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Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures could very easily have been a generic mess of cliched platformer hopping and bopping, but luckily Namco Bandai has a lot invested in seeing its iconic mascot do well. With a new cartoon series of the same name being heavily marketed, Namco Bandai has gone all-out in polishing up this 2D platformer in an effort to return Pac-Man back to a place of prominence. We here at Nintendojo were particularly smitten with the Wii U version of Ghostly Adventures, and though the 3DS iteration is decidedly different being a 2D platformer, it’s every bit as fun. With quality level design, solid controls, and a perfect recreation of the show on which this title is based, Ghostly Adventures will entertain both kids and grown ups.
Namco Bandai made an interesting gamble in combining gameplay elements from the Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Yoshi’s Island, and Kirby series for Ghostly Adventures. Pac-Man auto-targets, flutter jumps, uses a prehensile tongue, shoots fireballs, and eats his way through the game, all implemented with varying degrees of success. For the most part, this combination of disparate move types works well, as the developers found interesting uses for each. The auto-targeting, for example, sees Pac-Man lunge forward at enemies in sequence, and so long as the player doesn’t interrupt the chain, the score will continue to climb (it’s very similar to the score chaining in Pac-Man Championship Edition). Moves like Pac-Man’s flutter jump serve a more practical purpose, giving players a sort of double jump to help avoid falling into pits or landing on one-hit kill hazards like electricity. Overall, Namco Bandai nailed the feel of all these appropriated moves.
Part of Pac-Man’s offense is fueled by power berries that are acquired over the course of the game that let him use fire and ice, turn into a giant rolling ball, and more. In an effort to keep players from blasting through the game with extreme ease, Namco Bandai made sure that not all of these powers are available from the beginning or usable at once. Instead, powers can be activated one at a time and in limited amounts. Well, mostly limited, as Ghostly Adventures has an abundance of drop-off points where Pac-Man’s allies bring him a fresh supply of berries whenever he runs out. Regardless, the designers kept the powers simple, fun, and useful, with a balance between practicality and offense. Rolling across the stage as an enormous rock Pac-Man ball is particularly awesome!
That’s not to say Pac-Man’s wealth of play control options exist in perfect harmony. There’s a slowness to Pac-Man that makes his movement stiff at times. Going from inhaling a chain of enemies to using Pac-Man’s tongue to latch onto anchor points is functional, but it doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it should. There’s nothing inherently broken about Ghostly Adventures’ controls, it’s just that the gameplay hints at glimmers of complexity that ultimately are never realized. Still, Ghostly Adventures satisfies as a basic platformer despite never exploiting its full potential. Movement and jumping are solid, hit detection is precise, and there’s enough enemy variety to keep things from becoming redundant. Some ghosts hover in clusters that make chaining snappy and fun, while larger spirits require multiple attacks before being felled. Ghostly Adventures isn’t afraid to pack on some challenge, either. There were multiple points in the game where I was legitimately challenged trying to figure out an enemy’s attack pattern and even died on a few occasions. It was refreshing to see a game targeted at kids not be a total pushover.
Graphically, Ghostly Adventures isn’t the prettiest game on 3DS, but it does an admirable job of mirroring the look and feel of the cartoon on which it’s based. The 3D isn’t especially powerful even with the 3D slider maxed out, which will be good for those who worry about younger children playing the game. You can easily play Ghostly Adventures in 2D and not miss a beat. The game runs smoothly, too, with no visual hiccups or audio glitches. Ghostly Adventures is colorful, but environments tend to be bland and overly generic. The actual level design, however, is well-done. Players are encouraged to replay levels after acquiring new abilities in order to reach previously unreachable collectibles. Hunting down those items isn’t as simple as stumbling upon them, either; Ghostly Adventures has branching paths that need to be explored in full in order to complete your collection.
Namco Bandai has struck an interesting balance between the old and new with this fresh take on Pac-Man. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Ghostly Adventures is a reinvention of the franchise, it’s a step in the right direction that will be especially fun for fans of the new cartoon. For everyone else, this is a solid platformer that shows ambition but falls short of greatness. Ghostly Adventures will keep you busy, with plenty of collectibles and secrets to find, a goofy story, and fun gameplay. Definitely keep this one on your radar if you’ve been starved for a solid platformer!
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.