Review: Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man
This review originally appeared within iLounge’s iOS Gems series within the compilation article, iPhone Gems: Cards, Gambling + Arcade-Style Games. Additional details may be found in the original article.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Namco’s one of our all-time favorite game developers, but the games it’s releasing for iPods and iPhones are seriously unimpressive. In 2006, Namco released the early dot-gobbling maze game Pac-Man for Click Wheel iPods, following it up with the early 2007 release of Ms. Pac-Man, and the 2008 release of Pole Position—all roughly 25-year-old arcade games that hardly seemed worth their $5 asking prices. This month, Namco re-released Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man for the iPhone and iPod touch, doubling their prices to $10, and doing little to justify the price increases.
Pac-Man for the iPhone and iPod touch is the same game as previously released for other iPods, except for one difference in visuals, one in audio, and three in controls. Though the original version was virtually identical aesthetically to the dated arcade game, the iPhone’s larger, higher-resolution display let Namco add a few more pixels of detail to the mazes, dots, and characters, none of which you’re likely to actually notice or care about given the simplicity of the graphics. On the audio side, Namco has preserved the same audio from the arcade and iPod versions, but has left out a volume control option, apparently presuming that most users would have iPhones with integrated volume controls. As such, iPod touch users will either have to live with the fixed volume level, or turn off audio entirely.
The bigger differences are in control. While the Click Wheel iPods suffered from a single poor control scheme, Namco now includes three for the iPod touch and iPhone. Swipe Mode lets you “swipe your finger across the screen to move Pac-Man in that direction;” D-Pad Mode places a four-way directional pad on the bottom of the screen, and Accelerometer Mode lets you “play by leaning or rotating the device in the direction that you want Pac-Man to travel.” Simply put, all three of these control schemes work, but they all stink by comparison with the original arcade game’s joystick. None offers the sort of predictability or accuracy you’ll need to fake out the ghosts or otherwise make pinpoint turns; swiping often has you covering Pac-Man accidentally as you’re trying to control him, and the accelerometer tries to register both tilts and turns of the device as motions, making control even more of a question mark. D-Pad Mode is the closest to acceptable, but still not great. We preserve our original rating on this title. iLounge Rating: D+.
Ms. Pac-Man for the iPhone and iPod touch doesn’t fare much better. Her version receives virtually identical boosts to Pac-Man’s, with the same slight graphics tweaks, volume adjustment removal, and three control options. As with the iPod version that preceded it, the only reason it rates higher than the original Pac-Man is the sequel’s slightly zippier, more diverse gameplay and its addition of intermission sequences. Just like Pac-Man, there’s no way that this aged game is worth $10 considering the quality, features, longevity and controls of brand new titles emerging for this platform; it’s a shame that Namco keeps trying to find ways to charge so much for individual titles like this rather than releasing discounted “Museum” compilations as it has done for Sony and Nintendo consoles and handhelds. Perhaps then we’d get some of the more recent, better Pac titles, such as Pac-Mania, Pac-Man Arrangement, and Pac-Man Championship Edition. Our original rating remains for Ms. Pac-Man.