Review by Carlos McElfish
"Pac-Man chomps on power-pellets, chocolate ice-cream goes in the freezer"
An evil force by the name of ‘Spooky’ has been unleashed by those dastardly ghosts and its up to everyone’s favorite pepperoni-slice shaped yellow hero to make sure Pac-World is rid of this ancient evil. The objective of the game is to collect various ‘Gold Fruits’, once you collect them all you will be able to do away with Spooky by ways of sealing him in a...er...tree. Ok, so the storyline isn't that great, but c'mon, this is Pac-Man we're talking about here, Pac-Man don’t need no steenking storyline. Munching power-pellets and chomping ghosts is what Pac-Man is all about. How, you ask, was this simple concept used to create a wildly entertaining 3D-platformer game? With a little help from our good friend 'innovation'. This puzzle turned platform game borrows from a few different game designs and successfully integrates them all into one solid, respectable title.
Pac-Man World 2 feels like it was influenced from games like Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario World, Sonic Adventure, Klonoa, and even Super Monkey Ball. What is surprising is that Namco was able to extract all the fundamentally entertaining aspects of these games without botching the project along the way. Not to say that Namco has a tendency to churn out poorly executed titles, but even the most respected companies sometimes set they’re sights a little too high -- State of Emergency and Ehrgeiz for example. The only detrimental thing that this game has inherited from its predecessors is the sometimes-in-the-way camera issues.
Every stage comes complete with a uniquely animated and entertaining loading screen, although it hardly seems necessary since the loading times are practically non-existent. But it does go to show that Namco's development team did not at any time rest on their laurels, so to speak, during the creation of this game. While the visuals are fundamentally simple, the series basic design looks appropriately evolutionized on the current hardware that it runs on. Which is to say that Pac-Man is now incredibly cool looking.
Graphics are a bit polished from the PS2 version thanks to the GC's superior anti-aliasing techniques and 8-pass bump mapping -- but nothing that immediately stands out. The game is essentially identical to its PS2 counterpart with only one noticeable discrepancy; ghosts no longer kill you upon contact, rather, damage is isolated to the loss of one health unit. However, even without taking full advantage of the system's hardware Pac-Man World 2 is still very aesthetically appealing. Real-time rendering is colorful, well animated, and boasts some impressive visual techniques on top of its already sweet looking cartoon graphics. Every atmospheric element that the game offers is equally good looking, the visual quality is consistent all the way through. There is not much in the way of cut-scenes, outside of the cool looking opening cinema there are only a few instances where dialogue transpires.
In some respects the game's sound is blissfully retro, at times using the same exact sound effects found in the arcade original. Music consists of around twenty 3-5 minute original musical scores, which effectively give an added sense of immersion into the game's beautifully rendered universe. Each track was specifically composed to compliment the stage that they appear in. The Haunted Boardwalk level sports spooky Halloween-like music while the stage 'Volcanic Panic' includes tribal-influenced tunes. Namco did a great job in the sound department.
Pac-Man World 2 is an adventure/platforming game complete with a Super Mario Bros 3 type world map. The in-game play-control style is fully 3D but is also similar to SMB3 in the sense that it offers top-notch, well thought out, running-and-jumping dynamics. What keeps this game from being in the same league as the classics however is its unbalanced difficulty and short life span. For how well the game looks, it is pleasantly surprising to find gameplay that is equally appealing. PW2's nagging camera issues are somewhat diminished by the fact that the game actually lets you know when the camera is only partly functional or completely inoperable, by means of an on-screen notification.
Pac Man is equipped with a few cool maneuvers to assist him on the journey, like the 'Butt Bounce' which launches Pac into the air like a super-ball, and the 'Rev Roll' that propels him forward -- not unlike Sonic's dash ability. He also has a 'Flip Kick' that you can perform by pressing the B button while you are in the air, although this particular move is rarely required and seems like it was thrown in as an afterthought. Pac-Man will run, jump, scale ledges, and tiptoe across rope-thin bridges Monkey Ball-style. Pac-Man World 2 is about far more then just running around and jumping, you'll don a pair of ice-skates and be set loose down a steep, winding mountain of ice while avoiding hazards and collecting items, equip a pair of flippers and get down with some aquatic action, and even pilot a Pac-Man shaped submarine. Namco has really put Pac-Man through his paces in this title, pitting the little yellow sphere in situations that Lara Croft would think twice about.
There is an arcade on the first stage that you can go back to at any time, in the arcade you will find a slew of emulated Pac-Man iterations of the past. The roster reads like this; Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Mania, Pac-Attack, and a custom Pac-Man World 2 Maze game. An entire collection of fun games is at your disposal, assuming you have collected enough 'Tokens'. Tokens are strewn throughout each stage, and as you collect them more Pac-Man games will be unlocked. This adds considerably to the replayability of Pac-Man World 2, as you will inevitably go back to previous levels to collect more tokens.
It's quite apparent at first glance that this game is wicked enjoyable. Pac-Man World: 20th Anniversary was a great platforming game for the PSX and was somewhat overlooked in its time, hopefully this game will not suffer from the same fate. Assuming your down with platformers, you'll be thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. Which brings me to my next point; the time it actually takes to get to the end is far too short. Expect to complete the game in around 6 hours. But I am not one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, what is there is fun -- and fun is fun. The included arcade mini-games just sweeten the deal. Pac-Man World 2 exonerates Pac-Man from the horribly disappointing Pac-Land games and the freakishly wrong cartoon on which the game was loosely based. If solid, entertaining, platforming action floats your boat, you would be well advised to pick this title up.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/01/02, Updated 04/01/02
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