Pac-man Museum+ - An Average Nostalgia Trip
It’s a sad day when one can start mentioning games from yesteryear that teenagers have likely never heard of. Pac-man is one such game, in fact, it is so old that it was released two years before I was even born … I may need to lay down now for a moment. Ok, enough rambling, time to get on with this review so I can venture out to my front yard and tell the local kids to get off my lawn. Pac-man was probably one of the very first famous game characters ever created. This was at a time when all we had was Space Invaders and Pong. Pitfall was still two years away and Pac-man (originally Puck Man) started becoming its own phenomenon and essentially made NAMCO what we know and love today.
Since its original release, our friendly yellow, ghost-eating circle has appeared in many games, the most recent of which just came out on the Nintendo Switch, Pac-Man 99. Pac-man Museum + brings 14 of these classics back in one convenient bundle, from the 1980 original to Pac-man 256! But after so many years, do these still hold up? And what else do we get from this bundle besides a one-stop shop for all things Pac-man? Let’s dive in, shall we?
To start with we have five titles from the 80’s. It’s your standard affair here, if you played Pac-man at the arcades back in the day, or any other variant or port, then you’ll know what to expect here. You navigate a maze, eating pellets and either running from or eating ghosts. A little stand-out is Pac-Land, a title that hasn’t entirely seen a lot of love over the years and one that still remains a challenge to this day. Even though these titles are still a bit of fun to play, the ports themselves seem a little off.
If you’re familiar with emulation in regards to retro games, many will know that one of the biggest pet peeves has been the dreaded input lag. For those not in the know, this is essentially the latency between pressing a button on your controller and that action then taking place on the screen. It’s why TVs have game mode. Without bogging down into the technical aspects of why it’s a thing, it basically makes you feel like something is just a bit off with the controls of the game. Sadly, these titles suffer a lot from it. This means you’ll likely be missing sharp turns and dying or missing pellets as a result. It’s not unplayable or a deal breaker but it’s readily apparent that it’s constantly there and brings the enjoyment down a little.
Next up we have Pac-Attack and Pac-In Time, both released on the SNES. To start off with a positive note, Pac-Attack is quite fun! It holds up and is wonderful to relive. To bring it down somewhat, Pac-In-Time is maybe one title that should have stayed back in time. There’s nothing to blame on input lag or anything else here, the controls for this title have really just shown their age and it’s like trying to control a cat during bath time. The puzzle gameplay itself is still good, but simply moving around the level is often frustrating and makes this one feel more like a chore than a fun and memorable experience.
Finally, we have a number of releases from the 2000s and up. Titles like Pac ‘n Roll, Championship Edition and 256 are all here and they’re all wonderful. It’s a good reminder that you can take a concept from 40 years ago, simply modernise it with some new and simple concepts and not only do you have a brand-new game, but you also have one that creates a happy experience. Out of this lot, Championship Edition and 256 are clearly the standouts, these are two games that will likely see a lot of replay value and are enjoyed across many generations of gamers (as tested by my family).
The window dressing for this bundle is … limited. You access the games via a little virtual arcade. And just like a real arcade, most titles require virtual coins to play. You can earn coins by doing well in the game but if you ever run out you can always play the console versions to earn more at any time. Beyond this, you can unlock cosmetic items for your arcade and make it look nice, but as mentioned before, it feels limited and low effort. The reality is, although it’s nice to have, it doesn’t really add much to the games themselves.
The long and short of it is that we’ve come to expect a little more from retro bundles nowadays. Simply being able to play old games on a new console isn’t enough. We expect additional functionality like online multiplayer with net code that isn’t half-baked, sharp controls and newer features like save states. That’s not to say this isn’t a nice game to have, in fact, it was quite enjoyable to play through these titles once again and share that nostalgic fun with my children. If that’s the kind of experience you’re hoping to get, then go out there and pick it up now because it has that in spades. If you’re looking for something more though, this one might be best to pick up during the next game sale.
Pac-Man Museum+ Was reviewed on the Xbox Series X with code kindly supplied by Bandai Namco Australia