Pac-Mania by Namco, arcade release 1987, plenty of console and computer (+etc) ports afterward. Yes.. the insatiable yellow ball is back, in all of his hungry splendor. Again. And again..
I was a lucky kid, in my hometown we had this arcade called "Fun 'n Games." The arcade operator must have had some crazy mafia connections, or something, because the place was rather seedy and yet they always had plenty of the latest games coming into that place. It was never overrun with business either (I mean, it wasn't deserted, but you know). The point is, Pac-Mania got that coveted front and center spot when it was brand new. I saw it when walking in one fine day and was beside myself "whaaaat's this, another Pac-Man game?"
It had been several years since the last one I had seen (Jr. Pac-Man) and Pac-Man had kinda gone out of vogue, generally, since the whole "platforming thing" came into vogue. Even so, this game looked complicated. Gone were the flat 2-D mazes of yore - everything was rendered brilliantly in (pseudo) 3D now, with multiple shades of color. The screen wasn't only wider than (already-wide) Jr. Pac, but it was taller as well. And there were suddenly way more ghosts to contend with. Also - you could jump! (not over partitions, but over ghosts, anyway)
So, they had futzed with the formula to be sure. Let me mention that in the early 80s, I was a Pac-freak as much as the next kid (worse than a dope fiend, let me tell you!) so the sight of this new twist on things was enough to get my blood pumping. I sauntered up to the machine and offered up a quarter, and gave the game a spin.
The game was... alright. A lot of what worked for the previous Pac-games was suddenly thrown out the window for "the new style." The screen kept Pac-Man centralized and scrolled around him, generally. One of the tenets of the old games was that you had the entire screen in view continuously (not true in Jr. Pac) so you could always gauge what you were doing with what the enemy ghosts were up to. Suddenly this was no longer an option, and there were plenty of unwelcome "surprises" around every corner, especially as one got deeper into the game.
Ultimately, I walked away from Mania feeling dissatisfied. Pac's new look was certainly compelling - the faux 3D was gorgeous, no getting around it - but the severe mechanic tweaks did a number on the game's ability to make me salivate for more. Pac-Man was now beyond stale and this game was just some minor interference. In hindsight, I'd love to give this game another try - and I have picked it up several times since, in one incarnation or another. It's certainly a fun game, but honestly I'd rather just play good ol' Ms. Pac (or the new Xbox 360 masterpiece, Pacman CE!)
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