Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pac-Man 2: An Unexpected Adventure

If I were to ask the common man what the sequel to Pac-Man is, the response would mostly likely be Ms. Pac-Man. But, in reality Ms. Pac-Man wasn't so much a sequel as a hack, originally called Crazy Otto, but that is story for others to tell. The only time Namco had the courage to name a game as a true sequel was with 1994's Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, which isn't at all like the previous games in the series, but is weird and interesting in its own right. I played it on Genesis, but as far as I know there isn't a big difference between that and the SNES version.


While it is definitely a Pac-Man game since it relies heavily on the license and the characters that, by that time, were no longer relevant, the game itself has more in common with Lemmings than the maze games, or even the platformers, of the character's past. See, in the game the player doesn't directly control Pac-Man, but is some sort of outside force that steers him in the right, or wrong, direction. Pac-Man will walk around and interact with the environment on his own, but he is generally directionless and has no hope for success on his own. Sometimes he seems pretty on the ball, like when sneaking around dangerous animals, but other times he seems retarded, like when he trips over rocks.


The player has three ways to interact with Pac-Man and the environment. The A button shoots out a power pellet, which, when eaten, turns Pac-Man into a super hero that is capable of devouring the ghosts that occasionally pester him throughout the game. The B button lets the player shoot at various thing on the screen, including Pac-Man himself, in order to cause things to happen or bring his attention to something. Holding the C button and pressing a direction calls his attention to that direction. The controls work out alright, and it is fun to mess about with thing on screen to see how he will react.


Probably the strongest point of the game is the amount of character and emotion that was put into Pac-Man's animations. It makes the game really charming, and gratifying for fans of torturing cute mascots. He may become happy, sad, angry, or scared, and all of these change the way he reacts to the world and the player's actions. For example, if he is in a good mood he is capable of climbing a rope, but he is also more likely to obliviously walk off a cliff because he'll be looking up. If he's depressed he'll be looking down, see the cliff, and run scared in the opposite direction. There are a lot of times when it is important to hit Pac-Man as a way of shocking him into action, getting him angry, or waking him up.


The structure of the game is pretty simple. Basically, Ms. Pac-Man nags at Pac-Man about getting some item, and he has to go get it and bring it back. I've always wondered, what's up with the name Ms. Pac-Man? At first I was confused by the use of the ambiguous Ms. I mean, that leaves the door open to her being Miss Pac-Man, and she's living in sin with Pac-Man and their bastard children. Thinking about it more, that's not really an issue, because she appears to have taken his name as part of their marriage, though for some reason she did take his full name instead of just his surname. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures  answers none of these questions, and it is possible that Pac-Society, Pac-Mating, and Pac-Matrimony is very different from their human counterparts.

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