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Pac-Man World Re-Pac Review


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453259171_Pac-ManWorldRe-Pacboxart.jpg.e7fb79d653c70eb32dd652b9254d6886.jpgPac-Man will always be one of the most important and recognizable figures in video games, but as a 3D platforming star? Maybe not. Originally released in 1999 on the original PlayStation and now updated with visual upgrades and a handful of gameplay adjustments, Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a strange little piece of gaming history, and is perhaps a good reminder that not every video game character needs to make the jump to different genres.
 
As the game begins, Pac-Man's whole family is setting up a birthday party for the yellow dot himself, but the jealous Toc-Man sends out ghosts to kidnap Pac-Man. The ghosts mistakenly take everyone in the family but Pac-Man, so he sets off on a quest to rescue them. Classic basic story for a video game, but it is nice that it's told through some (again, pretty basic) cutscenes.
 
I want to jump straight to the presentation, because there's a baffling decision here but you can fix the issue if you play the game yourself. By default, the game is in resolution mode, meaning the visuals prioritize crisp images and you're left with a noticeably choppy frame rate. It's not quite enough to spoil the gameplay experience but it looks terrible and is honestly a little headache-inducing at times. However, in the options menu you can swap to performance mode instead, prioritizing smooth frame rates at the cost of the resolution. The odd thing though is that the resolution basically doesn't change at all, at least not to a noticeable degree, but the frame rate is significantly smoother—still not quite perfect at times but it won't strain your eyes. Maybe the benefits of resolution mode would be more clear on a different TV, but to me there is absolutely no reason to use resolution mode and you need to change it immediately if you play the game yourself. Aside from this issue though the game's visuals and audio are fairly uninteresting. The game obviously has a more polished look that it must have had back in the day, but the art design, character models, and soundtrack just never quite pop. They're not necessarily bad, but they do feel generic and forgettable.
 
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With that out of the way, Pac-Man World comes from the early days of 3D platforming, and that means it has some pretty simple, slightly sloppy ideas about platforming. It's a fixed-camera game, but you can still move on a 3D plane, i.e. left and right but also toward the screen and away from it. There are definitely times where you have very little sense of depth, and lining up a jump is frustratingly clumsy, especially with Pac-Man's slightly floaty jumps. The bright side is that this remake has added a Yoshi-like flutter-jump to Pac-Man's skills, so you have a small chance to correct any missed jumps. You'll still probably die plenty of times though, it's just that kind of platformer.
 
The good news is that there are also plenty of checkpoints in each level, and you'll pick up plenty of extra lives on your journey. There are also collectibles in each level that help add some depth to the gameplay, because if all you're doing is rushing to the end of the level there's not much interesting game design here, at least nothing that hasn't been seen in plenty of 3D platformers by now. It might have been more fresh when it was first released on the PS1, but today the platforming feels bland.
 
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Back to the collectibles though: you can collect letters to spell out "Pac-Man" in each level, plus one of Pac-Man's family members is trapped in each world, so you'll need to find their cage and a key to free them. Like I said, it's good to have some collectibles to give you more reason to explore every inch of each stage, but it is a little weird that so many of the collectibles require backtracking. For example, there are locked doors that require fruit to open, but oftentimes the fruit you need is somewhere in the level ahead of you, so you need to grab it then return to the door. The strangest thing is that the fruit often isn't far ahead or even hidden at all, you just need to spend a little time to grab it and backtrack. It feels like it's explicitly designed to fill time which, sure, maybe the game needed, because even while doing all of this backtracking, Pac-Man World is a roughly five or six hour game. It's a shame that a game that short can feel so repetitive though.
 
Aside from the 3D platforming, Pac-Man does take some time to get back to his roots in this game. There are bonus levels that play like a classic Pac-Man board, with ghosts chasing you and pellets to collect. Pac-Man World adds a variety of new hazards as well which provide some interesting twists, even if the core action is always the same. Classic Pac-Man mazes are just timeless fun, so it's nice to see them included here.
 
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Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a perfectly decent little trip down memory lane, I'm just not sure who was clamoring to go on this trip. The dated platforming design isn't necessarily bad but it's not terribly exciting either, and even a handful of revamped features don't change the slightly floaty controls, clumsy sense of depth, or bland visual design. Pac-Man World Re-Pac isn't exactly a missed classic nor is it such an oddity that it warrants attention, but if you're looking for a middle-of-the-road 3D platformer, this game fits the bill.
 
Rating: 6 out of 10 Power Pellets
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