No way is Pac-man twenty five years old. With Baby Pac appearing in 1983, he's got to be at least pushing mid-forties by now. Twenty five years as an icon in the videogame industry would be tough on anyone at any age, but the big yellow guy with a ghost-eating grin shows no signs of slowing down. Appearing in numerous compilations of his original arcade antics, there's always new challenges around the corner for Pac-man, from Pac Pix to the upcoming Pac-Man World Rally. Even though he's getting on in years, in the recently released Pac-man World 3, Pac "The Fever" Man might be in his best form yet.
Because at long last the Pac-ster speaks! And it's good!
I'll be honest. I often skip opening movies to get right to the pure gameplay, but PW3 delivers an engaging, humorous beginning with some clever writing and personality-driven voice acting that would be worthy of some of the better kid-oriented cinema like The Incredibles. The story isn't all that complex. An evil creep Erwin is draining the spectral energy from the spiritual world forcing the ghosts to forge an alliance with their worst enemy, but these classic characters are really brought to life, making me not want to miss a single exchange. Even when the controls are explained, they're done with a touch of wit that you would never expect from a basic tutorial.
The gameplay isn't too complicated either, but it's definitely fun. You've got the butt-bounce, which turns Paccy into a hyperactive rubber ball, smashing any enemy he lands on, though if they've got spiky or protective shells he might have to resort to the old one-two, showing that he doesn't wear those boxing gloves just for looks. Gather up a little speed and he can perform a Sonic-like roll attack, which is also handy for getting past a number of obstacles. Damage-enhancing power-ups quickly become common, upgrading the but-bounce into a screen-filling shockwave or turning the yellow side of the force into Darth Pac as lightning shoots from his fingertips. Two of his former rivals, Pinky and Clyde, occasionally lend their support with more ghostly powers.
Of course, none of this does any good when the specters appear...
Never forgetting its roots, PW3 takes the time in each pellet-filled level to break open a few gates to the spectral realm and allow the specters to creep in. These are like the more traditional ghosts gone bad...er, and are eager to slap or chomp our yellow hero into oblivion, complete with nostalgic sound effects. Naturally, normal attacks pass right through them, but with them come the appearance of those yummy power pellets, turning Pac-man into a ghost-munching machine.