Pac-Man Championship Edition: simple and addictive game design

There’s a new Pac-Man: Pac-Man Championship Edition from Toruy Iwatani, the original Pac-Man creator. It was announced on Tuesday, June 5 at the Pac-Man World Championships and has been available to try out and purchase on Xbox Live since Wednesday. PacManCE

I must say, I wasn’t a big Pac-Man fan in the old days. Maybe its because to be very good, you had to memorize patterns and repeat them.

It’s the same feeling I had with Q*Bert: one day, I discovered the patterns to beat the game. I stopped playing after a million or so points and left my reserve guys to die, because I did not see the point to continue. Granted, I never had the patience to memorize Pac-Man’s patterns, but you see my point. It’s more of a memory challenge than an exercise of reflexes.

Now, when Ms. Pac-Man was released, this was a game I loved. Still the same basic principle with 2 key differences (no, not the lipstick and the bow): the ghosts seemed more intelligent and the fruits were moving. To be the best at Ms. Pac-Man, you could learn some ghost grouping techniques, but it was still a challenge.

After Ms. Pac-Man, I feel the Pac-Man games went downhill from there because they didn’t keep the design as pure and as simple as these 2 originals.

Today, we were gifted (well, it’s a bit pricey) with Pac-Man Championship Edition, which stays true to the original formula, but with multiple changes that refreshes the gameplay to a new level of fun.

Basically, the changes are as follow:

  • Many different mazes; Pac-Dots do not necessarily fill all the mazes.
  • A time limit is introduced
  • When every Pac-Dots on a side are munched a fruit appears on the opposite side of the Ghost Hideout for continuously morphing mazes
  • When you eat a fruit, the other half of the mazes morphs to a new maze
  • You can increase the further bonus you get by eating ghosts by eating a new Power Pellet before the effects of the previous Power Pellet cease
  • 6 different game modes. See the list here.

When I first heard of the game, I wasn’t too pleased with the added time limit. I was wrong. You are still going for a high score. But, with the time limit, you cannot fool to much with the ghosts to group them together like in Ms. Pac-Man. However, when you get mazes with many Power Pellets, it might be beneficial to to group them and get higher bonus points when eating the ghosts. It’s a trade-odd between strategy and limited time.

Adding to the strategy is how one side of the maze consistently morphs once cleared and the corresponding fruit eaten. Since some mazes include more Power Pellets than others, you can clear some sides before the others to try and maximize the number of Power Pellets and ghosts you can eat in a chain for more bonus points. To reach the high score you are going for, some planning is required.

True to the classic, but with some twists, the speed and difficulty ramps up gradually and mercilessly for some frenetic endings.

To conclude, Pac-Man Championship Edition is a true sequel of the first two classics with enough changes and variety to keep you pleased for a while. If you are a Pac-Man or Ms. Pac-Man fan, it is well worth the 800 points (about 10$).

For another good review, Xbox 360 Fanboy published this great review: X3F hands-on: Pac-Man Championship Edition.