I will admit that I have never been a huge fan of the popular Pac-Man franchise. For one, the game launched several years before my time and thus seemed outdated adjacent to the more modern titles of my youth. Secondly, the arcade cabinet at my local Laundromat always ate my quarters without allowing me to play. My personal gripes aside, Pac-Man’s legacy as one of the foremost icons of gaming has endured for three decades. A few years ago, that legacy received a huge boost with the release of Pac-Man Championship Edition on the XBLA. The revered retro revival has now made its way to the PSP/PS3 as a Mini and it's one of the best Minis to date.
The Mini version of Pac-Man Championship Edition is a port of the original Live release. There are no extra modes or added surprises to be found. In fact, due to the restriction on multiplayer and online functions of any kind, this version actually has less in the way of content. Everything else that was good about the game, however, remains in tact. Pac-Man has always been a simple game. Guide a pie-shaped yellow character through a maze eating pellets and avoiding ghosts. Championship Edition spices up that formula just enough to feel fresh but doesn't destroy the foundation.
The only controls required to navigate Pac-Man is the D Pad, which is remarkably responsive. If it were not it would be hard to make the split-second turns to avoid being gobbled by a ghost. The primary difference between Pac-Man Championship Edition and the more traditional Pac-Man experience is that you are not playing through a continuous sequence of mazes that increase in difficulty. Replacing this formula are a number of unique modes, each with a time limit of five or ten minutes. Once the time limit is up, that is it, Game Over, and your score is recorded.
Differences between the game modes are subtle and they bare nondescript names such as Championship Mode, Extra Mode 2, Challenge Mode 1 and so on. A few traits are common across all modes. You are required to gobble yellow PAC-Dots scattered throughout the maze. The game awards an extra life every 20000 points. Consuming all the PAC-Dots on either side of the level will cause a fruit to appear which generates a new trail of PAC-Dots and alters the geography of the maze when eaten. The four ghosts: Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and - erm - Clyde relentlessly pursue you on your mission to curb Pac-Man’s insatiable hunger. Of course, you can turn the tables on them by eating Power Pellets and watching their futile attempt to flee as you hunt them down one by one.
The time-tested gameplay gets an extra shot of adrenaline with an overall faster speed. The Ghost AI is challenging despite having predictable movement patterns. The speed and difficulty ramp up the longer you play, keeping you on edge as the clock ticks slowly down to zero. Surviving the time limit is just as much of an incentive as achieving a high score in this case.
Graphically, Pac-Man Championship Edition pulls off a sharp and stylish retro look that looks great on the PSP screen. The neon lights flashing against the black background really sucks you into the action. The game plays fluidly, with nary a hiccup in the frenetic onscreen action. Pac-Man and friends look just as they did back in 1980 with a higher resolution. The game really nails the retro audio presentation. Sweet sounds of nostalgia accompany everything that happens while playing. Whether it is the hypnotic waka-waka-waka Pac-Man emanates as he chomps, the iconic start up melody, or the painful whirring knell that plays as you die, it all comes through crisp and clear. The new sound effects fit right in as well.
Pac-Man Championship Edition costs only five dollars on the PlayStation Store. That is a great deal but there are a few things to take into consideration before you purchase this game. For one, being a mini means no multiplayer capabilities of any kind, including online leaderboards found in other versions of the title. You don't even have the option to mark your initials alongside your recorded high scores, an important part of arcade gaming. The game comes with 12 awards you can earn by completing such tasks as eating 8 ghosts in succession or emitting sparks for 1 second. With six modes in total, the game provides good value for a mini given how addictive the gameplay can be. However, I recommend gamers looking to play this on the PlayStation 3 opt for the more feature-rich Pac-Man Championship Edition DX instead.
Pac-Man Championship Edition really fits the Mini philosophy well. You can enjoy the cheap, addictive fun for 2 minutes or 2 hours. A few extras would have been nice, such as a more traditional Pac-Man mode, and this version is considerably light on features despite being a few years old. First time buyers looking for a great pick up and play experience cannot do much better than this though. Even if you were lukewarm on the Pac-Man craze, as I was, this game has the power to change your mind and make you appreciate this franchise and its place in gaming history.