Review: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus (Switch)

Old meets new in this grand re-imagining of the beloved Pac-Man formula.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 03/27/2018 13:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Ingenious evolution of the Pac-Man formula; stunning presentation; co-op is very fun; immensely replayable
Poison Mushroom for...
Adventure Mode is okay for a change of pace but is a tad superfluous

I wasn’t born when the original Pac-Man debuted in 1980. Looking back on that crazy era when a video game could get people out of their homes and into arcades, though, is always fascinating to me. It conjures visions of darkened, cavernous rooms lined with countless arcade cabinets covered in gorgeous artwork and bright, vivid colors emanating across screens. People waiting in lines, quarters in pockets just waiting to play whatever the hottest game of the moment happened to be. Loud music and noises that made it hard to hear the person next to you. It must have been an amazing time to be alive and gaming… and thankfully Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus (PMCE2+) offers us a chance to feel some of the excitement that players back in the day likely felt when they first got their hands on Bandai Namco’s beloved mascot.

PMCE2+ is ingenious in how it takes the classic Pac-Man formula and adds just enough to it that anyone from series veterans to newbies can begin playing and then immediately become hooked. Like the halcyon days of Pac-Man in the arcades, PMCE2+ has that undeniable spark that lured in so many fans from the get-go. It’s easy to grasp: avoid ghosts while eating all of the pellets in the maze. What makes PMCE2+ different and freshens it for today is a handful of changes, both mechanical and aesthetic.

From the mechanical standpoint, what was arguably the most important element implemented in the original Pac-Man Championship Edition has returned here: blazing speed. Unlike the plodding pace of the original Pac-Man, PMCE2+ is all about ramping up those RPMs. Each maze is designed to encourage finding the most optimal path available to collect all of the pellets on the playing field in a given moment. The pellets never fill the whole maze; instead, they appear in an assortment of patterns on the playing field waiting to be eaten. Once Pac-Man eats an entire assortment, a new pattern appears and the eating begins anew.

As Pac-Man is zooming around the maze eating, he’s also passing by sleeping ghosts. While there are ghosts actively chasing him as is typical in previous games, what makes PMCE2+ different is that each sleeping ghost he passes awakens and forms a chain or “train” of fellow spirits that follows every move Pac-Man makes. The more pellets Pac-Man eats and ghosts he awakens, the faster Pac-Man becomes, but so too does the lengthening pursuit force behind him. It’s a wild game of cat and mouse, with the player having to rapidly adjust to Pac-Man’s increased speed, learn the various assortments the pellets will appear in so as to best plan a course of attack to eat them all, and keep track of the ghosts separate from the train in order to avoid running into them. This all culminates in the moments when the ghost train becomes edible and Pac-Man can then gobble the entire, long trail of fiends, which is easily one of the most satisfying feelings in all of video gaming. Crazy!

To be more precise, crazy fun. PMCE2+ has taken all that the first game got right and somehow made it even better. For one thing, there’s now some leniency in terms of how many hits Pac-Man can take from ghosts. Run into the train enough times and it’ll eventually be sent back to the origin at the center of the maze. This gives players some slack to learn the ropes of each maze without having to worry about being instantly killed at the slightest touch of a ghost. There are also now some insane jumps on particular mazes that send Pac-Man flying across the screen to different parts of the playing field (this has also been implemented as an instant escape that can be used sometimes when cornered by ghosts). It’s wild how what was already so innovative in the first game has been made even more so in this sequel.

There are a ton of visual modifications that can be made to the characters and the maps that really riff on the various eras of Pac-Man. From sprite-styled looks to more modern fare, there are a ton of combinations of themes and colors to choose from. They don’t impact gameplay, but are part of the welcome trend in gaming of allowing players to customize their experience a bit, even if it’s just a superfluous detail. The music, meanwhile, is a perfect mix of electronic beats that complement the on-screen action. This is a game that gets frantic very quickly, so it makes sense to incorporate a soundtrack that is reflective of the gameplay itself. Honestly, PMCE2+ would feel right at home in dance clubs the way that Sony pushed WipeOut back in the nineties.

Many players will be happy enough trying to earn an “S” rank in every maze and climbing up the leaderboards, but there’s plenty of other stuff to do in PMCE2+ beyond that. For starters, there’s an Adventure Mode that allows players to engage in mazes with specific criteria that must be met in order to successfully move on to the next. Completing these mission-based levels earns players stars that eventually allow them to face a boss. There’s not a ton that makes this too different from Score Attack mode, but it does provide a welcome change of pace. There’s also Co-Op mode, which is surprisingly harder than stock Score Attack. Ghosts will provide an instant kill when touched, but in lieu of bumping into them and surviving, there’s a throwback to the original Championship Edition in that time seems to slow for a moment when the player strays too close to an enemy, allowing for a last-second dodge to safety. Things get very, very crazy in Co-Op for anyone looking to play PMCE2+ with a friend. Part of the craziness is owed to the boss battles that happen in this mode. Players face off against an enormous ghost that chases them across the playing field. In a huge departure from the norm, players can jump and even attack the ghost utilizing power pellets to do so. It’s a great test of teamwork, although the shift to the new control scheme can be a bit jarring. After the initial couple of encounters it becomes second nature. I don’t tend to be huge on co-op play in most games, but it’s very well done here and definitely worth a look.

PMCE2+ is an excellent addition to the Switch eShop, not to mention a spectacular evolution of the Pac-Man franchise. A lot of games have legacies, as Nintendo fans know very well, but some of the older titles that pioneered the industry are either stuck in re-releases or not as engaging to today’s players. If PMCE2+ is proof of anything, it’s that with a little ingenuity, the core mechanics of these classics can easily appeal to a contemporary audience. This will not be the first time you’ve heard a glowing recommendation for a Switch game from me or any of the other writers at Nintendojo, but I implore you: go download this game. It’s amazingly good.

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.

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