A new team is at the helm of Namco Networks’ iPhone efforts, spearheaded by Jonathan Kromrey–formerly of Apple’s very own games group, and leader of the Texas Hold ‘Em project back in the day. Kromrey has promised to overhaul Namco’s iPhone strategy, which has been characterized to this point by “Remixed” versions of its arcade classics.
After a day spent playing Pac-Man Remix, we’re good and ready for Kromrey to work his magic. Pac-Man’s latest iPhone outing is fun, but it’s also plagued by minor quality issues and runs out of content in under two hours.
Gather up the mini-ghosts to beat the boss.
In Pac-Man Remix, the yellow pill-chomper wends his way through six worlds of five maps each, gobbling down power pills and fruit while dodging the four ghostly assassins that have dogged him since 1980.
Much has changed in the past 30 years. While the original Pac-Man’s maps were simple 2D affairs, the new layouts are much more creative, featuring doors, drawbridges, elevators to multiple levels, warp gates, and dash arrows. There are also many more power-ups for Pac-Man to take advantage of. For instance, there’s both a dash and a jump activated by charging meters; the ninja scroll creates a mirror-image Pac-Man that can run straight through ghosts.
All of these elements are carefully arranged to build levels, reflecting a modern platformer’s design sensibility instead of an arcade game’s. Plus, there’s a confrontation with a giant boss–usually a big ghost piloting some kind of machine–on the fifth and last map of each world. You fight these guys by snagging a power pill and splitting them up into many smaller ghosts for a short period of time; eating them shrinks the boss until it finally disappears.
We didn’t always feel like we had the tools to take full advantage of those fun level designs, though. Pac-Man Remix offers both touch button and flick controls, but neither are as responsive as they need to be, particularly when ducking in and out of tiny alcoves to grab power-ups. The touch buttons are also positioned and shaped strangely, in addition to being ugly.
Pac-Man on the Boardwalk.
In fact, we think that Pac-Man Remix could use a little more work on its graphics in general. The new 3D models are cool and the colors pop, but there’s something about the art that looks a little fuzzy and amateurish to our eye. Happily, the music and sound effects are right where they need to be.
All in all, we’d feel a heck of a lot better about Pac-Man Remix if it were $2.99 or so instead of $5.99. Skilled players can run through all 30 levels in under two hours–even on the hardest difficulty level–and with no online or social competitive element, there’s really not much to do after that. Unlike the other games in the Remix series, Pac-Man Remix doesn’t even include the “classic” Pac-Man; we don’t mind that much, but serious Pac-Man buffs might resent getting nickle-and-dimed.