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Pac-Man 256 Review

by Dean James

Ever since his debut way back in 1980, Pac-Man has been one of the most iconic characters in all of gaming, which has spawned countless spinoffs, television shows, and merchandise. Dating back to the original arcade cabinet for Pac-Man, a bug in the game would eventually cause the game to become unplayable due to on-screen glitching, which is used as the basic premise for the endless maze game Pac-Man 256.

Gaming has changed a lot since the days of the arcade, where the focus then was on high scores that are still being broken today. The Pac-Man record that was most recently broken in 2013 is very special as the score is limited due to a glitch on the 256th stage of the game where an integer overage causes the screen to glitch on that stage, making it impossible to complete. This glitch has become infamous over the years and was used as inspiration by the developers for a new game.

Pac-Man 256 takes the basic mechanics that anybody would be familiar with in Pac-Man and mixes them into an endless runner style game, though you have complete control of him at all time. Rather than offering separate level after separate level, Pac-Man 256 has you playing continuously for as long as you can stay alive.

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The usual Pac-Man enemies are located all around the maze, though they come with a twist this time. There are a number of different color ghosts that you will come across, mixing the classic foursome and new, with each one having different movement patterns. The easiest to avoid are the blue and green ones, which move in set patterns, though the latter come in groups of more than one moving only left and right.

Pinky is very fast and cannot be outrun in a straight shot, requiring you to maneuver around covers carefully to lose them. The grey ones are also difficult, as they are somewhat hidden and can really become a problem when you’re already being chased by others. There are others you’ll see as well, but these are just a few examples of the variety you can expect from the ghosts, rather than just what might be expected from classic Pac-Man.

The ghosts will definitely get in your way, but your bigger concern in Pac-Man 256 is the actual inspiration of the game itself, the glitched screen. From the start, the bottom of the screen will start to look very buggy with numbers popping up and moving upward. This means you need to start moving upward as well, as the glitched screen can lead to your demise. This is a pretty neat twist on the classic game and adds a lot more tension into the levels as you attempt to stay alive and eat more Pac-Dots.

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The goal of Pac-Man since the very start has mostly been to eat these dots located all around the maze, which would then advance you to the next maze for doing so. However, with the game being all one big maze in Pac-Man 256, collecting Pac-Dots are for another purpose now. There are no actual lives in the game, so each your goal is to eat as many Pac-Dots as you can every time, which will then unlock a number of different power-ups for you to use to advance further.

A pretty neat twist on the classic game

These power-ups are vital for prolonging each playthrough, as they can help you in a variety of ways. The weapons such as the laser and bomb can be used directly on enemies, while there are others that help you keep ghosts away from you, such as the tornado and stealth, and even a few that even help you obtain higher scores and numbers of Pac-Dots. You have the capability to choose a loadout of three of these that you have unlocked at a time and they will then start to pop up in the maze, along with the classic fruits that help with score multipliers. In addition, each of these power-ups can be leveled up by spending in-game earned currency to make them last longer and be more effective.

As with many mobile games that are then brought to consoles, Pac-Man 256 definitely feels somewhat lacking in content. The mazes alter with each time you play, but the problem is that once you unlock all the power-ups, the experience can feel a little stale if played consistently. However, the bargain price of $4.99 does help to alleviate that quite a bit.

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The one new addition in Pac-Man 256 on consoles is that of local co-op multiplayer, which is literally the same experience as the single player. Up to four players can work together with the goal of collecting more dots, with the ability to revive teammates that die by picking up a special life item at certain points. The disappointing aspect here is that they do not include any sort of online capabilities for this, so you will have to play with friends locally unless you want to utilize the PS4’s Share Play feature, which the game even promotes on the multiplayer screen.

The Verdict

Pac-Man is one of the mainstays in gaming that continues to stay relevant and Pac-Man 256 proves that the classic formula works even today. The game still has its base mechanics in tact, but the addition of power-ups, specialized ghosts, and the looming glitched out bottom of the maze will provide players with a fun, albeit limited, experience in Pac-Man 256.

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Pac-Man 256

  • Available On: PS4, XB1, PC
  • Published By: Bandai Namco
  • Developed By: Hipster Whale, 3 Sprockets
  • Genre: Arcade
  • US Release Date: June 21st, 2016
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "Pac-Man is one of the mainstays in gaming that continues to stay relevant and Pac-Man 256 proves that the classic formula works even today."
Review Policy

The Good

  • Classic elements
  • Unique twist on old bug
  • Power-ups

The Bad

  • Limited experience
  • No in-game online multiplayer option
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