Pac-Man sure has seen plenty of genres over the years. Here, he finds himself in the middle of a block-stacking puzzler. Is this unconventional way to eat blue ghosts worth the calories or should our favourite round video game pal finally go on a diet?
Pac-Attack is based on the Japanese puzzler "Cosmo Gang the Puzzle" and is played by dropping pieces containing bricks, ghosts, and sometimes Pac-Man himself down the playfield. There are two ways to score; making solid lines of bricks and having Pac-Man eat ghosts. In order to accomplish the latter, you basically have to place a Pac-Man piece strategically since he'll automatically move and gobble up all the ghosts he can once you do. Being able to create intuitive paths for him to travel along so he can eat as many ghosts as possible is a crucial skill if you want to succeed. Of course, if you make a mess then you may get lucky and have a fairy pop up who rids the playfield of all remaining ghosts when your meter fills completely. Overall, its unique concept is incredibly fun to learn and master... at first.
When it comes to visuals, Pac-Attack looks like any other puzzle game with crisp sprites and minimal animations. However, after playing for a while you'll start to simply want more. Tetris did a good job of constantly changing the colour palette as you play, but everything here remains unchanged no matter how long you survive. This lack of visual variety certainly makes the experience much more monotonous than it already is. That being said, the graphics change depending on what mode you play, but that just doesn't cut it. On the plus side, the included soundtrack (complete with a funky remix of classic Pac-Man music) is pretty cool. Too bad it repeats as often as it does.
The main issue with Pac-Attack's gameplay is that it's so one-note that it becomes exhausting rather quickly. Stacking up blocks to create paths of ghosts while waiting for the next Pac-Man piece to show up devolves into an ultimately unrewarding and repetitive formula. Even when you manage to make Pac-Man eat a ton of ghosts and the resulting avalanche clears multiple lines, it still doesn't feel as satisfying as making back-to-back Tetrises or clearing all of the viruses in Dr. Mario. To add frustration to the tedious gameplay; when you eventually top out and get a game over, it more often than not just doesn't feel fair. This is because when you're near the top and desperately waiting for a Pac-Man piece, you merely keep stacking blocks until you can't anymore. At least in other puzzlers you have a chance of digging yourself out of the most catastrophic situations. In Pac-Attack, tight spots mostly boil down to the luck of the draw.
On a positive note, you can select from three different modes. Normal Mode is basically endless where you select a starting difficulty and try to get the highest score that you can. Puzzle Mode contains 100 puzzles where you clear out all of the ghosts in as little moves as possible. It can be satisfying to work your way through but even the smallest goof can totally screw up your game. Therefore, memorization plays more of a factor than your skills when you're forced to replay a stage. The most enjoyable mode is obviously Versus Mode where you can go head-to-head with a friend. As you battle, players send ghosts to each other and it can get quite thrilling when you're both close to the top. However, once you've played a few matches then you'll be ready to move on to something else.
Pac-Attack is definitely an interesting little puzzler that isn't necessarily bad. Its distinct formula is promising at first, but in the end there simply isn't enough satisfying gameplay and diversity to hold your attention. Pac-Man should really stick to mazes, not puzzles.
- + Unique puzzle mechanics are enjoyable to learn and master at first
- + Consists of three distinct modes
- + That funky remixed Pac-Man music
- - One-note gameplay gets tiring fast
- - Failure often doesn't feel fair
- - The lack of visual variety further establishes the game's monotony