Do you think he needs false teeth to eat those power pills?
I can just imagine the series of events that led to creation of Pac-Man World:
“Okay everyone,” says the guy in the big chair (Wow! Patent leather!), “As
you all must know by now, Pac-Man is turning twenty this year. Now, Pac-Man is
one of the most beloved and revered video game mascots. Even more so than those
Mario and Sonic guys.”
He pauses momentarily, for effect. “There has GOT to be a way for us to make
some dough off this!”
“Great idea!” comments the yes-man to his left. “But what kind of game can
we make? We’ve already made Ms. Pac-Man for the feminists, a shooter (Pac-Man
2), a platformer (Pac-Land), a trivia game (Professor Pac-Man),
a pinball game (Baby Pac-Man), not to mention Pac & Friends,
Pac-Mania, Pac-Man Junior, Pac-In-Time, and Pac-Attack. Plus,
we just released his first game on our Namco Museum Vol. 1!”
about a 3D platformer?” suggests the marketing director to his other left. “There
are lots of those, and they sell pretty well. Spyro, Super
Mario 64, Sonic Adventure:
all those have classic characters, and all are big money makers.”
“Just a minute!” yells the senior programmer (sitting in the foldable lawn
chair across the table). “We don’t have a lot of experience with 3D platformers,
and a limited time to make this game. What are we supposed to do?” A hushed silence
settles over the big oak table.
“I know!” says the marketing director. “Let’s just take the elements from the
other popular games! That way, we can get this done quickly, in time for Christmas!”
“But won’t people notice the copied bits?” asks the programmer.
“Of course not! It’s Pac-Man who’s doing it! No one could mistake Pac-Man
for, say, Donkey Kong!”
“I guess not.”
And thus the programmer goes off, makes a game which takes some of the better
elements from other games, and doesn’t hide it very well.
In Namco’s Pac Man World, Pac-Man has the ability to butt bounce (just
like Gex’s tail bounce, but without the fifth appendage), can rev up in place,
then roll off, burning yellow rubber in his wake (Hmm, just like Sonic), can turn
into metal Pac-Man and hang off edges (like Mario), has to collect the letters
of his name (like Donkey Kong Country), all in a 3D scrolling universe with a
static camera (like Crash Bandicoot). Everything
is just stuck in by our programming friend, with the hope that everything will
just work out for the best.
Our intrepid programmer also has to put in elements from the classic game,
so he adds a new maze mode, which is the same as the classic Pac-Man game… but
in 3D! He unfortunately forgets to have the camera show the edges of the maze
until you’re right on top of them, which causes you to run into enemies a lot
more often than you’d like. To fix this, he adds a full map view, but the now
tiny characters of Pac-Man and his ghost friends aren’t recognizable anymore.
He also thinks it fun to add all sorts of other things, like barrels to block
your path and fireballs, but forgets that it was running away from the ghosts
that was the most fun, and that dodging other things just gets annoying.
course, graphics are his specialty, so he programs some pretty cool effects with
bright, colorful enemies, interesting backgrounds and well textured levels. Of
course he forgets a few things. First, after getting hit for the umpteenth time,
Pac-Man shouldn’t have that stupid, freaky smile on his face. Also, in the dark
areas, players actually have to see what’s going on.
But by putting so much time into the graphics, he forgets about gameplay, and
has to rush it. There are only two difficulties for each of the levels in this
game: Boringly easy, and frustratingly hard. For example, the first boss is simple
if you keep jumping around, but the second took me at least twenty tries to beat.
Mostly, it was because I couldn’t land on a block quite right. Various jumps are
extremely difficult, due to unhelpful camera angles. Also, almost all of the secrets
involve you passing a particularly hard part, picking up a fruit (which acts as
a key), going back through the hard part, picking up the bonus item, then going
back through the tough part a third time. It seems like a shortcut in game development
(“Hey! Let’s make the game longer by forcing the player to go back through the
same area THREE TIMES!”), and it gets really tedious after a short while.
After combining all of these elements, he passes the game on to his superiors,
who take a quick glance, check to make sure it has Pac-Man’s name on it, then
send it on to the factory for production and shipment. Then eventually, a reviewer
named Brian gets his hands
on a copy, and starts to write a review about how… oh wait… nevermind.
Pac-Man World is a fairly obvious marketing ploy, meant to drag whatever
money is left from a now-overused video game icon. Despite fairly good graphical
effects, It reeks of unoriginality, and quick, corner-cutting development. For
those true Pac-Man aficionados, who have the arcade booth, all the games for the
super Nintendo, the doll, the comic book, and the pajamas, you probably bought
Pac-Man World already. For the rest of us, this is definitely a rent-before-you-buy
situation, or maybe even a don’t-bother.