Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
If you liked PAC-Man World, you may be surprised that this game isn't as similar as you might expect. Ms. PAC-Man may look and smell like a platformer, but it's anything but. What Namco has made is a complex puzzle game that is operated with the simplest of controls. All you use is the D-pad, believe it or not. The controller face buttons are used, but only to slightly zoom the camera in and out--something you'll rarely have to mess with since depth and seeing around objects really aren't issues. Most of the gameplay involves things you might expect: eating lots of dots, blue ghosts and of course, fruits. There's some clever puzzles that involve some thinking, but often it just requires trial and error and a lot of patience. If you finish the level with every possible fruit and dot in your stomach by a certain time and with a high score, you can haul in ton of stars. If not, you can finish with one or two and still complete the game by only completing 60 percent of it. While us hardcore gamers won't be satisfied with that, casual players will be happy with it, and the reward for our hard work is a few extra multiplayer levels (read the PS review for more on the multiplayer modes). Either way, the graphics will please just about everyone. You wouldn't think that a game based on such a classic could impress, but the colorful visuals add a nice sheen to this addictive game. Another nice update from Namco.
One of the best examples yet of how to update an arcade classic, Ms. PAC sports all the traditional elements of its quarter-gobbling matriarch, and effectively updates the original with a 3D playing field, rich assortment of puzzles, and much deeper game-play. It's one of those rare titles that's an excellent non-intense game, and also appeals to everyone from age 5 to 45. The levels are big but not daunting, and there's a nice blend of puzzle challenges, power-ups and action. Even after all these years, for some physiological reason there is still something therapeutic about the wakka-wakka sound as your character gobbles down dots.
When it comes to updating classic games, it's either hit (Q*Bert) or miss (Centipede). Namco has a hit on its hands with Maze Madness. It's a perfect mixture of action-puzzle gameplay and Ms. Pac-Man's dot-chomping and ghost-avoiding. The game looks great--3/4 top-down is the only way this game could've been done. Music's nothing spectacular-no remixed music from the arcade's cutscenes? Difficulty is well-balanced so you never get stuck for too long. Finishing the game won't take long, but it's got some of the most addictive multiplayer modes I've seen outside a first-person shooter. One of the few good third-party N64 games out there.
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The last time Ms. Pac-Man made an appearance on the N64 was in her original 2-D form on Namco Museum 64. Well now she's back for more but this time Capcom has brought her bang up to date in glorious 3-D! On offer is a quest adventure game, new enemies and loads of new traps. Imagine trying to munch all those dots whilst negotiating collapsible bridges, breakable walls and jump pads! Best of all the original game is included as a hidden bonus!
Pac-Man in 3-D? Sounds a bit bizarre but it actually looked pretty good. Obviously the simplicity which was the draw in the original arcade game isn't present here but then games have evolved somewhat since then. We're not as excited about this as we are, but from what we've seen so far it doesn't look half bad!
Pac Man was huge in his day - the Pikachu of the early 80s. You could even 'catch 'em all (sort of), thanks to the invention of the outrageously sexy Ms Pac Man, a later addition to the Pac family and star of many a poster, comic book and sticker collection.
Now Namco's pill-munching duo are back in this set of two Game Boy carts - one for the boys and one for the girls, presumably. You can play them at full scale, in which case the screen scrolls to keep up with your chosen Pac as it wacka-wackas its way around the simple maze, or at a more suitable zoomed-out view which allows you to see where the uneaten pills and ghosts are lurking.
Each cart comes with a different bonus game. Pac Man includes Pac Attack, a kind of Tetris variant that's rather enjoyable in small doses, and Ms Pac Man is coupled with the obscure Super Pac Man, a deeply confusing version of the game involving keys, locked areas and power pills that make the Pacster swell up to the size of a beach ball and start floating above the play area. It's a nice way to add value to games which really should have come on a single cart - even if you added them together, the two Pacs would take up barely a quarter of Conker's cart size.
They're still both classic bits of retro fun, though. We'd say that the Pac Man / Pac. Attack combo just edges it, even if Ms Pac is the hottest piece of lipsticked yellow pie the world has ever seen.