Namco Bandai has made a new Pac-Man game: a side-scrolling dash runner that is very confusing.
When you're onto a good thing, keep at it; that seems to be the video-game way, which is why games like Tetris, Pong and Breakout see so very many clones. It's also why, to the uninitiated eye, all first-person shooter games, for example, look the same. If something is making money, it needs to be wrung for all it's worth.
It's a strategy that is both good and bad: good, because we get more of the things we love; and bad, because it leads to the homogenisation of mainstream gaming.
When it comes to Pac-Man, there's really not much variation on the theme of running around a maze and chomping on little pellets that can be achieved. That didn't stop Namco and Midway from trying; which means, as well as the many iterations of maze and pellets, including Ms Pac-Man and Baby Pac-Man, we also got learning game Professor Pac-Man, side-scrolling adventure games Pac-Man 2 and Pac-In-Time and a Pac-Man-themed match-three browser game.
Now, Namco Bandai has released a Pac-Man-themed side-scrolling runner, based on an upcoming cartoon called Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. Called Pac-Man Dash, the game is available for iOS and Android, and it's based on the freemium model: free to download and play, but with plenty of purchasable items to boost your score.
Re-creating Pac-Man as a runner does make a certain kind of sense. The pellets — rebranded as "cookies" to be more family friendly, we guess — take the place of coins, with pieces of fruit worth 20 cookies. Each level is on a timer, too — eating ghosts will give you a little bit more time for each ghost.
There are five levels in the game, and each level has 15 missions. You need to complete 10 missions in one level in order to unlock the next. Missions involve collecting a certain amount of cookies, eating a certain number of ghosts, jumping using spring pads and, in later levels, avoiding foes. The levels are large and multi-tiered; if you fall between the platform cracks, you simply land on a lower level, with no way in the game to actually die. The game stops when the timer runs out, which is good, because you have only 10 "stamina" points. Each 30-second run uses up a point, and one point takes 15 minutes to regenerate.
This is pretty frustrating; more so because points only regenerate when a device is connected to the internet. We found, playing over Wi-Fi, that the game would at times simply refuse to recognise the connection.
Of course, you can use an in-app purchase to buy more.
In order to make the odds more fair, you can use your cookies to buy Pac-Man power-ups. Metal Pac-Man has a triple-jump and absorbs ghosts and cookies, while Ice Pac-Man shoots an ice beam that freezes ghosts for easier collection. These are not available as an IAP; you have to rack up the cookies in order to buy them, and you can't buy cookies in the game's store.
What you can buy is a cookie doubler and tripler, extra stamina points (as previously mentioned) and power-ups, such as a one-use cookie doubler and a time-up that adds an extra 30 seconds to your clock.
What we also found in the store is a link to a US toy store. No one outside of the US can use it, but US players can use it to buy little Pac-Man figurines. The game suddenly made a lot more sense: the cookies, the toys, the figurines — Namco Bandai is seeking to create an entire new generation of Pac-fans.
The game itself is pretty fun. We're not huge fans of the whole stamina points thing, and the menus are pretty confusing to navigate; but, once you start playing, it's pretty hard to put down.
Still, we think we prefer. But we're probably not the target audience.