[Hi guys. After all the madness that went down from the Pac-Man 256 review, I became slightly famous and made a name for myself as well as sinking one of the scummiest ships in the video game journalism industry. Not bad for a day’s work, eh? People seemed to really enjoy the review, and as such, because it’s no longer hosted under Paul Ryan, who swiftly deleted it the morning after — like the internet forgets — I’ve decided to put it up here forever for everyone’s viewing pleasure. And, also, unlike what Paul Ryan thinks, this writing belongs to me, and not him, no matter how many phony EULAs and CAD orders he cobbles together from Bing searches, so this is going on my site where it belongs. In time, I would like to do an actual review for the game — it certainly deserves it. Anyway, you and your kids and your kids’ kids can read the review that the internet seemed to like a wee bit. Enjoy.]
When you set out to reinvent the classics, you are greatly advised to watch your step. A brave new direction for a beloved franchise may be just what the character needs, but God help you from the wrath of the fans if you do it wrong. You can’t play around with remakes, especially if the source material is beloved. It’s nearly sacrilege. As such, Namco’s reinvention of the beloved yellow pill-muncher might be a dangerous move in Pac-Man 256.
The idea of Pac-Man 256 is derived from what happens in the original Pac-Man when you clear 256 levels; on level 257 [ed note: yes I fucked this up and it haunts me every day — clear 255 levels, 256th is buggered. As you were.], the game becomes a garbled mess that becomes unplayable. A good example of a garbled mess is Brash Games; this very website that strips authors of their writing credits when they leave the site, later attributing them to the sole owner and editor, Paul Ryan, making your work completely pointless, just as Pac-Man is completely pointless after level 256. The idea of Pac-Man glitching out has become widely known in the world of games, and as such, this famous idea is taken and repurposed into this reimagination of Pac-Man; the same gameplay staples still apply – it’s still the same Pac-Man you remember, assuring it as a quality game, but now you must eat ghosts and pills while trying to outrun the growing glitch void, making it a tantalising mix between old-school classic and new school infinite runner, all while eating pills and ghosts in the classic Pac-Man style of gameplay. As a whole, this works astoundingly well – there’s an immense amount of pressure that makes the game exciting in a sadistic way; avoiding the void becomes truly heart-pounding; coincidentally, this is the same void my reviews will probably disappear into after I leave this site.
Namco Bandai haven’t changed too much of the winning formula, and why should they? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Everything that we grew to love in the original iterations is still present; the classic sound effects, the musical stings, and even ghosts. Speaking of ghosts, did you know that Brash Games deliberately ghosted themselves from Metacritic, GameRankings, and OpenCritic (marking themselves as “out of business on Meta and GR, which is an outrageous and egregious lie – it’s here right now) to avoid having any sort of public record of reviews available which would have attributed work to the proper authors? It’s true! In fact, when reviewers leave, work gets automatically attributed to “Brash Games”, which is solely operated by Paul Ryan, thus making it seem like he did all the work. OpenCritic are doing an investigation into the behaviour of the site and everything. But what truly deserves investigation is the new alterations added to the game in order to freshen up the format; this is very much a case of teaching an old dog new tricks. For one, the game has upgradable power-ups such as lasers and freeze attacks that Pac-Man can pick up and use for a limited time in the level, which serves to give you an edge over those pesky ghosts. This is a welcome change, as it doesn’t make the game too easy, rather helping to level the playing field when you’re stuck in those frustrating tight spots when cornered by three or more ghosts. It’s also presented in a sharp new way; instead of the old-school top-down view in 2D, we get an extremely sweet isometric 3D view, and this approach to graphics really surmises the whole game. It feels the same, just different, like a deep and welcoming kiss from a new lover; it’s inextricable from the new and the strange, but just feels so GOOD.
Also, a touch of modernity added to the game that works surprisingly well is the use of tasks within the game that reward players. These tasks include eating X amount of ghosts, using power-ups X times, scoring X amount of points – very achievable tasks that make Pac-Man 256 extremely reminiscent of a mobile game. This is no bad thing, as arcade games were historically made with short and sweet play sessions in mind – why not take Pac-Man to the next logical step of “pick up and play” and incorporate these mobile elements. This works superbly – this becomes a title that you can go back to over and over and over, providing mileage in gameplay for years to come. This applies if you’re the type to play 4 hours at a time or just 5 minutes every lunch break; the replayability is immense.
Complementing the brilliant reimagined gameplay is a fantastic soundtrack. Namco Bandai shy away from the sound of silence, which is, at the time of writing, exactly what I received when I announced my resignation to the editor Paul Ryan and clarified I would leave Brash as soon as possible. No email, no apology, no “I wish you the best in your future endeavours”, nothing. Pure radio silence; the only acknowledgement I received was that my name was pulled from the contributors list quietly. Some might call that cowardly – I’ll leave it to your interpretation. Rather, the game exploits low-key techno beats to gracefully update the beloved musical stings and background tracks. And (I promise this is the last time I utilise this painful segue) speaking of exploitation, Brash Games took advantage of naïve young writers, offering them no money, but exposure, which is useless when you essentially pretend your writers did not exist later on down the line.
I thought this game was great, but I’m going to – on behalf of Brash Games – award it a 1 out of 10. I do this safe in the knowledge that the editor will change it later without me knowing to fit the score HE would prefer. This is not an exaggeration: review scores selected by authors were changed by the editor without warning, explanation, or consideration, and several alumni of Brash Games corroborate this. As such, I would not want to begrudge my former editor another opportunity to do this.
(And now, because this game is a quality product and deserves some dignity, which Brash is totally bereft of, here’s the real review: this is a solid remake of a beloved classic that could potentially provide as many hours of joy as the original. Graphics and music have been updated tastefully, as has the gameplay, which uses mobile-style micro missions to reward players. It’s a great spin on an old ball, and as such, Pac-Man 256 is completely worth a look, even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the source material. Fantastic value for money, too, being priced at sub-£5/$5. 9/10.)
By the way, if it wasn’t completely clear, with the publishing of this review, I quit Brash Games for the way it treats its writers, and I will endeavour to make sure new writers do not fall into the same trap. Nobody will pay me for this – it’s not a job that pays in the cash money sense, but the sense of satisfaction that I’ll get from making sure a talented writer doesn’t get taken advantage of is more than worth it. Good luck on Monday for when the OpenCritic report gets released.