The legendary Pac-Man returns for his newest adventure, Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man Friends ($5) for iOS. Pac-Man Friends is a new, original game that uses tilt controls to get Pac-Man and his buddies past the ghosts to the goal. Though the game does share some common elements with other Pac-Man classic games, Pac-Man Friends is ultimately a departure from the traditional style.
The gameplay in Pac-Man Friends is reminiscent of a wooden labyrinth game, as players tilt their iOS devices to guide the big yellow guy and his friends through the levels. There are five different control modes — four are tilt modes, and one is a touch mode. We found the touch mode to be much different than the preferable tilt control options, but it’s always nice to have options.
In the game, you’re tasked with picking up all the pellets before exiting the stage and advancing to the next level. The varied level design does offer twists and turns along the way, as some levels might have you picking up keys, while others offer power pellets allowing you to eat the ghosts, albeit for a too-brief amount of time. All levels present players with different goals in order to earn a rating from one to three stars — a feature you’ve undoubtedly seen in plenty of other mobile games.
Further adding to the in-game variation are your Pac friends. You control all the friends at once — there’s really no other way, considering the control scheme. You’ll find yourself using different friends in different places — you can use the invisible friends to sneak by ghosts, for instance — and trying to keep your friends separated in some cases, based on the level. This adds some depth to the game, but not quite as much as you might imagine.
If you die in the middle of a level, the game gives you cherries to continue from that exact point in the level. Soon enough, you run out of cherries — but instead of being given a way to earn them back, the game only presents you with in-app purchases to buy more cherries and other power-ups. We understand that some may ignore this option with minimal trouble — if you die, just start the level over. But nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that Bandai Namco chose to offer these IAPs in a game that already costs $5.
Pac-Man Friends is entertaining for a short amount of time, and it’s nice to see 95 levels, with more promised in the future. As expected, it’s a polished game. But after the initial novelty wears off, there’s really not much to make you want to continue. It’s often more frustrating than fun. And the inclusion of in-app purchases is a major turn-off.
iLounge Rating: C+