Know this; Championship Edition is the best Pac-Man game in years. Namco Bandai has taken the bog-standard formula of power pill-munching, ghost chasing and key collecting and made it more strategic, more intense and dare we say; even more addictive.
In the original, Pac-Man is slapped inside a maze with four ghosts and a line of pills waiting to be popped. It's a pretty straight forward concept; eat all the pills and the level's over. A handful of power pills helped fend off the pursuing ghosts, and the odd key or cherry provided nothing more than a few extra points.
Assuming everyone knows Pac-Man like Stu knows Baywatch, Championship Edition adds a few refreshing and effective twists. First of all, everything's based on time challenges; there's a five minute challenge, a ten minute challenge and super-fast challenges that seem to require at least five cans of Redbull.
The score counter's still very much on-screen, flashing away with new psychedelic visuals, but the aim of the game is essentially to fend off ghosts until the timer reaches zero.
Fair enough, but Namco's gone and made the arcade game way more strategic by limiting the amount of pellets on screen, making new trails magically appear by munching special 'key, cherry-esque' objects.
Apart from the obvious tactical ramifications, it's just far more satisfying munching up those pills. Instead of having your work tossed aside by resetting everything in the next level (like in the arcade game) you're rewarded with the appearance of new items, which conjure more trails, and if you're lucky; arse-saving power pills. Stick in Achievements for every challenge completion, and it's all one incredibly addictive bundle.
Speed ramps up significantly as the timer counts towards Game Over too, and you'll quickly find yourself shouting at the telly for more power pills. Their limited supply makes rationing an incredibly important part of the game, and in some mazes you're simply chucked six pills to make do with until there are no more. It's bloody hard in Extra mode.
The Xbox 360 d-pad, like in the other XBLA Pac-Man games, causes complaints, we've died on plenty of occasions because it sent our man in completely the wrong direction. Thanks the lord the analogue stick solves that problem.
If anything it's incredibly refreshing to finally experience an interesting twist on Pac-Man that goes beyond slapping a bow on the yellow bloke's head. The fact that these are the first officially designed mazes in over 26 years is more good news for Pac-Maniacs (we promise not to use that word again), though it's admittedly hampered by the 800 Microsoft point asking price (£6.80).
Really this should've been the first Pac-Man title to arrive on Live Arcade, ideally with the other two retro titles bundled in (it would've been nice to have not thrown 800 Microsoft points on those as well). But as it stands, if only because this is a fantastic reimagining of a game everyone has played, Championship Edition is amongst the top tier downloadable games on Xbox 360.
An enjoyable remix of the aging classic. If you're willing to spare the MS Points, that is
- Great twist on the classic formula
- Intense gameplay to make you swear
- Psychadelic visuals look great
- 800 points is a bit pricey
- We've already shelled out for two other Pac-Mans