Thanks to PAC-Man Vs., Nintendo's diabolical dream of making everyone attach a GBA to their GameCube via a $13 cable might finally come to fruition. Vs. completely rethinks the venerated PAC-Man concept by allowing players to control the ghosts. Conceptually, the gameplay sounds incredibly limited, but everything's so balanced that it's actually quite fun. It works because the player controlling Pac-Man sees the entire maze, thanks to the discreet GBA screen, while the ghosts must make do with a limited viewing range on the television. Seemingly subtle bits borrowed from the arcade original (like the fact that PAC rounds corners and travels through warps faster than the ghosts) blend with new ideas (the ghost players can see more of the board by chomping fruit) to add just enough strategy to keep it interesting. Too bad the audiovisual trappings don't match up to the gameplay. Levels based on the classic game look sleek and stylish, but the new, thematic stages are too garish. And you'll want to mute the frantic music and Mario's squealing commentary. Ugh.
Do the little tykes think you're whack when you boot up those crusty old games on Activision Anthology Do they wonder why you can't play 21st-century titles that feature more than four colors? Well, give them a history lesson with PAC-Man Vs. and see if they don't discover a new appreciation for the oldies. Yeah, this multiplayer reimagining of the uberclassic is a one-trick pony that won't keep you hooked as long as Mario Kart, but it's fun as heck and the best use of connectivity yet.
If Nintendo's seemingly ridiculous focus on GC-to-GBA connectivity results in games like PAC-Man Ks., I'm all for it. The thrill of the chase rarely gets more intense than when you're yelling Pac-Man's whereabouts to your two ghostly partners. Trying to work together to catch the PAC and betray everyone to win the match yourself opens the door to all types of exciting, treacherous strategy. Just make sure you have three WaveBird controllers on hand to avoid a tangle of wires.