Game Reviews

Pac-Man + Tournaments

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Pac-Man + Tournaments

On principle, anyone who played Pac-Man back in the days when arcade cabinets were a permanent fixture in every pub, pool hall, and taxi rank should be foaming at the mouth with rage that the yellow gobbler has gone freemium.

We pumped enough coins into the original machines to kickstart a small country's economy, and now mobile phone owning upstarts get to play it for free. What sort of world are we living in?

Worse than that, it's actually a pretty decent game -especially for fans of climbing global leaderboards. The only real downer is the minimalist presentation, which lacks the trippy touches of the excellent Pac-Man: Championship Edition.

Pill popper

The basic game is essentially the same as the vintage arcade version, only with a few tweaks to the difficulty levels and a mobile-friendly control scheme (that mostly works, too).

The jaundiced, circular hero still has to chomp every pellet in the maze before he can move on, and those pesky ghosts are always hot on his tail - unless he swallows a power pill and gets to munch briefly on them instead.

You swipe to set Pac-Man moving in one direction, and - compared with the clunky alternative joystick mode - it's a responsive system that rarely lets you down.

You can play in portrait, complete with a waggling virtual stick at the bottom of the screen, or in a roomier landscape orientation, which is more comfortable but looks less like the dusty cabinets of yore.

It's a solid spin on the vintage formula, complete with three difficulty modes (Original being the toughest and Easy giving you two extra lives and a slightly slower pace), and it's perfect for a quick retro gaming session on the bus.

And then you play your first Tournament.

Leader of the PAC

Namco Bandai's big gamble is on the weekly Tournaments. Each day you get a free play at the 12-level challenge, with the aim to both make it to the end and rack up high scores by chewing chains of ghosts and collecting fruity bonuses.

Apparently, there are physical prizes at stake - ghost plushies rather than hard cash - and it'll be interesting to see how long they keep running once launch fever has worn off.

If you want to play again, you can spend a token, but you only get a handful to start with - so impatient players who can't wait 24 hours will want to make an in-app purchase or two to collect some more.

Over a week of daily play, we never spent a solitary virtual penny, and although our top score suggests that the plushie will forever be out of reach it shows that Namco Bandai's freemium focus isn't killing the Pac-Man magic.

The only downside is that, beyond the global high score-chasing, the actual gameplay experience is pretty basic. This is retro gaming at its most retro, and while it's still addictive in short bursts the sense of yellow peril fades with each go.

Pac-Man + Tournaments

The Tournaments add a dash of old skool, high score-chasing magic to Pac-Man, but, apart from that, it's just another reasonable retro retread