Do we need another half-baked party game?
Pac-Man has more history than most any classic game. Everybody knows it, everybody's played it at some point, and it's been involved in nearly every facet of our culture. He's been in arcades, on lunch boxes, he's even been sung about by the immortal super-duo Buckner & Garcia! And, like every great icon of the 1980s, he's fallen apart and had a question to answer: Is it better to burn out than to fade away?
Here, the answer given has never been more clear than with the release of Pac-Man Party 3D. He had the chance to go out with a bang recently with the genius Pac-Man Championship Edition, but instead we're left with a Mario Party clone minus the over-saturated fun, sometimes-amusing mini-games, and smack-talking your friend… and having that friend give your smack some weight.
In PMP3D, there are three maps to play through, each with a specific theme: Greenwood Grover, Spooky Hallow, and Celebration Avenue. The whole point of the main game, multiplayer, or story mode, is to collect cookies and "save" a precious cookie recipe that Blinky (the red ghost) took from Pac-Man. Surprisingly there are only three maps to play and fifty mini-games and many of the mini-games are similar in practice—so there is a flood of overlap between games.
On top of that, the mini-games are a mishmash joke. It doesn't matter so much the difficulty the CPU might be on—they're either way too easy or way too difficult to get through. At least they use the touch screen some of the time, but when they do it's typically a lot of quick jabbing; I would have played this on my DSLite if I had the option, since I felt like I might be ready to damage my 3DS screen! The few that aren't "poke-poke-jabby-jab" are simple quick-spin and quick-slide moves, half of which are super-simple and the other half… well, I don't know if I just don't understand it, but the AI completely dominates when I think I'm rocking it.
But really… three maps? It doesn't feel like a full game; it's almost as though this was meant as a side-project for a bigger Pac-Man release but was held off and repackaged to spread the yellow bastard's name ever further. Each map does have some character to differentiate it from the other two (with only three, you'd hope so, right?), but none of them stand out as "interesting". The bulk of the space on the board is bare and empty, and it's possible to completely traverse the board in just a handful of spins to boost your cookie count (each game is a race to some number); truth be told Monopoly can be run through quickly too, but at least the dice there are random and not (mostly) simple button presses. Furthermore, the visuals themselves are simply boring and take no advantage of the 3D. Sure, you can view the game in 3D, but it's such a wash that it's worth turning it off to save battery life.
To fill up the cart space, Namco-Bandai does what they always do: shove in a few classic games for distraction. This time, it's Pac-Man, Galaga, and Dig-Dug. They're just arcade ports—decent arcade ports—but absolutely nothing to make them different from any other incarnation NB has published them in. After completing a stage, you can continue from the furthest spot you reached, but as big a retro nerd as I am, I want some new reason to replay these. Maybe online hi-score boards on a handheld or maybe a visual upgrade? Unlockable documentary footage? I don't care, as long as I don't feel like I'm being asked to pay for these games for the hundredth time.
Is there anything redeeming about Pac-Man Party 3D? If you're in need of a game to play with friends, sure, but it's not worth keeping in for long. There's just not much here, and what is, feels rushed and half-hearted. If I want a party game, I'll plug in Mario Party DS. If I want to play a classic, I'll plug in one of the many other carts with whatever classic I desire; if it's a NB game, I've likely got the same game a number of times already (even Dig Dug). It's not worth the five dollars worth of enjoyment that's spoiled realizing you paid full price for it.
Copy provided by publisher.