Flash games are sometimes like the old Wild West. Developers working out of their basements often throw caution to the wind, using characters and concepts copyrighted long ago as a source for their content. Pac vs Alien is no exception. But this collection of mini-games is more than just an attempt to cash in using someone else's intellectual property rights – it's a game made of pure fan service, paying homage to both Pac-Man but a wealth of classic gaming concepts.
a lovely sunset on a nice park bench, “Pac” and his girlfriend have their afternoon ruined by an alien abduction – specifically the abduction of Pac's nameless lady friend (who just happens to be a dead ringer for a young Ms. Pac-Man). Pac vs Alien puts a new twist on the tried and true idea of a mini-game collection by wrapping a story around it that gives each of the mini-game contained within a sense of purpose. Each stage of Pac vs Alien serves as another story element in Pac's quest to rescue his beloved. In one stage you may be assembling the pieces of the spaceship Pac will use to chase after the aliens. In another you may be attempting to break the girlfriend out of her prison.
If nothing else, Pac vs Alien deserves the highest kudos for the variety of mini-games presented. Parodies of everything from Feeding Frenzy to Space Invaders are included. The mini-games range from space combat and asteroid-avoidance to jigsaw puzzles and Breakout-style brick breaking. No two mini-games ever feel alike, and because they all help to tell a greater story you're always eager to know what's coming next.
Visually the game follows the hand-drawn on graph-paper motif that has become so popular in recent years. It's the sort of thing you either love or hate, but in this case it worked well with the frantic nature of the game. Each stage starts off with a pencil quickly sketching the protagonist into the scene, and things just pick up steam from there.
Everything in Pac vs Alien is controlled with the mouse, which becomes something of a problem when you realize how blazingly fast you'll need to do everything. Speed, it would seem, is Pac vs Alien's Achilles heel. Every mini-game from start to finish requires the fastest reflexes possible. The difficulty is staggering. What's worse is that there's nothing about any of the mini-games that couldn't have been slowed down to a reasonable level in a separate “easy” mode, but the developers decided to avoid offering any kind of difficulty selection. If you fail a level enough times a “skip” button becomes available to let you forge ahead and try to make your way through the rest of the story. It's a fair compromise, but lowering the difficulty or offering an easier take on the game would have been much more welcome in our eyes.
Bringing storytelling to the world of mini-games is a stroke of genius, and the homage paid to gaming concepts both old and new makes Pac vs Alien a game that's made for gamers. It's just a shame that the difficulty is so great throughout the experience. Few will have the patience to tackle everything that's thrown at them, even with the inclusion of a skip button. While a winner in our books for advancing the mini-game genre and showing love for so many games that game before, the difficulty here is just too high to recommend Pac vs Alien to anyone but the hardest of hardcore.