A blast from the past that only I remember?
** Editor's note** Been sitting on this one for a rainy day since September. It is now raining so it seems like a good day to post this**
Pac-Man World Re-Pac – A remake of Pac-Man’s first three-dimensional journey
Remember the 90’s? It was a simpler and arguably better time. We had Nickelodeon, Furbies, vortex, cd’s, and MASCOT PLATFORMERS. Sony had Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. Nintendo had Mario, Donkey Kong, and Banjo & Kazooie. Sega had Sonic the Hedgehog and NAMCO had squat. To remain relevant and simultaneously modernize their most popular franchise, Namco released Pac-Man World. Pac-Man was no longer a two-dimensional pie with a slice missing confined to a maze, but now a sphere with red boots and a face capable of three-dimensional traversal. I had this game as a young kid, but I don’t recall knowing anyone else that did. I was shocked to discover that it sold 1.5 million copies and even more shocked to find out that it was being remade. With absolutely f**k all for end of summer new game releases and my son having a nightmare about “the red monster in Daddy’s videogame”, I was a bit desperate, so I spent 30 bucks on a PS5 copy. How does this game fair as a 3D platformer, what aged well, and what does the remake bring to the table? I’m so glad you asked (by you I mean absolutely no one).
**Tech Disclaimer** I reviewed the PS5 version of this game with VRR automatically enabled. I don’t think that was necessary. The game runs at a full 4K resolution at 60 frames per second.
3D platformers are a bit of a rarity these days so it was a refreshing change of pace. Let’s get this out of the way, Pac-Man World Re-Pac is far from the most challenging platformer on the market (I finished with over 50 lives, and I didn’t participate in the slot machine mini game for extra lives). It plays a bit like the original Crash Bandicoot, where you alternate between full 3D sections with side scrolling jumping puzzles, just far more forgiving. You can run, jump, butt bounce for a higher jump, roll dash, ledge grab, and run in-place in mid-air to pause and make small adjustments before landing. Each mechanic works well enough, and you don’t need to do too many of these at a time for any given puzzle. The biggest hurdle any 3D platformer must overcome is depth perception. It can be difficult to judge distance, depending on the camera angle. Crash Bandicoot 4 (I should really review that game) has an ever-present shadow beneath Crash’s feet, so you always know where you will land. Pac-Man Re-Pac tries to emulate this and mostly succeeds. The shadow doesn’t show up on every surface and it can be a little hard to see, but far less precision is required here than Crash 4.
Right, so what do you do in Pac-Man World Re-Pac? There are 6 worlds, each with a different NAMCO property theme, 3 levels and a boss fight. The levels get progressively more difficult the further you get in each world. In each world, you are tasked with saving one of Pac-Man’s friends (who now have different names due to licensing issues). Each level only requires you to get from start to finish, but there are many collectibles to find on the way and your end level score will reflect how many you managed to pick up. If you find each letter in PACMAN, you get to do a bonus stage at the end of the level to collect more fruit and extra lives. Fruit opens doors which are often necessary to progress and are later used in the slot machine mechanic (more on that later). Each level also has a classic Pac-Man stage to unlock, which now uses 3D assets. Completing these grant you extra points when finishing the level. There are enemies scattered around, but they are not the focus of the game. Each can be eliminated with either a butt bounce or throwing a Pac-Pellet but are easily avoided all together. Several sections include homages to classic PACMAN where you find power pellets, transform into a gigantic spherical classic Pac-Man, and consume the souls of ghosts. These are not difficult but they are satisfying. Boss encounters are laughably easy, requiring a single gimmick to complete.
The remake itself includes updated models, a remastered version of the original music, and an extremely stable framerate. It is not the best-looking game I have ever played, that goes to Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, but it is nice to look at. Colors are bright and it looks like it could pass for a modern cartoon. With improved clarity, it is easier to tell what platforms you can and cannot jump on than it was back on the PS1. As far as I can tell, Pac-Man World Re-Pac is very close to a 1 for 1 remake of the original. It plays and looks exactly how I remember it, which is the sign of a quality remake/ remaster. Funny how your brain seems to remember everything looking way better than it ever did. The original was chunky and pixelated while the remake runs in full 4K with modern programming filters and techniques after all. The only downside is that the remake isn’t voice acted like the original. Instead you get text boxes, probably due to budgetary concerns? (I imagine this was a passion project done by a few people, I highly doubt fans (if they exist) were begging for this to be remade)
What I like and what aged well:
The art is fantastic and the themed worlds are charming. The Galaga world is by far my favorite. While it is not difficult compared to Crash or Donkey Kong, it isn’t a complete breeze either. It strikes the right balance of precision and punishment to be enjoyable for all audiences. There is an easy mode option that I did not try, but I have no issues with games having accessibility features. The game feels like you are going on an adventure through strange and colorful places in the Pac-Man universe. The game is respectful to the franchise roots and pays homage to what came before. The game isn’t long (that’s what she said), maybe 8 hours if you are going for full completion, but each level can be finished in 5 minutes (what he said). There is replay-ability with the scoring system as well. You can speed run this or play at your own pace. Choice is good.
What I didn’t like and aged poorly:
First and foremost, NAMCO losing the rights to Miss Pac-Man make one of the characters really awkward. The blow torch enemies that look like Kitchen-Aids are a bit unbalanced, but that’s a nitpick. The slot machine mechanic kind of sucks. At the end of every level, you play a slot machine mini game for the opportunity to gain a higher score and extra lives. It is boring and un-skippable and adds nothing to the game. I get why it is here, as it was in the original, but you could mash X and skip right through it back in the day. There comes a point in Re-Pac where you get the feeling of déjà vu. While thematically and structurally different, each level requires you to do the same thing. Once you have seen a puzzle, you will see several others that are similar. I went for maximum completion in the first 5 worlds, but at the 6th I took more of a speed running approach to just get to the final boss.
Rating: Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a fun experience that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It isn’t the most challenging or revolutionary platformer, but it isn’t trying to be. It is a visually appealing, extremely kid friendly game that provides a modest challenge with reasonable replay value for 30 dollars. It isn’t an S-Tier generation defining title or an A-Tier must play. It is a solid B-Tier game that doesn’t blow you away but is entertaining enough to kill time or play with the kids. I give Pac-Man World Re-Pac an 7/10 for being solid but unspectacular with an appropriate price tag. Buy this for your kids or play this yourself if you are feeling nostalgic or guilty of inadvertently causing a nightmare with “red monster from Daddy’s game.”