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Pac-Man Vs. Package Art

Pac-Man Vs.

When the GameCube debuted, Nintendo announced their plans to link the Game Boy Advance as a controller to open a whole new world of gaming possibilities. My reaction was, to be entirely honest, what possibilities? A Game Boy Advance is far more limited than the mighty standard controller. The only advantage it offers is that personal screen, which doesn't seem to be all that useful when the player's focus is naturally going to be on the TV.

Still, Shigeru Miyamoto seems Hell-bent on pushing the idea, and to that end, he's borrowed Namco's Pac-Man to create a whole new kind of multi-player experience. Although this little "tech demo freebie" still doesn't demonstrate why connectivity is the next big thing, it is a cute novelty that demonstrates the potential of simpler games and packs a lot of classic fun.


There's really nothing outstanding going on here. The player with the Game Boy is treated to a more or less faithful recreation of the original Pac-Man arcade game; there isn't even so much as a special color pallette involved in switching to the new custom-built levels.

Meanwhile, the players controlling the ghosts get to see the world in beautiful real-time 3D. The effect is about as spectacular as the old isometric Pac-Mania arcade game. One nice bonus is a change of scenery to go along with the theme of each maze, but there's nothing especially eye-grabbing.


A few jazzy Pac-Man tunes have been remixed from previous titles and run in the background on the GameCube. Sound effects are limited to the classic "wocka-wocka-wocka" from the original arcade version. Inexplicably, the voice of Mario offers play-by-play commentary as the game goes on. It's largely unnecessary, but it's occasionally helpful when you're playing as the ghosts to know when things happen beyond your peripheral vision, like who ate the fruit.


Pac-Man has long remained one of the best examples of how much fun can be derived from a simple premise. Although the game has been updated to involve two to four players, very little has been added to the actual gameplay; the focus is still on the tried-and-true formula of gobbling dots and outrunning the ghosts.

To take advantage of the Game Boy linkup, the controller setup takes just a bit to get used to. Controller port four links up to a Game Boy Advance, and the other controller ports are used for normal Gamecube controllers. Every time a player takes over control of Pac-Man, including when the first player to be Pac-Man is randomly chosen at the beginning of the game, the new Pac-Man trades the Game Boy for his GameCube controller. It's an untidy solution, especially if you've got four players and no Wavebirds; if you switch often enough, you'll find yourself with a tangled mess of cords. Still, it's better than requiring each player to get a Game Boy. If there's a shortage of players, the computer will take over the extra ghosts and act on behalf of the first player to touch them.

The object of the game is to reach a certain point total before the other players. Although the ghost players have a few opportunities to score points along the way, there's a premium on gaining and maintaining control of the gobbling yellow sphere. Not only does Pac-Man get points for gobbling dots, fruit, and ghosts, but he gets a 1600 point bonus if he clears a maze without being caught. A ghost can only get control of Pac-Man by capturing him. The ghosts play in tiny "bubbles" that show their immediate surroundings, but Pac-Man leaves a short trail behind him in the 3-D maze to make it a bit easier to hunt him down. It's a very interesting way to look at an old familiar game -- after all, who hasn't wondered what it's like to be a ghost? Even playing as Pac-Man is a new and refreshing experience when you're playing against real human opponents who don't behave in the predictable patterns that the AI traditionally demonstrates. Depending on the point total agreed on and the skill of the players involved, a single game can last a matter of minutes or nearly an hour.

Unfortunately, there's not much more depth to the game than that. Apart from a measly six mazes, there's nothing in the way of variety. The game doesn't even use a memory card to keep track of statistics; what you see is what you get.


Multiplayer is the only way to play Pac-Man Vs. Although a copy of the original Pac-Man would've been a nice bonus for single players to diddle around with, the omission of a single-player version can be forgiven since this is a freebie to begin with.

It might not be the first thing to come to mind when you get together with a few friends for a game night, but Pac-Man has a universal charm that's hard to deny. Every round is quick and frantic and offers lots of opportunities for sudden turn-arounds. The more humans you can get hooked up to it at once, the better it is. Not bad for a disc that you basically get for free.


It may not be the killer app for connectivity that it wants to be, but Pac-Man Vs. is a surprisingly worthwhile way to spend some quality multiplayer time -- and you can't beat the price. Any Pac-Man fan would do well to pick it up in a promotional offer, particularly the player's choice Pac-Man World 2 bundle.

final score 7.0/10

Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
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"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"

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