The Best Pac-Man Clones and Spin-Offs
Pac-Man is one of the most popular video games of all time and it was no surprise that many companies tried cloning the game in order to make a quick buck. However, many of those clones didn’t really add much or even capture much of the original charm. Even many of Namco’s own Pac-Man spinoffs were only worthy of a yawn.
Over the last twenty-five years, there have been quite a few Pac-Man clones and official spinoffs that are still worth playing today, and possibly even worth getting excited about. This feature takes a look at the best games that either added something new to the formula or modernized the experience on newer platforms. (And before anyone complains, I realize that Ms. Pac-Man is not on the list)
Credits: Since there was a lot of ground to cover in digging up all these gems, this article was actually a team effort. RadarScope1 shared his experiences with the new XBLA Pac-Man release, Ivo scoured the Interwebs to find and test all of the obscure clones on an array of platforms, and I (racketboy) contributed my thoughts on my favorite console and handheld spinoffs. I also used Wikipedia to detail some of the specifics of gameplay for some of the games. I hope you enjoy seeing all the best that Pac-Man has inspired.
Pac-Man Championship Edition (XBox Live Arcade)
With Namco’s penchant for rehashing Pac-Man over the years it might be easy to dismiss Pac-Man Championship Edition for Xbox Live Arcade as just such another ill-conceived idea best left on the drawing room table. But Namco didn’t simply retool a classic game with PMCE. Instead, they rethought it almost entirely.
With original Pac-Man creator Toru Iwatani at the project’s helm (his first time working on a Pac-Man title since the 1980 original), PMCE could be considered a true “championship edition” in that getting the most out of the game will require some decidedly well-honed Pac skills. The goal is the same as it ever was: score the most points possible. But there’s a catch: PMCE is timed. There are six gameplay modes in all. The main draw, Championship Mode is five minutes long. Most but not all of the other modes are 10 minutes long. The other major changes (besides the mazes — more on that in a minute) are that power pellets can be chained indefinitely for successive ghost-munching bonuses of up to 3200 points per ghost, eating regular dots without dying builds up a score multiplier, and that Pac-Man respawns in the same place he died after losing a life.
The crux of PMCE’s gameplay is the tried and true arcade formula of balancing risk versus reward. The original Pac-Man had an element of this: should you eat the blue ghosts after getting a power pellet or simply clear the rest of the dots and move to the next board? In PMCE, the answer is: you do both, but you do it by setting up a chains of power-pellet-fueled ghost combos over the paths of the dots in the maze. Unlike the static mazes of old, however, the mazes in PMCE are constantly shifting. The screen is divided into two halves. Clearing one side of dots will bring up a bonus item (cherries, Galaga ships, keys, etc.) which will then open up a new pattern of walls and dots on the other side when eaten. The process repeats with each new side getting more complex, filled with more and more dots and power pellets. The first few patterns set up paths of dots that are ideal for combos if you play them correctly, but as the game progresses those paths aren’t as clear-cut. Setting up strategies for your paths in real time is essential because every second spent traveling over black space instead of munching dots or ghosts is time wasted. In a way you’re playing against the maze itself as much as against the ghosts or the clock — and that’s where Iwatani and Namco have captured the essence of the original game and taken it to a twitch-inducing extreme.
The atmosphere is enhanced by a pace that speeds up as the clock winds down, complete with music that goes from subtle to heart-pounding in the final 30 seconds or so. The visuals have been updated for hi-def screens and though the graphics are more crisp and somewhat more colorful, the look and sound effects are total throw-backs to the feel of the arcade original. It’s easy to be cynical about “Pac-Man with lights and a techno beat,” but those elements melt away once you’re sucked into the gameplay. Like many XBLA titles, PMCE has a world-wide leader board, which is another nice throw back to the days when high scores were all that mattered. Achievements mostly consist of getting certain scores and beating all of the six modes.
The two Challenge Modes and three Extra Modes mix up the formula with different types of mazes or by reducing visibility in the maze, but it’s the Championship Mode where this re-thinking of Pac-Man really shines. The only gripes I have are minor: I wish there was a way to save the replays of my best runs and I wish I could control Pac with the right thumbstick as well as the left. Though some might hesitate at the price of 800 Microsoft points ($10), the game’s playability and depth make it one of the few must-have titles on XBLA, especially for retro gamers and arcade junkies.
