Namco Museum DS – NDS – Review

Pac-Man. Galaga.
Galaxian. Xevious. These are the names that helped build the house of Tekken,
Soul Calibur, Ace Combat, and other modern-day hits. Aligned with Bandai, Namco
now has access to dozens of killer anime properties.

Despite the
urge to push forward, the studio hasn’t forgotten where it came from. Each year
Pac-Man is ported to another platform either solo or in a new game collection.
Namco Museum DS brings the yellow dot eater to Nintendo’s handheld with six
other hits – Galaga, Galaxian, Xevious, Dig Dug II, Mappy, and Tower of Druaga –
and a multiplayer version of Pac-Man.


 

New screen
settings allow you to play the game on either the top or bottom screen at full
view (stretched), aspect ratio (black bars on the sides), and one of four
vertical settings. The aspect ratio option gives you the same ratio that matches
the arcade cabinet Pac-Man originally came with – it used a screen that was long
vertically, sort of the opposite of the widescreen TVs we have today. The
vertical settings fill out the screen more evenly, but you’ll have to turn your
DS sideways to play. That’s not much of an issue if you’re used to games like
Planet Puzzle League. But it might seem weird if this is your first time.

The gameplay is
exactly what you’d expect – Pac-Man is Pac-Man. It’s awesome and addictive and a
classic. But it’s not any different from the previous iterations. While some
Namco Museum titles offer upgraded or remixed versions of the games, aside from
Pac-Man Vs., this package is strictly a port. Depending on how many times you’ve
played these games before, and the number of platforms you’ve played them on,
this may or may not seem like a great collection.

 

Pac-Man Vs.

Some of you
might remember the Game Boy Advance to GameCube connectivity feature. It was
designed to turn your GBA into a GameCube controller, giving players a personal
screen to look at while competing in a multiplayer game. The idea was cool but
like the Visual Memory Units (VMU) brought to Dreamcast, the thrill of looking
at a tiny, outdated screen couldn’t compare to the TV sitting in front of us.
Few developers were eager to create games that utilized this feature; only a
handful of gamers were interested in using it to play.

One of the
games lost in the process was Pac-Man Vs., a four-player version of the arcade
hit. The player controlling Pac-Man sees the game as normal – the others have an
entirely different view. They’re in control of ghosts, the multi-colored beings
trying to devour the ‘Man. Control of Pac-Man switches off each turn, giving
everyone a chance to be the pizza-inspired hero.

Five stages are
available for multiplayer action: Original, Blocks (a slightly altered version
of the original), Outer Space (a longer version of the original), Volcano (more
straight lines), and Lib Rab Woods (an octagon-shaped stage).


 

The rules are
simple: while controlling Pac-Man, play as normal. Score as many points as
possible before making contact with a ghost (unless you’ve eaten a big dot, in
which case the ghosts turn blue and can be eaten). Mmm, tasty! Once a ghost
makes contact, control of Pac-Man switches to someone else. Your points will be
calculated – a portion will be dispersed to other players. I have not figured
out a way to alter this, the game seems to do this on its own. But it does give
your friends a fighting chance when they’re losing and vice versa.

While
controlling Pac-Man, the entire stage is displayed on the bottom screen. A
closer, three-dimensional view is displayed on the top screen. That view doesn’t
seem too helpful when you’re the hero. But when you’re a ghost, that’s all you
get! The bottom screen is blackened out – only the ghost images remain, making
it hard to navigate. You’ll need to use the top, narrow image to hunt Pac-Man
before he eats a big dot – and run from him when he does.

I’ve been a fan
of Pac-Man for about 20 years now, but was still surprised by the entertainment
value provided by this multiplayer mode. Playing the standard game on the DS
hasn’t been as exciting as I had expected, most likely due to how recently I
played the arcade version. (Malls and movie theaters still carry old Namco
games.) Pac-Man Vs., however, breathes new life into the experience.


 

If you haven’t
played these games before, or if you have but don’t currently own them for a
handheld platform, then this collection belongs in your collection.
Pac-Man isn’t the only game that’s arcade-accurate – they all are, and four of
them are timeless classics. However, those who already have a Namco Museum title
on Game Boy Advance or PSP may want to pass. Pac-Man Vs. is worth the price of
admission, especially since you only need one game card to enjoy the multiplayer
functionality. But unless you’re a die-hard fan like myself, its thrill won’t
last.


Review
Scoring Details

for Namco Museum DS

Gameplay: 7.0
A solid collection
of great games that have already appeared on most other platforms. If you don’t
have them on a handheld, this game will be your new addiction. But if you’ve
already played ‘em to death on PSP, GBA, or some other platform, the only
thrilling element is Pac-Man Vs. Also, where is the much-desired touch-screen gameplay? Will it ever be added to Namco Museum?

Graphics:
5.0
Namco’s classics
look good on the DS. But with Pac-Man Vs. being the only game that uses
polygons, you won’t be overly impressed.

Sound: 5.0
Same as any other
handheld iteration of Pac-Man and Co. Don’t get me wrong – Pac-Man’s sounds are
classic. But they haven’t been upgraded in 20 years.


Difficulty: Easy/Medium
These games are by
no means easy … But they’re not really difficult either. Anyone can play them –
only a few will become a master.

Concept: 5.0
No upgrades, no new
gameplay content, no control improvements. It’s a straight port.


Multiplayer: 8.0
The best part of the
collection. Pac-Man Vs. is one of the most fun, anyone-can-play-it, single-card
multiplayer games available for the DS. If you love Pac-Man, you – and any
nearby gamers with a DS – will have a blast.

Overall: 7.5
Buy it for Pac-Man
Vs. and/or if you don’t yet have a handheld version of the other games.