Pacman has had a long and illustrious history, arguably helping to secure the future of Namco for decades. Counting every title that Pacman has appeared in would be a long (not to mention pointless) task, but more notably, in 1999 Namco tried to reinvent the franchise, with Pacman World for the PlayStation One. Whilst not exactly the revolution many were hoping for, it was definitely a worthwhile addition to the franchise. A few years later, a sequel was developed that appeared on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube. Finally, Game Boy Advance owners have been treated to Pacman World 2.
The original Pacman World was released on the Game Boy Advance last year and was a surprisingly enjoyable game. Platformers are under represented on the Game Boy Advance, so does Pacman World 2 fill this void, or is it just a poor cash-in on the back of one of videogaming's most iconic characters?
Pacman World 2 features twenty levels, set over six themed worlds. Each of the levels is somewhat a lengthy affair, and definitely no pushover. The level select screen is in the form of a map, that shows where Pacman has been, and displays what percentage of each level has been completed.
Pacman World 2 is primarily a 2D platformer, but every now and then during a level, a 3D maze will appear that's reminiscent of the traditional Pacman game. Players aren't always just restricted to moving left or right either; Pacman can sometimes move into the background or foreground at some points in the level.
The set of moves in the game is extremely broad considering there's only a few buttons on the Game Boy Advance and that you're playing as a sphere with a mouth. Our hero can run, roll and butt-bounce, whilst during the game he also picks up moves such as ice-skating, rollerblading and even diving in certain parts of the game. Power-ups are scattered throughout the game, giving Pacman extra abilities, such as turning him into metal, and allowing short bursts of invincibility.
The gameplay itself is a bit of a mixed bag. For some reason the developers have omitted a cartridge save option, electing to force the player to write down passwords to save their game. This is a bizarre design choice, as having to re-enter a password after a Game Over is a long task that shouldn't have to be done. Not considering that this is 2005. A 'retry' option, so that the player wasn't forced to re-enter the password every time, would have been appreciated. The only valid reason we could imagine for a password save is that the passwords can be passed between friends, making it easier to play each other's save files. Whilst this is all well and good, it shouldn't have been made mandatory.
The level variation in the game is to be commended though. Just about every level is different, even if some of the time players are forced to backtrack through the level to push a switch or to progress. Sometimes this can make the level feel repetitive, with no shortage of backtracking. The backtracking element of the game becomes less prominant later in the game.
It's also worth noting that the game is definitely no push over; infact, it's anything but. Children may have a little difficulty, as the levels are so long that it's often possible to die before reaching the end of the level. There are lives and health pieces scattered throughout the levels, but if you're after a challenging game then Pacman World 2 is what you're after.
The graphics in the game are surprisingly good as well. The environments look great, and Pacman is easily distinguisable. We have no issues with the graphics at all, as they're surprisingly decent, and just as good as other 2D platformers on the Gameboy Advance. The graphics are also better than in the original Pacman World.
The sound in the game is nothing memorable, but it isn't exactly poor. The music does become repetitive, especially considering a lot of levels will take a few run throughs before they are complete.
The game itself takes a lengthy amount of time to complete. Going through everything the game has to offer could take in excess of ten hours, with each level having a certain amount of fruit to be collected, as well as a time trial option. Unfortunately, there's no multiplayer mode, which could have involved a time trial race, or a fruit collection challenge. Whilst this would have been a great addition to the game, it doesn't severely suffer without it. It's also a little bit disappointing that you will have to retry levels quite frequently because they're so difficult.
Pacman World 2 took us by surprise, A lot of the 2D platformers released on the Gameboy Advance these days are substandard, and we weren't sure if Pacman World 2 would break that mould. Whilst we initially had our doubts, and whilst the presentation of the game is somewhat bare and the lack of a cartridge save option questionable, the game itself is actually surprisingly deep, and has a large amount of things to complete. If the player is stuck on a level they can do a time trial, or try and get 100% on a previous level.
We can tell that this game has had a lot of effort put into it, and believe us - we've seen a lot of quick Pacman cash-in titles. We're pleased to report that this isn't one of them. The main issue we'd have is the difficulty level - children may have a little bit of a problem conquering the game. But if you're a fan of Pacman or the Pacman World series, then it's highly recommended that you pick up this platformer. Just don't expect it to be easy.