Get The Game: Pac-Man CE’s Official XBLA Page
Pac-Man VS. (Gamecube / Nintendo DS)
Never before has Pac-Man been viewed as a party game, but Pac-Man VS. turned the arcade classic into one of the best casual multiplayer games you will find. The game was originally a bonus pack-in game with Pac World 2, R Racing, and I-Ninja on the Gamecube and was later included on the Namco Museum DS compilation.
Pac-Man Vs’s gameplay is very similar to the original game, however, this time one person controlls Pac-Man, while the other three people play as the ghosts. Pac-Man tries to get points by eating fruit, pellets, and power pellets(which turn the ghosts blue and Pac-Man can then eat them), while avoiding the three ghosts.
The ghost that captures Pac-Man will get to play as Pac-Man, and the two people will have to switch the GBA and controller around. Now the new person will try to get as many points as possible before getting caught and give up the GBA. This whole thing works quite well, and it’s pretty easy to understand once you start playing it.
Since 3-on-1 is obviously too much of an advantage for the ghosts, the GBA connectivity comes to the rescue on the Gamecube (and DS owners each have their own screen). The person playing Pac-Man sees the entire gamescreen just like they are playing a normal game of Pac-Man. The ghosts, on the other hand, only see a very limited part of the map that contains a small radius around their own location.
The fruits give Pac-Man points if eaten, but ghosts can also eat the fruits as well, giving them points in addition to an expanded viewing range for a limited time, briefly giving them a better chance to catch Pac-Man. When Pac-Man is caught, the ghost who caught him gets to play as Pac-Man in the next round, and the battle continues. As soon as one player earns the pre-selected point value required for victory, the game ends. The higher the point value you choose, the longer the game.
The players in the role of ghosts must coordinate their efforts to track down Pac-Man. The only helpful hint is the color trail that briefly appears in Pac-Man’s wake. Cooperation among the ghosts is crucial and can create a great sense of cooperation and teamwork as one ghost player may figure out where Pac-Man is and yell over to the other ghosts to urge them to team up on him.
The twist is that as soon as Pac-Man is captured, the team of ghosts changes and then two of the ghosts are trying to hunt down a player that they were just cooperating with a minute ago. This goes on until the end of the game, so it is a great roller coaster of gameplay emotions. Usually there is one player that is a little more skilled than the others. So there can be quite a bond between the lesser players to take the dominant player down. Such love fills the room at this point.
Even though on the surface the game is not very complex, there are a number of techniques that can give the game depth. Some examples are ghosts guarding the last few dots on the map and Pac-Man hovering over a power pellet until the ghosts get close. Tactics that are dependent on the people you are playing with, and how they react in each situation. No game is going to be the same, reducing the possibility for boredom. This is an incredible improvement over the limited AI in the original Pac-Man arcade game. In the end, Pacman VS is a great example of an old, established game being given a new makeover for the current generation. It’s classic Pac-Man with a competitive, multiplayer edge.
Get The Game:
Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (PS1, N64, Dreamcast, GBA)
On the surface, Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness looks like another one of those stick Pac-Man in a platformer game like Pac-World or Pac-Land. However, if you spend some time on the game, you realize it isn’t really a platformer at all, but instead focuses more on the original Pac-Man maze and ghost mechanics that made the original games great.
Even though most of the game does involve mazes, it’s the puzzles that will stop your progress. Most of the puzzles aren’t that hard, but a few will stump you for a bit. There are blocks to push, TNT to explode, and springboards that propel you upward. It is usually crucial that you solve these puzzles to progress through the game. The difficulty level of these puzzle progress nicely through the game and eventually will challenge more experienced gamers.
It is often important to also grab as many pellets as you can throughout the mazes. At certain points you will encounter a gate that requires you are in possession of a certain number of pellets. If you don’t have enough, you’ll have to go back and search for the ones you missed. Players are awarded stars for completing different tasks, such as finding all the fruit in a level, munching all the pellets in a level, or beating the level in time-trial mode. Initially, earning one star per level will get you to the next stage, but you must go back and earn more stars to unlock later levels.
