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Pac-Man Championship Edition DX - Achieving legitimate evolution

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Pac-Man Championship Edition DX - Achieving legitimate evolution

Time for some blatant name-dropping. When I interviewed Pac-Man designer Toru Iwatani years ago about Pac-Man Championship Edition, he revealed his main goal was to "achieve legitimate evolution" - a concept that escapes many game-creators when revisiting ancient IP.

The revamp was astonishingly good. It took the original game's staples - Pac-Man clearing a maze's dots, avoiding ghosts and then eating them when pumped up on a power pellet - and ramped everything up to the max.

Neon-smothered mazes were split in half, and eating dots from one half exposed a bonus item in the other. Eat that and a new dot configuration appeared across the way.

The need for speed

The main thing about Pac-Man CE, though, was that it got fast - really fast. If you could get up to maximum speed (primarily by not dying), you could quickly boost your score.

But even if you'd played one of the old Pac-Man arcade cabs at maximum, nothing really prepared you for how frenetic and exciting the game could be. Lob in playing against the clock and you had a modern-day classic.

So now we come on to DX, which seems like 'more of the same', but in the best way possible. Again though, it feels like a case of legitimate evolution, a case of figuring out how to make CE even better.

The answer, apparently, was more ghosts - lots more ghosts.

Come on and do the conga

In DX, trigger a new dot configuration and you'll typically see snoozing ghosts nearby. Belt past them and they give chase. Before long, you have a string of deadly spectres following your every move.

Again, the aim is high scores, and the ghosts are key. Grab a power pellet and the more ghosts you can snarf before the multiplier bar runs down, the more points you'll accrue.

Risk versus reward is evident throughout - grab dots as quickly as possible but don't collide with the string of ghouls, avoid 'standard' ghosts roaming and eager to mess everything up, figure out when to 'cash in' with a power pellet rather than leaving it too late.

It's a blast

It's quite hard to die, although not impossible. Get too close to a ghost and everything goes slow-mo, like a 1980s video game's been infected by The Matrix.

But rather than being a cop-out, this feature often results in thrilling, exhilarating, hair's breadth escapes. And if ghosts are still too close, a pinch unleashes a bomb, sending them to the centre of the maze - albeit at a cost to your multiplier and the game speed.

Unlike its predecessor, DX comes packed with mazes. There are eight in all, including the original (faithfully lacking sleeping ghosts), Dungeon (evolving and shifting while looking like it's crawled out of a 1980s console), the open-plan Manhattan, and the relatively claustrophobic and tricky routes of Spiral.

If you find the going easy, you can play all of these in the dark, with only your immediate vicinity lit.

Best Pac-Man ever

Each maze has plenty of challenges, there's MFi support if you're allergic to swiping, and Bandai Namco even set fire to the game's free to play model.

Bar some slightly laggy Game Center upgrades, the bomb gesture not having a tap-based alternative, and the game taking its sweet time to arrive on iOS and Android, there's nothing to grumble about.

It's by far the best Pac-Man to date, an exciting game in its own right, and should easily find its way on to end-of-year best-of lists for mobile gaming.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX - Achieving legitimate evolution

A first-rate take on a classic, which plays well, looks and sounds great, and has tons of varied content