Thirty years have passed since Pac-Man, the lovable dot-eating character, made his debut and achieved superstar status seemingly overnight. He has starred in numerous games over the years, and was also the subject of an animated series, toys, books, a pop song, and much more. In honor of Pac-Man‘s 30th anniversary, I am going to tell you about Pac-Man World 2, which was released in 2002 for several consoles, though I will be focusing on the Gamecube version. This game takes Pac-Man on a 3D adventure spawning over twenty levels. It can be quite fun, but it can be frustrating at times, especially for those looking to collect every single item in the game. Even so, it is a solid title, and worth checking out for Pac-Man fans everywhere.
One night in Pac Village, the ghosts-Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde-decide to cause some mischief. They swipe some golden fruit from a tree, but in the process, they release Spooky, a powerful ghost that had been sealed underneath the tree many years ago. With the aid of the ghosts, Spooky hopes to destroy Pac-Land and all of its residents. Pac-Man learns of Spooky’s plans from his friend Professor Pac, and sets off to retrieve the stolen fruit and stop Spooky’s wicked scheme. Not a strong story, to be sure, but it serves its purpose.
As Pac-Man, your mission is to explore each linear level, defeating foes and collecting items as you go. Our hero has some neat moves at his disposal: he can bounce on his foes to defeat them, he can grab onto ledges, and he can rev roll to cross gaps and defeat some enemies. Along the way, he can destroy crates to get the items inside, bounce on trampoline-like platforms called B-Doings to leap higher, and activate buttons to cause various things to happen. Sometimes, Pac-Man can wear an iron suit, which makes him invulnerable to most things and allows him to walk underwater; and he can even shrink himself in order to enter small holes, beyond which lie even more secrets.
It seems that the golden rule for 3D platform games is that there are items that must be collected in order to fully complete the game, and Pac-Man World 2 is no exception. Throughout each level are items that add to your overall percentage. There are Pac-Dots that can increase your level score bit by bit, and power pellets that, just like in the classic Pac-Man games, make the ghosts turn blue and thus make them vulnerable. Fruits also add to your score, and sometimes, collecting a certain type a fruit will enable you to open a chest that has something extra special inside, such as an extra life. Most stages also have a Galaxian which, when grabbed, will take you to a special maze that plays rather like the mazes from the original game. Your mission here is to grab all the dots while avoiding the ghosts, and there are fruits that add extra points and portals that warp you from one side of the maze to the other. Complete the maze without losing all three lives, and the Galaxian is yours to keep.
One type of item that does not add to your overall percentage, but is still worth picking up, is the Namco token. Most levels have ten of these coins to collect. Eight of them are hidden throughout the stage, just waiting to be picked up. One is awarded to you if you get a 100% score in any given level, and the last one is a reward for beating a stage’s time trial, which is unlocked after you beat the level once. These tokens unlock features found in Pac Village, the starting area of the game. As you pick up more tokens, you can play a series of classic Pac-Man games; specifically, you can check out Pac-Man, Pac-Attack, Pac-Mania, and Ms. Pac-Man. You can also unlock a jukebox that allows you to listen to the in-game music and a museum featuring concept art of characters and features that did not make it into the final game.
While many levels take place on foot, Pac-Man sometimes finds other ways of getting around. He can ice-skate, roller-skate, and swim his way to victory, and at one point, he can use has Pac-Marine to get through a mine-infested area. These levels can be fun, and can be a nice break from normal stages. Unfortunately, these stages can bring pain to people looking to achieve a score of 100% in every level.
You see, Pac-Man World 2 is notorious for making it tough to collect every single item in a stage in one shot. Items can be missed, and you would have to restart the level or die and restart from the last checkpoint you touched in order to grab them. At times when you are unable to go back to pick up items, such as in the swimming levels, this can really be a pain. At one point, you even find yourself sliding down a narrow slide where a single false move can send you plummeting down a bottomless pit to your doom…even if you do not aim to grab all the items. Worse yet, you cannot simply complete a level and go back to grab anything that you missed with the exception of the tokens. Instead, you must grab every Pac-Dot, fruit, and Galaxian in one trip. Granted, the ending remains the same regardless of whether you collect every single item or not, but those who like to completely finish a game will likely lose a ton of lives to collect everything in one stage.
To make matters even worse, the camera is not as useful as it could have been. Too often, the camera angle is not ideal, and it can take you some time to adjust it so that it is right for you. When it does work, the camera can have you look around for things that you may otherwise miss or have you think about the best way to get to a certain platform. Still, the camera could have been better. Other things such as a generally short length and occasional unfair deaths (such as when you grab onto a falling platform and it will not let you climb on top of it before you end up falling to your doom) make the game into a title that is not the masterpiece it could have been.
Still, those who are willing to overlook the game’s flaws will find plenty to enjoy here. The levels can be enjoyable, and the boss battles are exciting. There are plenty of surprises to be found in every level, and the arcade games are a nice diversion, though they have all been ported to various consoles far too many times. The loading times (at least on the Gamecube version) are quite short so you can get into the action fast. What few CGI cut scenes there are look fantastic and are entertaining. Thus, the game has plenty going for it…just be ready to deal with some frustration as you head off to see everything it has to offer.
In terms of graphics, they look pretty decent, though the characters seem to look as if they belong on the Nintendo 64. Granted, this was an early Gamecube title, but the visuals could have used some improvement. On the plus side, the frame rate is smooth and rarely ever slows down. The most impressive feature in the entire game, however, is the epic soundtrack. Five years before Super Mario Galaxy proved that orchestrated music can add to the enjoyment of a 3D platform game, Pac-Man World 2 did much the same thing, adding epic tunes to many levels. Those found in the snow, underwater, and haunted stages, as well as in the boss fights, are particularly awesome. The classic Pac-Man sound effects are also present, as is some voice acting, though there is far too little of the latter, and Pac-Man himself is a silent protagonist, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but Namco could have at least tried to give the game a bit more voice acting.
Pac-Man World 2 is yet another game that I have a love-hate relationship with. On the one hand, it is fun and enjoyable, with plenty of neat levels. On the other hand, it can be so hard and frustrating at times that I end up all but completely giving up on any given stage. Still, the game is pretty solid, and Pac-Man fans should at least try it out at some point. People who own a Wii can play the game on that console without having to track down the Gamecube in the process. Some versions of Pac-Man World 2 even come with a bonus game that requires multiple players and Game Boy Advance systems to play, but I have not played that mini game, and thus, I am unable to comment on it. All in all, Pac-Man fans are sure to enjoy Pac-Man World 2…and hopefully, they will have the patience to get through some of the game’s more annoying sections.