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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Retro Review: Pac Man 2: The New Adventures

Today's game is one I recall spending many happy hours playing with my siblings, Pacman 2: The New adventures. It was released on two platforms, the SNES and the Genesis. I prefer the Genesis version because of some small sound differences so that's the one I'm basing my review on.

The team at Namco, drunk on the riches of the enduring success Pacman, decided that 1994 was the year they'd finally make a numbered sequel* to their ubiquitous arcade hit. Fourteen long years the fans waited to lay eyes on an updated, innovative title and Namco devised and delivered a unique experience.

* it's worth noting that the numbered part only corresponds to the western release of the game, it's called Hello Pac Man in Japan.

Apparently taking place sometime after Pac-Man's initial and bumpy foray into "normal" life, Pacland, Pacman 2 sees Pacman ready to put his wild days of wandering confused through dark labyrinthine hallways trying to get his pellet fix. He's managed to shake off his old ghost dealers cleaned up his act settled down in a nice neighborhood with Ms.Pacman, their two children and the family dog. Sadly it seems that years of unchecked pellet abuse have lefts Pac-Man's mental state a bit lacking. He's incapable of doing even the most basics task without guidance from the unseen omnipotent entity.

The controls for this game are simple. A shoots a power pellet, B uses the normal slingshot and C makes Pacman look in normal city areas or do the special action if you're in a mini game screen. I can't really say how smooth and responsive they are because you aren't controlling Pacman directly but, I haven't noticed any significant lag or any other problems of that sort.

On the surface it's graphically about the same as any other well rendered game in this time period with big, bright, cartoonish backgrounds and sprites. Once you've played it for awhile, you realize that this game is in fact a fantastic graphical feast of physical comedy. Pacman has dozens of animations, almost all of them hilarious. Pac-Man's follies and triumphs are each accompanied by a series of fantastic facial expressions and actions. The kind of stuff you'd expect to see during a looney tunes short only funnier. This game could have been aptly titled "The Many Faces of Pac" as that's what you really grow to associate with the game.

Sound wise the game is great, all those aforementioned expressions and animations have appropriately absurd sound bites accompanying them and the music pairs perfectly with the vintage cartoon feel.


The game starts off with a brief tutorial on how to play. Normally forced tutorials are insanely annoying, but not having complete control over your character is going to be a bit jarring for most gamers making this one pretty useful. Once Pac-Man feels you've gotten a handle on things you'll start the game with a cutscene of Ms. Pacman and Pacman at home with Pac-baby, she tells Pac-Man to get more milk.This initial mission sets the tone for the tasks Pac-Man needs you to help him complete.

The main plot of the game is getting Pac-Man to check off his family's to do list by hitting him with a slingshot. It's fun ans easy enough for the first 10 minutes or so but after that you'll have probably made Pacman look at/walk past/be in close proximity to something that either makes him sad or angry. Whenever Pacman is less than jovial you start to see more of his unruly, disobedient nature come out. He rarely will look at things and your slingshot becomes ineffectual. When this happens, you're stuck until Pacman "dies" ,which will happen quite a lot when he's angry,  or until you find something that makes him happy again. Unless it's one of the  few times when you need him to be in a less than happy mood to properly accomplish a task. Keeping track of Pac-Man's moods is simple enough in theory but it can get really annoying rather quickly. If you've put Pac-Man in the wrong mood for a certain task and end up having to restart it's not much of a problem because you've got infinite chances to start over. However, when you really want to progress being able to do it over again won't help to stem the tide of rage that washes over you with each of Pac-Man's inept actions. There is a saving grace which is that some of Pac-Mans most amusing actions happen when he's extremely angry,  and the game is short so there's no need to rush forward anyway.

As Pacman progresses and completes each task, it becomes clear that he still hasn't fully escaped the beady little eyes of Inky, Blinky Pinky and Clyde. The ghosts will pop up from time still trying to exact their revenge on the round yellow menace. This time they've got the Ghost Witch aiding them. She sets up headquarters in the ABC gum factory and hatches a variety of plans to help the ghosts thwart Pac-Man's plans while working on her insidious gum monster for reasons that are never completely clear. Ignoring he murky motives, under her tutelage the ghosts have learned to assume disguises and that's how you'll see them when you encounter them whilst wondering the town. For the most part these town encounters are only triggered when you interact with the disguised ghost so you can wait until you've got a power pellet handy to become super Pacman and take care of them with ease.
When you e
ncounter them while doing one of your mini game they cause a much larger issue. They don't bother with their silly disguises this time, instead they focus on using a variety of nasty props to stop Pacman's progress. Unfortunately this time you can't just give Pacman a super pellet to take care of the issue. Instead, you'll have to be pretty vigilant about giving him directions, these encounters are easily the most challenging portions of the game.

When Pac-Man's tired of ducking the ghosts he can take a break at one of two arcades in the city where he can play an updated version of the original Pacman and, if you've found the secret cartridge pieces, Pac-Jr (which is really just a hack of Ms.Pacman).

Once he's done reminiscing about the good ol' days he finishes up his task list and sits down for some relaxing TV watching only to be presented with a news report on how the ghosts and the gum witch have been stealing gum from children all over town. Even more shocking the witch herself takes over the broadcast and calls out Pacman specifically. Pac-Man's machismo can't allow for that sort of public mockery of his skills to pass without incident, so he heads down to the gum factory to teach the witch a lesson. What happens once he arrives there is mostly up to your quick reflexes with the slingshot. If you're successful you become a hero, If you screw it up well, you can't really die in this game, discounting of course when your turn of the game in anger without first taking down the password.


Pacman 2 is not a great game when you look at it by normal gaming standards. It's short, it's got crazy controls, and a fairly small environment. However, it's cartoonish story and cinematics make it highly entertaining. It's unique elements can get frustrating but, if you're not trying to progress you will learn to love them. Failure is honestly one of the most memorable and enjoyable parts of this game, yielding some of the most humourous sounds and animations seen in any game. Besides, any game where you can learn to embrace your failures and even welcome them is one definitely worth giving a try.


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