Pac-Man is a hero to veterans of '80s arcades and '90s dancefloors. He's a hero to T-shirt manufacturers and plush toy designers. And, of course, he's a hero to game developers everywhere.
Nowhere on Android is the influence of the yellow-bellied pill-popper more evident than in Hexage’s wonderful old skool homage EVAC HD (apart from maybe Pac-Man: Championship Edition, but that doesn't count). In concept, it seems almost identical, but thanks to a few gameplay tweaks and thoughtful differences EVAC maintains a personality all of its own.
Much of this personality comes from the game’s presentation. It’s a decidedly lo-fi affair, opting for firm geometry and mad neon colours. This kind of nu-rave graphical style is exactly what we expect from the people who made Radiant, and it’s as welcome in this maze game as it is in that superb shooter.
All these bright, blocky visuals are perfectly fitted to the retro objective of the game. You play as a purple block, stuck in the maze-riddled lair of the villainous Shadowbox.
As in Pac-Man, the aim is to collect all of the dots while avoiding enemies, in this case red ‘security’ blocks. Once you’ve collected everything, you head to a gateway to progress.
But unlike in Pac-Man there's more than one way to deal with the red blocks that stand in your way. You can hide from them in designated hiding spots, while by pushing one of the levels' many movable blocks you can trap them or crush them. Or you can always do things the old-fashioned way and simply leg it.
Ghosts in the machine
There are some features within the game’s 32 levels that bring a little more complexity. Spikes and pressure switches are there to act as traps and release swarms of dangerous reds, while you often need to push boxes in certain ways to avoid getting stuck.
While the enemies themselves are a little slow and easily outwitted, it’s these obstacles that will make escape that little bit more challenging. However, in an otherwise fast-paced game, it is a little annoying having to restart a level when you push a box the wrong way.
Another minor annoyance is that when a dialogue box crops up – usually the Shadowbox taunting you – it disappears quickly again if you’re already pressing any of the Xperia Play’s controls. This usually happens because you’re busy holding down a direction on the D-pad (which perfectly replaces touchscreen movement) in an effort to keep moving. It's a pity Hexage didn’t limit the skip function to one button, because you end up missing a lot of the game’s great underlying humour.
These small gripes aside, EVAC HD is a great update of a classic. What’s more is that it has been released for free in the last couple of weeks on the Market, so there really is no excuse if you haven’t tried it already.