for the first time. Pac-Motos and Pac 'n Roll Remix make their debut on a non-Nintendo system as they were both included on the Nintendo Wii-exclusive Namco Museum Remix. The Super Famicom version of Pac-In-Time is also featured as a part of the collection, marking the rare inclusion of a console Pac-Man game as part of a collection.
Pac-Man Crossing: New Horizons
Before the player is able to indulge in the games that the Pac-Man Museum+ has to offer, they are introduced to the "overworld" of the game. The player takes control of Pac-Man in charge of running and maintaining an arcade. All of the games included in the collection are available from the start, yet players can earn multiple variations of the same cabinet. Players can also earn furnishing, wallpapers, and background music by completing missions for each game.
Most of the missions are identical throughout each game, including winning "X" number of rounds and eat "X" number of ghosts in total or on a single credit. Speaking of credits, there's an in-game currency system meant to emulate an arcade. Players begin the game with 500 coins and each game takes a certain number of coins to start, much like an actual arcade machine.
Here's What's New In Pac-Man Museum+
Depending on how well they performed, players can earn more coins. These can then be used to purchase more furnishings and on the gashapon machine. Yes, there's a gashapon machine that players can win figurines to place in their arcade for five credits a roll. Only the arcade game takes coins, while the "console" games are free. This means the player is never in any danger of not having any games to play. Usually, in gaming compilations like Neo Geo Pocket Color Collection, I'd cover every game included in the compilation and compare accordingly.
However, since almost all of them are games that have transcended to pop culture and beyond, it'd be redundant to cover Pac-Man for the umpteenth time. Instead, I wanted to focus on the unique titles that make this collection an interesting one. Earlier I mentioned the inclusion of Pac-Motos and Pac 'n Roll Remix, which never saw a release outside of a Wii compilation. There's also a console port of a mobile "endless runner" known as Pac-Man 256 that's also featured in the collection.
Pac-Motos is a spinoff of Bandai Namco's 1985 arcade title, Motos. The original game's objective is to knock all enemy pods off a grid to move on to the next level. The enemy pods can also knock you off the same grid, which turns into a battle of strategy and positioning. Pac-Motos follows the same ruleset but with an obvious Pac-Man aesthetic. Each level is split into different worlds and at the end of each world, there's a boss that players must defeat to move on.
There are different enemies aside from the regular red and blue pods. There's a spider-like enemy that has sentience and there's a purple pod that will mimic Pac-Man's movements. These guys require the most position and strategy as most fights will remain deadlocked. After a certain period of time, pieces of the map will evaporate until either the player or enemy falls off.
There are also power-ups scattered that can be used to boost Pac-Man's power, give him a dash attack, or the ability to jump. These can be used in following rounds or after losing a life. It was an interesting way to control Pac-Man, much like the next game I'll feature, and it was one of the better games in the compilation.
Pac 'n Roll Remix
The original Pac 'n Roll was released on the Nintendo DS as a story-driven adventure that allows players to control Pac-Man with the touch screen. The Wii version not only omits the story but uses the wiimote and nunchuck to control Pac-Man. This game's inclusion in Pac-Man Museum+ forgoes the motion controls for a simple gameplay experience. Pac-Man rolls haphazardly across 2.5d perspective isometric viewpoint as he collects pellets. To clear levels, players need to eat a certain number of pellets in order to feed to the checkpoint gate.
There are power-ups to help assist the player including a suit of armor meant to deflect traps and sink underwater. Pac-Man can also use a flight cap to glide across gaps. Much like standard Pac-Man, upon eating a power pellet, he can eat the ghosts roaming about. This game, along with Pac-Motos had a similar "late 2000s" aesthetic that I can't quite explain. The graphics are colorful and soft, fitting right at home with other Pac-Man titles. The gameplay is also easy to grasp yet hard to perfect. It takes a familiar mechanic and modernizes it.
Based on the console version released in 2016, this is the latest Pac-Man game to be featured in a compilation and my first thought was "Crossy Road." It certainly had that blocky aesthetic that dominated the mid-2010s mobile gaming market. This game featured the classic Pac-Man gameplay with a twist. There's a glitchy pool of glitchiness that will creep ever close towards Pac-Man. The lovable circle must gobble as many pellets as he can while also avoiding ghosts. Touch any of the ghosts or the glitchy murkiness and it's game over.
Depending on how well the player does, they will earn power-ups that will help them achieve a better time in survival. Much like the game's namesake, the glitchy bad stuff and the goal of eating 256 pellets is referencing the "kill screen" of the original Pac-Man. After level 256, the game glitches out and it becomes very difficult if not impossible to continue. Overall it's what you'd expect from a console port of a mobile title, but the fact it's included in a compilation shows how much time has moved on.
Enough Of The Good, Here Comes The Ugly
So far I've mentioned a pleasing experience with Pac-Man Museum+. The goal of maintaining an arcade the player can customize to their liking, the bonus incentives of playing each game, and the number of titles compared to the MSRP being "bang for your buck" considering. This should have all the makings of a "4-Star" game, right?
Well, until I played other versions of the game, I almost gave this one a "1-Star." At the time of this review, the Xbox version is poorly optimized. Jumping into the game blind, upon realizing that it was a "Day One Game Pass" title, I noticed some of the games felt...off.
I noticed it the first time I played Pac-Man that his movements were delayed. I felt like I had to mash on the analog stick to go the direction I wanted to go. If you've played a retro game on a broken controller, it felt similar to that. I'd lose lives from not turning and hitting a wall to going the opposite direction right into a ghost. The modern games in the collection, like Pac-Man Championship Edition, wasn't as dreadful. The earlier the titles, the worse the issue. After some research I wasn't alone, with some players reporting that they weren't earning their achievements. No wonder it felt weird that only "0.01" of players were earning anything.
Before You Ask, Yes This Is An Xbox Exclusive Issue
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to try Pac-Man Museum+ on the Nintendo Switch and the performance was like night and day. Dare I say it, but the Switch version is the superior version over the Xbox by a very long shot. Any and all issues I had in controlling Pac-Man in any of his games were moot. I was able to actually get to the bonus round in Pac&Pal and enjoy my favorite Pac-Man game, Pac-Man Anniversary Edition. The Arcade version, not the weird PSP remake that's also included. Sure there were some hiccups such as Pac-Man moving in 30 fps in the overworld. But at least the gameplay was smooth where it mattered the most, in the games themselves.
That said, the other console versions of Pac-Man Museum+ saved this game from getting a low score. I rate the Xbox One version as a nigh unplayable mess. Considering this isn't the first Bandai Namco game that I ribbed on a Microsoft platform this year, I don't know who is at fault here. I hope both companies are able to fix whatever is going on and fast. Regardless, those who wish to play what should have been the definitive version of the Pac-Man experience should play every other version except for the Xbox version. Avoid that one at all costs.
Pac-Man Museum+ is available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.