Are you suffering from Pac-Man Fever? Have you come down with a bad case of Pac-Mania? If you feel like there's been a little yellow hole in your heart for far too long, don't worry – it's about to be filled. Pac-Man is back with a brand new adventure, and he's bringing it to your iPhone! Can Pac-Man Remix overcome Namco's previous problems in bringing the pellet muncher portable to the popular portable?
Pac-Man Remix sticks to the tried and true maze-navigating, pellet-gobbling formula that people have come to know and love from this classic franchise, but they've given it a fresh coat of paint and a host of new features. Improved graphics, interesting mazes and explosive power-ups all come together to make a fresh experience, but it's not the first time we've seen this style of improvement in the Pac-Man franchise.
Many of the presentation and gameplay elements in Pac-Man Remix seem to borrow from an earlier Pac-Man title, 1996's Pac-Man Arrangement. Items like teleporters and dash arrows, both of which manipulate Pac-Man's progress around the board, were first introduced in Arrangement and haven't been seen again until now. Some of the visual design seems to borrow from Arrangement too, both in spirit and in practice. Both games feature themed levels, and both feature a nearly identical interpretation of our little yellow friend. While a title like Pac-Man Arrangement 2 doesn't have the pizazz that Pac-Man Remix does, there's no doubt that Pac-Maniacs will be treating this as the spiritual successor to that oft-forgotten masterpiece.
What makes Pac-Man Remix's gameplay different from the original Pac-Man is the inclusion of environment modifiers and power-ups. For example, some levels may have draw bridges that open and close, trapping Pac-Man (or his ghostly competitors) in a tight spot. Others may feature platforms that raise you up to a different playfield. Power-ups are just as varied with some allowing you to hop over walls to escape your pursuers and others letting you dash passed the ghosties. A personal favourite from this new assortment of game changers had to be a scroll that creates a shadow Pac-Man who duplicate your moves on the opposite side of the maze, eating pellets and ghosts as they cross his path.
Another great element added into the mix were boss fights. At the end of each world you'll take on a giant version of one of the ghosts. Each will have their own attack method and pattern you need to watch out for, which makes the first part of boss battle different every time. Your goal here is to eat a power pellet which will break the ghost into more than a dozen edible blue ghosts. It makes for a fairly simple challenge, but by the end of the game when you're tackling several bosses at once it can provide a decent level of challenge.
The only real problem that Remix faces is the same problem that previous Pac-Man attempts on the iPhone have faced – the controls just don't respond as well as they need to. You'll be able to choose between touching arrows or “flicking” directions (you'll slide your finger in the direction you want Pac-Man to go), but in both cases the precision simply isn't there. Pac-Man is a game that has always relied on quick-timing, and the poor controls here don't allow for that. I found the “flicking” style of controls to be far more responsive than the arrows, but it was still far from perfect. As hard as it might be to accept, Pac-Man may not be a game that can cut it on the iPhone.
In what appears to be an effort to balance out the control issues, the ghosts don't seem to pose anywhere near the amount of threat we've seen in other versions. Their speed doesn't increase with each level, and Pac-Man moves quickly enough that it becomes a real tortoise versus hare scenario. It's a nice tweak given the circumstances, but it's treating the symptoms and not the problem.
Offering up some fun mazes and a fresh coat of paint, Pac-Man Remix does a great job of introducing new elements to an old formula. It's not the best Pac-Man re-imagining that we've seen, but it's definitely a good one. If it weren't for Namco's inability to find a workable control scheme, Pac-Man Remix would be a definite buy, but with the finicky controls we're going to have to slap this one with a “Buyer Beware” sticker.