One of the most compelling modes is Time Trial. You have to know the maze and puzzles by heart and blaze through them in lightning speed in order to finish in the given time. As opposed to the Quest mode, you aren’t trying to gain points with pellets and fruit. Rather you can pick up stopwatches along the way to increase your available time. And you’ll need it, because you have to be quick and know the levels well. You still have to solve puzzles on the way and do much of what you had to do in the normal mode. While you don’t have to worry about pellets, you still have to worry about enemies. If they hit you you’ll lose time — anywhere from two to 10 seconds.
Multiplayer mode supports up to four players, has numerous levels, and has three different game types: Dot Mania, Ghost Tag, and Da Bomb. In Dot Mania you must collect 80 pellets to win, while at the same time defending yourself against ghosts and sabotaging your opponents progress. Ghost Tag is just like it sounds. As a ghost you have to tag a Pac-Person to turn into one. This way you can collect the pellets as a Pac-being, and whoever eats 50 first wins. (Somewhat similar concept to Pac-Man VS) And finally, “Da Bomb” mode is a lot like a game of hot potato.
You can usually find a copy of Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness on its variety of platforms quite affordably, so it’s well worth the small investment if you was some simple but fulfilling Pac-Man-inspired gameplay.
Get The Game: Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness (All Platforms) on eBay / Amazon.com
Pac-Mania (Arcade, Amiga, C64, NES, SMS, Genesis, GBA)
Pac-mania has an isometric viewpoint, the ability to jump, and a turbo power-up (although it is not very frequent, I consider it a significant addition). With this new graphical presentation, Pac-Man always occupies the center of the screen and a virtual camera moves around the level to follow him. All of this is delivered with a high level of polish, by Namco themselves.
There are a few ”special” items throughout Pac-Mania that appear along with the fruit beneath the ghost box. Some of them are just things like candy, coffee, and other non-fruit that are simply worth thousands of points. Then, there’s also a large green dot that could appear, which makes Pac-Man go faster. However, it wears off once Pac-Man consumes a power pill and the power pill wears off.
Last, but certainly not least, a large red dot. If Pac-Man is lucky enough to eat one of those, the ghosts turn blue for a VERY short time. Though it doesn’t last long as a power pill, what it DOES do well is increase the points for eating a ghost–400, 1600, 7650, 7650, etc. until you lose a life! Great help in getting the 100,000 points needed for an extra life!
In Pac-Mania, there are more than just four ghosts. In the first level, in addition to Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, is Sue, a purple ghost that is VERY aggressive. There are also two other new ghosts, Funky and Spunky (green and steel grey), that jump whenever Pac-Man jumps. In later stages, larger numbers of ghosts appear in a single stage. Also, bonus objects in this game not only include traditional point-scoring fruits, but also power-up items that can have random effects, such as doubling the point values of ghosts or causing Pac-Man to move much faster than normal.
Having described the features of Pac-mania, I’d like to discuss versions… I tried the arcade version (and the GBA port, which is based directly on the arcade version) – I can’t really get used to it, it feels way too cramped for me (I can see that the game is still good that way, but I’m just spoiled). The arcade version has more colors, but the Amiga version has more “resolution” (you see more of your surroundings) – it makes the game easier (which you may or may not like) but I think it’s much more enjoyable. In terms of music they are about on par, as the Amiga is no slouch in the sound department.
I want to be clear: I recommend Pac-mania regardless of version. If you play the arcade version, you are bound to enjoy the game greatly, but you probably will find yourself wishing that you could see further – trust me on this and do try the Amiga port (see how to emulate Amiga games here). Even if you think that the difference in Pac-mania versions is not worth getting into Amiga emulation, there are other nice games that an emulated Amiga will allow you to play, games that more than make it worth the trouble.
If you would like a portable version, look for the Pac-Man Collection for the Gameboy Advance, not only does it include a nice port of Pac-Mania, but a number of other great Pac-Man games including Pac-Man Arrangement, which we will cover next.
