The essence of any good party game is that adding additional players increases the fun exponentially. Let's face it: Pass the Parcel and Twister just don't work as single-player games.
Likewise with any good video game, beating your mates is incalculably more enjoyable than trouncing a predictable AI opponent, particularly those that are incapable of adapting or with exploitable weaknesses.
It's such a shame, then, that Pac-Man Party lacks even a pass-the-handset mode. If ever there was a game that would benefit from Bluetooth, this is it.
In a similar vein to Mario Party, you make your way around a board with a variety of spaces with special properties. Rather than collecting stars, however, your task is to gather 400 cookies and return them to the Cookie Factory by passing or landing on its square.
Spread liberally around each level are Castle squares, upon which upgradeable castles can be built - much like the houses in Monopoly, though you have to land on one of the castle's three squares again to build a new section.
Additionally, landing on a castle square initiates a mini-game which all three players compete in for cookies. Should you land on an opponent's castle and then place higher than him in the ensuing mini-game, control of the castle passes to you.
Step on a special square on the board, or roll an '8' on the movement die, and you'll be rewarded with a Power Cookie.
These give you a temporary boost during the mini-games, such as a protective bubble or a balloon to carry you over obstacles. It's a good idea, but it has the unfortunate effect of making most of the games too easy.
Unfortunately those all-important mini-games are lacklustre, simple affairs which offer little challenge after the first few plays. As there are only 13 of these, three of which are boss fights, you'll soon get tired of repeats.
Considering that you'll only fight the boss on each board once, and that all three games are variants of Whack-a-Mole, that's a mere 11 different mini-games to choose from. The boss fights are made even more redundant by the lack of a substantial reward, and rarely have an impact on the final result.
You'll find yourself trying your best to like Pac-Man Party. The sound and visuals are excellent, and the animations are full of character. The basic concept is a sound one, and the mini-games are initially enough of a challenge to maintain your interest.
Essentially, though, there's just not enough to the game. The glaring omission of multi-player really lets it down, as does the limited selection of mini-games and the ease with which you'll master them. Unless you have absolutely no plans this holiday season, we suggest you give this party a miss.