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.
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.