Get The Game:
- Find Pac-Mania on eBay: PS2 / XBox / Gamecube / GBA
- Find Pac-Mania on Amazon.com: PS2 / XBox / Gamecube / GBA>
Pac-Man Arrangement (Arcade, GBA, Gamecube, XBox, PS2)
Back in the mid 1990’s Namco released a couple of “Namco Arcade Classics” arcade cabinets that had a number of their classic games on them, but as modernized versions called “Arrangements”. Pac-Man Arrangement, in particular was part of the Volume 2 release in 1996.
As opposed to the isometric view of Pac-Mania, Pac-Man Arrangement stayed closer to the original look and feel of Pac-Man. Of course, the graphics looked more like a Neo-Geo game and the actual gameplay had some subtitle enhancements to spice things up.
In Pac-Man Arrangement, our pellet-chompin’ hero actually has a little more speed, making it easier to catch up to the ghosts. There are also “Dash” arrows throughout many of the levels that will shoot Pac-Man down a straightaway. These can act as both a way to get around and evade quicker, but if you cross the path of a ghost while “dashing”, it will make the ghosts dizzy and temporarily motionless.
Since Pac-Man has some extra abilities, the ghosts also get an upgrade in this installment to level the playing field. Each ghost has characteristics similar to those displayed by their counterparts in the original arcade game. There is also a new yellow ghost named Kinky. While the four main ghosts are only edible for a brief period after Pac-Man eats an energizer, Kinky is always vulnerable to attack, and thus is always blue except for when Pac-Man loses a life. If he is eaten by Pac-Man, he acts as an energizer, making the other ghosts vulnerable to attack as well for a brief time.
Kinky’s only means of defense is to merge with another ghost and create a Big Ghost with special abilities (depending on with which ghost he merges). The special ghost powers can either make it easier to the ghost to attack Pac-Man or make his job harder by throwing extra pellets in the maze.
Overall, Pac-Man Arrangement is one of the most polished modern Pac-Man game that balances keeping the original look and feel while adding the right balance of modernizations to make it engaging and addicting. There is even a final boss level with a large robot ghost – a nice little touch, if you ask me.
Even though Pac-Man Arrangement was originally an arcade game, it wasn’t very common. Of course, you could emulate it on MAME, but there are also some excellent console versions included in the PS2, XBox, and Gamecube versions of Namco Museum. A high-quality portable version is also included in the Gameboy Advance’s Pac-Man Collection. (Which I still deem worthy of playing on a DS). There is also a Pac-Man game by the name of “Pac-Man Arrangement” on the PSP’s Namco Museum, but it is not the same game, but rather just a pure graphical upgrade of the original Pac-Man game.
Get The Game:
- Find Pac-Man Arrangement on eBay: PS2 / XBox / Gamecube / GBA
- Find Pac-Man Arrangement on Amazon.com: PS2 / XBox / Gamecube / GBA
Crush Roller (Arcade, Famicom, Neo-Geo Pocket)
Crush Roller (also know as Make Trax in American arcades) bears a certain resemblance to Pac-Man, but is a unique entry. You go through a maze, just like in Pac-Man, however, in Crush Roller, you control a brush and you need to paint the streets instead of eating pellets. But just like Pac-Man, there’s plenty of baddies you’ll have to avoid while doing accomplishing your goal.
In addition to this basic gameplay mechanic, there are a few other differences between the standard Pac-Man games and Crush Roller. First of all, you actually have to cover all the area of the level in order to clear it. Remember, in the original game, you can turn back to get pellets can avoid covering the region between pellets. You may need to pass the same spot twice because turning might leave a spot unpainted.
There also some enemies (that you can eliminate on touch) that will mess up the paint (a cat leaving footprints, for example) so that you need to cover it again. There are also “bridges” throughout Crush Roller’s levels that you can circulate on, but also go under, allowing for interesting level designs.
And finally, Instead of grabbing “power pellets” to make your enemies vulnerable, you can crush the enemies in some segments of the level, by turning into a roller brush (hence “Crush roller”).
