Review of PAC-MAN 256


PAC-MAN 256 is a game available on Steam for Windows, Mac, and GNU (Linux/SteamOS) (also on mobile, but those have pay-to-win elements and I feel aren’t worth mentioning) released in 2016 by BANDAI NAMCO and developed by Hipster Whale, 3 Sprockets, and BANDAI NAMCO.  It is an endless runner game inspired by the classic Pac-Man game.

And, you know, it’s not bad at all, for one of those new games.

You start out in the middle of a randomly generated Pac-Man maze seen at a slightly right-skewed perspective, moving upward through an endless random maze full of dots, ghosts (your enemies that will end your run), power pellets (that let you temporarily turn the tables on the ghosts and eat them for points), and other powerups and elements specific to the game.  Your objective is to simply score as many points as possible while going as far as you can.  Meanwhile, behind you is the “glitch”, a representation of the glitched right side of the maze on the 256th level of the original Pac-Man game, motivating you to move forward.  If you are caught by either a ghost or go deep enough into the edge of the glitch, the game is over — no extra lives here.

Helping you out are other powerups that you can choose three from any that you have unlocked so far by eating more dots, and upgraded using coins you gain by moving over in the maze or completing missions such as eating so many of a certain powerup or killing so many ghosts.  These basically either give you other ways to kill the ghosts or at least limit their movement, or enhance your ability to get a higher score in your run.  (My favorite three are the one that turns Pac-Man into a bomb where any ghost you run into explodes as well as a large area that explodes around you when the power-up wears off, a laser shooting out of Pac-Man’s mouth that kills any ghost it touches, and my favorite, an electric powerup that destroys any ghost it touches as well as fairly quickly kills ghosts anywhere on the screen.)  There are lots of other interesting additions to the game, including being able to clear the maze of ghosts and gain a good bonus by collecting 256 dots consecutively (there are gaps in the dots here and there that will reset the counter, so it’s not just moving backwards that will break the chain), tunnels that work similarly to the ones in the original Pac-Man except that you also gain temporary invincibility when you exit one side, and arrow strips that will speed you up going along their line or slow you down going the other way.

The ghosts themselves add a very good strategy element to moving around the maze, as each ghost have a specific movement pattern you can exploit to avoid getting trapped.  For example, the red ghost will simply chase you, the pink one will only move towards you very quickly if you come into its line of sight, the gray one will stay still until you come close to it, the blue and orange ones prefer to cut you off instead of directly coming for you, and there are lines of ghosts that will move along a single horizontal corridor as more of a blocker than a real threat.  I really like this element of the game as it very much makes the game more of just a mindless, random runner game and hearkens back to the original game and the patterns of its ghosts.

Of course, the game has the trappings of its mobile pay to win roots — the game itself does get old fairly quickly, and the only real reason to play it for a long time (like I did) is to finish all ten achievements, especially the last one which requires a very long grind to level all the powerups to their maximum level, something that takes a very long time given that each powerup needs a total of 4,080 coins to fully level up and there are 18 powerups… and each coin you eat gives you either 4 or 10 coins and the missions will give you either 128, 256, 512, or 1,024 coins, heavily weighted to the low end of those numbers.  But I did it.  Suck it, game. 

PAC-MAN 256 is a very fun diversion, and if you like the original Pac-Man like I do, you might enjoy this.  Give it a try.