Sunday, February 27, 2011

12 Months, Sixty Dollars and a Gameboy Advance: February

Pac-Man Collection

When I think of handheld games, the first thing I think of are games that travel well.  My first experiences with the original Gameboy were playing it on car rides and after school waiting for various extracurriculars (mostly nerdy stuff).  I have fond memories of the first Spider-man game, Megan Man game, and of course Tetris.  So one of the things I look for in a good handheld game is transportability.  This month's selection was selected with that very thought in mind.  This month, our five dollar selection is the Pac-man Collection.

How can you really go wrong with Pac-man.  Well, I guess the Atari 2600 answered that question, but fortunately technology has advanced considerably since those days and the result is much more satisfactory.  Pac-man Collection for the GBA is partially what you might expect and partially something else.  Personally, I expected a collection of Pac-man games, you know, Pac-man, Super Pac-man, Jr. Pac-man, etc.  What I got was a collection of Pac-man games: Pac-man, Pac-Attack, and Pac-mania.  I'll be honest, I had never heard of those last two.  And to be honest, next month when I move on to a new game, I'll probably forget all about them as well.

The real draw of the Pac-man Collection is Pac-man and the version included here is pretty good.  There are two ways to play: full screen or scrolling.  Older eyes (as mine get daily) may struggle with the full screen, so the scrolling is a nice option, but Pac-man is made to be played with the whole maze in view.  Otherwise, it is very easy for a ghost to get the drop on you.  That said, the actual emulation of the original arcade is pretty good.  The ghost AI is different, but people just seeking a good game of Pac-man won't sweat that too much.

The other games are alright.  What I suppose should be considered the "main game:" Pac-man Arrangement, presents no challenge whatsoever.  With unlimited continues and no penalty for dying, the game will pretty much play itself out if you let it.  It does feature some fun power-ups and game play variety, but some challenge would have been appreciated.  For those, like me, not familiar with Pac-Attack (originally released for the Genesis and SNES, see I do my research!), Pac-Attack is a tetris clone that features Pac-men (Pac-mans?) and ghosts that help you clear lines.  The game play is fun, but if I want to play Tetris, nothing beats, you know, Tetris.
Finally, Pac-Mania, originally released for a variety of late 80's platforms, is a quasi-3D interpretation of classic Pac-man game play, but with different mazes and the ability to jump.  Yes, to jump.  Why?  I have no idea.  It makes the game a little easier, except in later levels when they add enough ghosts to clog just about any through-way in the game, but overall it adds little to the game play.  Mildly entertaining, but mostly forgettable.

On the whole, the real value of the Pac-man Collection for the GBA is having a decent translation of classic Pac-man that you can take with you.  The other games are suitable distractions, but they only hold interest for a few minutes.  The game is definitely worth the $5 I spent on it, maybe a little more, and the next time I travel it will find its way into the travel case with other Gameboy games.

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