A Neo Geo Pocket Color update of the game was released and some consider it to be the superior version of the game. Additionally, it was ported as an unlicensed release to the Nintendo Famicom as Brush Roller.
Considering that Pac-Man was by far the biggest thing that happened to the video game industry in the early 1980’s it should come as no surprise that there were a number of Pac-Man clones in the arcades, consoles, and personal computers soon after its initial success. However, unlike most of the Pac-clones out there, 3-Demon puts a completely different (and, at the time, revolutionary) spin on the classic arcade game.
Back in 1983, 3-Demon was a game that somebody would describe as “3-D Pac-Man!”, but you wouldn’t believe them until you tried it. Back then, it was really a sight to behold. 3-Demon uses wire frame graphics to create what is essentially a first-person, 3D Pac-Man game. Considering its 1983 vintage, 3-Demon looks pretty nice, but of course, it looks pretty bare-bones compared to games like DOOM.
Of course, the main concept of 3-Demon is exactly the same as a normal game of Pac-Man. The main difference is that you are limited to a first person perspective instead of a complete top-down view of the maze. Since it would be very difficult to know if ghosts are around with only being able to see right in front of you, you have a “ghost radar” in the corner of the screen.
One of the most interesting features of 3-Demon was the ability to optionally drop down to the next level once a certain number of dots were eaten by hitting the down-arrow key. At first glance, this seemed silly. After all, wouldn’t you rather get the end-level? However, if you were in a tight situation and had no way out, you could drop down and live to fight another day. Of course, the ghosts on the next level were even faster and tougher, so this was not a decision to be made lightly.
You don’t know about the hesitation between fear and courage you can feel until you turn a corner while pursued by a ghost, only to see another ghost heading toward you from the far end of a corridor. You don’t really think about this in a top-down Pac-Man games, but it’s a whole different situation in first-person.
I’m rather surprised that there isn’t a newer version of this game floating around (perhaps there is, and I’m just not aware of it). I would have though some freeware developer out there could easily use a FPS engine or something to make a remake.
Since, it is considered abandonware, it should be ok to distribute. If you have a PC that can run DOS or a DOS emulator, I encourage your to give it a try.
Get The Game: Download 3-Demon
Pac The Man X (Max OS X)
It isn’t too difficult to find elegant software solutions for the Mac, and in this case, the same can be said for Pac-Man clones. Pac The Man X is a straightforward Pac-Man clone that oozes the slick elegance of a polished Mac OS X application.
There aren’t any gimmicks to be found like in most other clones or spinoffs, but it offers both a mode for two simultaneous players, OpenGL-accelerated graphics, online score, and a level editor.
There are 50 official levels included with the game, but there are also another 90 user-created levels that were interesting enough to be included as well. There are also four different diffiuclty levels, including a “Master” level that only lets you see a small radius of the area around Pac-Man. (Imagine Pac-Man running around in the dark with only a small lantern as high light source)
Unfortunately, I don’t have a Mac to try Pac The Man X out on, but if you do, the game is completely free so you have nothing to lose. I have heard many good things about this game and the screenshots look good enough to eat, so I’m sure you won’t be dissapointed.
Get The Game: Download Pac The Man X
Mad Mix Game (PC, Spectrum, Amstrad, C64, Atari ST, MSX)
Mad Mix Game (yes, the actual name of it includes “game”) is a Pac-man clone made by a spanish software company called Topo Soft (if you can read spanish, here is the wikipedia entry ). It was also released in the UK as Mad Mix Game: The Pepsi Challenge.
It introduced some interesting elements to the Pac-man formula that make it quite worthwhile to play (and may have been historically the first to have thought up some of them – although I am no historian of Pac-man ideas by any means!):
- Power pellets are replaced by special tiles, you don’t need to gobble them to clear the level, and you don’t gobble them if you are still under the effect of another status changing power-up.
- There is a specific power-up that lets you destroy enemies, but doesn’t let you clear pellets (turns you into an hippo).
- There are lanes (that you need to clear) that once entered will lead you along them without being able to exit midway.
