PAC-MAN 256 review
Considering that the original Pac-Man was released thirty five years ago, it’s amazing that the series continues to progress and improve. PAC-MAN 256, the series’ latest instalment, recreates the addictiveness and accessibility of its arcade predecessors whilst completely revamping gameplay.
Unlike previous Pac-Man games, 256 has its players journeying forever up the screen, navigating around an endless maze whilst attempting to achieve the highest score possible. As the player gets higher, the game becomes harder by increasing the complexity of enemy types and maze routes.
It’s extremely accessible, and only takes seconds for the player to understand 256‘s gameplay.
This accessibility doesn’t make the game feel empty, though. It’s a fast experience, requiring the player find routes around the maze extremely quickly whilst also avoiding multiple enemies. It’s pulse raising, providing the excitement of an endless runner whilst also delivering the responsiveness of an arcade game.
Whilst 256 is mostly minimalistic, it provides enough depth to encourage players to invest more and more time into it.
One way the game adds depth is in its upgrade system. There are a total of sixteen power-ups to collect, and they can all be upgraded eight times. By combining different power-ups, the player should be able to create their own strategies for maximizing high scores.
However, most of these sixteen upgrades actually equate to two play styles; the hunter and the hunted. This means that some upgrades allow Pac-Man to defeat enemies, whilst others help him escape death. Once I realized this, the upgrade system felt a bit shallow, only really there to give a sense of reward to long-term players.
Another problem with this upgrade system is that it obscures skill. It’s difficult to tell whether you’re beating a high-score due to you becoming better, or because the game is making itself easier with each upgrade.
The other way that the game provides depth is in its enemy system. By understanding all eight enemy types, the player can create strategies whilst playing. This could result in them figuring out the safest way around the maze, or the best way to utilize their temporary power-ups.
Even if the upgrade system isn’t as deep as it could be, 256 is incredibly fun. It provides ultra fast and accurate gameplay that is fun for a minute or an hour, which is rare for a mobile game. Overall, it’s one of the best Pac-Man games to date.