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Pac-Man Collection

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

For the most part, the graphics in the Pac-Man Collection are true to their sources. To be more correct, they're as true to the source as it's possible to get on the handheld, which has a smaller screen and different aspect ratio from the arcade monitors where most of these titles originally showed up. Take Pac-Man, for example; you can play it here either full-screen, which means everything is quite tiny on the GBA's display, or you can play it 'full size,' which means the screen has to scroll around as you move around the maze. While the 'full size' mode definitely looks better, you need to be able to see all of the ghosts at once, so it's generally wise to stick with the uglier but more practical full-size view. Titles like Pac-Mania don't have that nice economy of scale, so the game simply trims off your view to a more manageable size for the GBA. Unfortunately that means that you have a little less time to react to what you're confronting, but it's still playable.

As for the sound, it definitely depends on the game that you're playing. Pac-Man, of course, has the ever-familiar constant whine in the background along with the dot-munching sound. When it comes to actual soundtracks you'll really want to take a look at Pac-Attack and Pac-Man Arrangement, both of which feature some bopping tunes. Sound effects are solid in those as well. As always, if you want to actually enjoy the audio on this GBA title, you'd be well-advised to use your headphones.


Gameplay:

There's a lot of gameplay crammed onto this cartridge--four full games, each with enough distinction to enjoy separately. And while you'd probably feel a little rooked if you only got one of these on a cart, with all four this title is an absolute steal.

The first, and the one that most anyone should recognize, is the original Pac-Man. I still feel the urge to throw quarters into these machines when I see them, and that everpresent background warble can give me the shivers every now and then even today. The game plays quite well, although the graphical options for the GBA limit it a bit more than I would have liked; I think that Namco did the best they could with what they had, though, and the end result is just as entertaining as the 'real thing'--and a lot more portable.

The next title (in chronological order) is Pac-Mania. I always really liked the game, because its pseudo-3D isometric view appealed to me. Well, that and the fact that Pac-Man can jump. Once again, the game seems to have made the transition to a hand-held surprisingly well, and while it definitely takes some getting used to, the environments and twists that jumping provides can provide just as many hours of entertainment as the rest of the games on the cart.

Perhaps the oddest choice for games on the cart, although it's a choice that I very much appreciate, is Pac-Attack. Released for both the SNES and Genesis back in 'the day,' Pac-Attack seems like an attempt to cash in on the Tetris craze of the time with some Pac-Man themeing. Blocks of 'junk' and ghosts fall down, and occasionally a piece with Pac-Man will fall as well. When you get a Pac-Man block, he starts munching away at the ghosts. In the normal mode you try to make lines of blocks and clear the areas when you can; in the puzzle mode you have to solve the puzzles with the blocks that you're given. Most people would probably see this as the throwaway title on the cart, but I find myself playing it more than any other title.

The last game, but most certainly not the least, is Pac-Man Arrangement. Sort of a 'super Pac-Man,' the game features a whole slew of new things to go along with the spiffy graphics and music. You've got power-ups, traps, a new ghost, and a whole lot of different environments to play around in. Anyone who played the recent Pac-Man: Adventures in Time will know just what I'm talking about; the arenas spice up what is otherwise a strictly classic game, and the various goodies and surprises make for an interesting experience. While it may feel a little gimmicky at times, the game plays very well.


Difficulty:

Heh. Pac-Man is hard, and I never memorized the patterns, so I don't know if they work as they should here on the GBA. The same goes for Pac-Mania and Pac-Man Arrangement. Lightning-quick reflexes are definitely necessary if you want to survive long-term, along with a near-psychic ability to predict just where the stupid ghosts are going to go as you tool your way around the maze munching on pellets. It's sufficient to say that anyone can find a game that suits their challenge level here, and these are the sorts of games that people can 'grow into,' becoming more proficient with as they play over and over. Most of them started out as arcade games, after all.

Game Mechanics:

Remember the buttons on the original Pac-Man? I sure hope you don't, because it didn't have any. Pac-Mania adds the jump button, but for the most part these games are as simple and pure navigation-wise as you can get. Steer your favourite yellow buddy around a maze, gobble dots, and occasionally munch on a power-pellet and go ghost-hunting. You don't get any more classic than this. Pac-Man Arrangement pushes the envelope a bit further, but for the most part the experiment works, and it's quite a bit of fun to tinker around with the games.

Taken separately, these games are fun enough to play, but by no means a must-buy. Taken together, the four titles that you'll find on here make this cart an absolute must for any fan of classic games or anyone looking for a good time-waster. Chances are great that you'll find something on here that you like, and once you tire of it you can switch to one of the other games. Sure, you'll wish that the GBA's display were a little bigger, but for the most part Pac-Man Collection fits the system perfectly. With games designed for quick play and a system designed for the same, it's hard to go wrong.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Nintendo GameBoy Advance Iridion 3D Nintendo GameBoy Advance Pinobee: Wings of Adventure

 
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