- One specific type of enemy (a ladybug) replenishes pellets where you have cleared them already, similar to the enemies that mess up the paint in Crush Roller (and like in their Crush roller equivalent, the ladybug won’t kill you either – however it is only temporarily eliminated and you must use a power-up to kill it)
- Another specific type of enemy (that does kill you) transforms the pellets so that you can’t clear them, requiring you to clear them twice (first with a specific re-usable power-up to return them to normal).
- There are lanes where you turn into a space-ship or a tank, becoming invulnerable and able to shoot the ghosts (if they are in your line of fire).
These innovations would mean near to nothing if the game was crap, but the level design doesn’t let the ideas down. You can try the game on an emulator of one of the original versions (possibly the Atari ST is the best). You can also try the game on the PC remake, which I recommend.
Get The Game: Download Mad Mix Game Remake
Mad Mix 2 (PC, Amstrad, Spectrum, MSX)
This is a sequel to Mad Mix Game, also by Topo Soft. Instead of making another spin-off of Pac-man, they created a spin-off of Pac-mania (a spin-off of a spin-off). If you are like me and prefer Pac-mania, this comes as good news.
Like in Pac-mania, you can jump as much as you want, and there is a turbo power-up (that you get if you catch a pellet that decided to run away from you!). The enemies are more varied than in Pac-mania: on top of regular ghosts, there are skulls that mess up your trajectory (without killing you), mummies that jump when you do and kill you by squeezing you against a wall (they won’t kill you by touching – usually), and vampires that on top of killing you, sometimes drop a poisoned green pellet that will make you crap out pellets wherever you go through (instead of gobbling them)! There are also traps, and other objects like large black balls you can roll over enemies to kill them (or get rolled yourself).
Despite all the nice ideas, the gameplay doesn’t gel as much as it does in Mad mix game (I’ll say it this way: I personally prefer Mad mix game over Pac-man, but I prefer Pac-mania over Mad mix 2). The isometric view isn’t as kind on the less linear level design of Mad mix 2, and sometimes it even looks like you can go to a square and you actually can’t. The turbo power-up is very hard to use even under the effect of a power pellet (as you will often run into a trap), and winds up getting you killed so many times due to the excessive speed that you start to think whether you are better off avoiding it. Finally, each level is too large and this usually leads you to be hunting for the last stray dots as a chore, unless you are always very methodical about it (hard to do with all the enemies, traps and level design).
Despite all its flaws, I find the game to be quite good, and definitively good enough for me to believe I should feature it – and recommend it, particularly if you like Pac-mania.
I have played the DOS version of Mad mix 2, which is probably the best version. The Amstrad CPC version may be close in graphics, but there is the extra trouble of emulating it; if you fancy graphics that are practically black & white for an even more retro feel, you can have a go at either the Spectrum or MSX version.
Pac Maniac (PC)
Pac Maniac is a remake of Pac-Mania that sticks very close to the original in look and feel. There are some differences, as for one (except in easy difficulty) you have limited jumps, and the turbo power-up (likewise limited except in easy) is a short burst of speed activated on demand (rather than by collecting the infrequent green pellet of Pac-mania, which gives a longer duration).
The graphics are competent (although personally I don’t like the 3D style so much). In some instances the perspective obscures some pellets behind the walls. In other instances, the “close” viewpoint doesn’t leave you much time to react in time and gets you killed – this happens in the arcade version of Pac-mania as well (which is why I favor the Amiga version), but in Pac maniac the problem is compounded because of the perspective having markedly preferred directions (so for example, moving down is much more dangerous than going up, as you can see further upwards then downwads).The level design provides a good balance of challenge, neither being too generous nor skimpy with the power pellets. There are also special level specific elements thrown in (like patches of vegetation that slow you down on a forest level, or a speed-up square in an industrial setting).
The first few times I played the game the collision detection felt a bit odd, and it still feels a bit too strict but I don’t think I ever got killed unfairly – maybe it’s just the other games that are more forgiving and I’m used to that. So it’s better to play it safe rather than relying on the jump to pull you out of most tight spots, as that tactic will backfire often (and besides, you don’t have unlimited jumps unless you are playing on Easy). It is often better to rely on the speed bursts to avoid ghosts (by a decent safe margin).
