It was inevitable. Seeing as how Crash Bandicoot, Mario, Sonic and Bomberman got their own party games, it was only a matter of time before Namco’s legendary Pac-Man character threw one of his own. Granted, this one’s actually his second, as Pac-Man Fever already made the rounds on the previous generation of consoles – with lackluster results. Sadly, Pac-Man Party isn’t really much different, save for the inclusion of motion controls and a plot so bad, it wouldn’t even fare that well on Pac-Man’s old Saturday morning show.
Spoiler alert: all this time, Pac-Man wasn’t eating dots. Turns out that he found some tasty cookies, and somewhere in the midst of his Cookie Monster impersonation, he decided to take it upon himself to locate the original recipe and return it back to its rightful owner. Of course, ghosts stand in his way, because, well, they like cookies, we guess. We’re still not sure how this makes sense. But it really adds complication to a game that didn’t need any. Adding a plotline to a party game is like trying to add role-playing elements to Gran Turismo.
Anyway, once you get into the mini-games themselves, you’ll find even less inspiration. Most of the games are throwaway knock-offs of previous party events from other games, including a jet ski game that borderlines on tedious and a spaghetti-twirling game where you use your Wii remote as a fork. In what other game have we seen Pac-Man use a fork to devour his food? Usually he just runs over it and it’s done for. But never mind, that would make this mini-game too easy.
You’ll find a variety of these mini-games scattered across five boards, each one different than the previous one. They’re not bad, but hardly anything revolutionary for a party game. The only real difference here is the way you decide how many spaces you take in a turn, playing mini-games to choose your number of spaces instead of rolling a traditional die. It adds a bit of flavor to an otherwise dullard formula.
Pac-Man Party also lacks any sort of solid presentation. The music is flat and lazily programmed, and doesn’t even borrow from previous Namco classics. C’mon, even Namco Museum Megamix managed to accomplish that. The sound effects are equally bad, without anything to distinguish the personalities of Pac-Man and his friends. If it weren’t for the cosmetic appearances, you wouldn’t know if you were controlling the big Pac or a ghost.
The graphics fail to get the job done either. Some animations are cute, but most of the design is stolen from other games, and some of the ideas behind mini-games fall completely flat. Only a few individual visual effects really stand out amidst this bad-looking package.
At least Pac-Man Party has one saving grace – the classics that inspired this product in the first place. You can play your heart out with Pac-Man, Dig-Dug and Galaga, three classics that withstand the test of time, no matter where they’re located. We’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’d pay $30 for a package just to play these games, though…especially when they go for $5 a pop on downloadable services, maybe even cheaper.
This Party simply doesn’t have the substance to hold up. Pac-Man’s an endearing character and, in the right game, he can truly shine. Unfortunately, Pac-Man Party is far from that example, a poor packaging of lame mini-games and bad presentation ideas. Stick with the classics.