Without a doubt that Pac maniac is a good effort. The extras (particularly the controllable speed burst) make it a very interesting remake of Pac-mania, but I think the original has more charm (in graphics and gameplay as well). Fans of Pac-man and/or Pac-mania should definitively try Pac-maniac, and I recommend it.
Get The Game: Download Pac Maniac
Pacz!, by Danny Boyd, is a later version of Pacman worlds (no hyphen) – it isn’t really a sequel as it’s basically the same game with further polish. Pacman worlds was already an extremely polished remake of Pac-man with lots and lots of bells and whistles. The graphics and music are quite good, for a start (particularly as this is now a freeware title).It is perhaps accurate to say it is a remake of Pac-mania, as you can jump when in a pinch, although only a small limited number of jumps are available per stage (much more limited than in the other remake I feature, Pac maniac). Pacz! also includes the popular turbo power-up which is triggered relatively frequent and by collecting 5 pieces of bonus fruit that appear behind you when you clear pellets that shine.
Pacz! strays further from the classic in look and feel than Pac maniac. In Pacz! you can use bombs (like jumps, a very small limited number of them). The bomb blast is somewhat Bomberman style, so this addition was perhaps inspired by Hyper Pacman. There is also a store where you can upgrade your number of jumps, bombs, get extra lives and acquire other interesting power ups (like my favorite, permanent turbo until you lose a life).
The four basic ghosts are aligned with the four classical elements, and have respective different powers to hinder you (except the Water ghost’s ability, which helps – and I guess the Fire ghost can also help you out by burning pellets, as long as you don’t die to the fire outbreak).
The maps are well designed and typically have something special according to the set (examples are cars going in roads in the city level, secret tunnels to treasures in the Pirate level, or patches of ice that you skid on in the ice levels). In many levels there are speed limit zones, and if you go through them in turbo mode, a Police ghost spawns to come after you, sirens on. In others, another special ghost spoils pellets green forcing you to clear them twice (unless you have active another store purchased power up).
Some of the levels are “boss” levels where you have additional scenery specific things hindering (a ghost Pirate ship shooting cannon balls at you is a good example). You can also enter bonus level mini-games for extra points – and extra fun (for example, there is a platform game where you have to jump from platform to platform to get to the highest point, and there is a Space invaders like shooter mini-game).
To top it all off, you can also play a version of original, no-frills, Pac-man – with updated graphics conspicuously similar to Pac-man arrangement in looks (this remake may have been made before Namco started putting Pac-man arrangement in their compilations – although I didn’t check). If that wasn’t enough, you can also unlock further classic games (like Asteroids)! This doesn’t mean much in PC, as it’s not like you can’t get dozens of clones of any classic games, but it is a classy extra that gives you something extra to strive for during play sessions as an achievement (something that Live Arcade has shown to be popular).
Shareware PC Games Worth A Try…
Ivo tried a bunch of shareware titles for this article, hoping to find something exceptionally good. He didn’t, and although he found plenty that were exceptionally bad, there were actually some good ones that may be worth the registration fee for the full version. The beauty of shareware is that you can decide for yourself after playing the free trial (and I already saved you the trouble of wading through the worse stuff). All three involve one of the best ideas to tweak the Pac-man formula: weaponry (I couldn’t find any nice shareware Pac-man spin-off that didn’t involve shooting – go figure).
- Munch-a-Bunch has high production values, and if it wasn’t too easy (at least it was in the trial version) it would make a compelling case towards justifying the registration fee. As it is, definitively worth a try and you can see if you like it.
- Pac-Doom isn’t even a proper arcade game in the usual meaning. It has some elements, and there is pellet gobbling going on (they count as your ammo). It is a significant departure from Pac-man, you don’t even need to clear the level to continue – but it is a decent game that may be worth the registration fee if you like it more than I did.
- Pacshooter 3D has decent production values and is well balanced difficulty wise – something which seems tricky when shooting the enemies is allowed in a Pac-man spin-off (they allowed the enemies to shoot as well – seems to work). Possibly the best of the shareware games I tried, definitively worth your time to try it, and maybe even worth your money to have the full version.