Pac-Man is one of the most-ported games ever, and now Namco brings it to Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live title. This version is faithful to the arcade original, but lacks any bells-and-whistles to get excited over and introduces a few new problems.
Everybody knows how Pac-Man works, so let’s focus on what’s changed for Windows Phone 7. The game is played from a vertical orientation. The actual play field takes up the top two-thirds of the screen, with a virtual joystick on a plain blue background at the bottom. Super bland menus that use an ugly font further contribute to a mediocre presentation.
To find out whether our circular arcade hero gets the ghosts or if they get him instead, chomp a power pellet and head past the break.
All roads lead to the same end
Pac-Man offers two controls options: Flick and Pac-Pad. Flick controls let the player swipe his or her finger anywhere on screen to turn the yellow hero, while Pac-Pad emphasizes keeping a finger on the virtual joystick. In practice, though, touching anywhere on the screen turns Pac-Man in either option, so their differences are negligible. The virtual stick is located right above the most WP7 handsets’ capacitive Home button, so expect to accidentally back out of the game if you keep your finger there.
Turn faster, Pac-Man!
This brings me to the WP7 version’s chief failing: the controls are simply inadequate for Pac-Man’s game play. Sure, Pac-Man generally moves around where the player wants, but turning corners quickly is tough and doesn’t always work. Fast turns are essential in Pac-Man because although the ghosts often move quicker than Pac-Man, he turns corners better than they do. Thus quick cornering is often the only way to stay alive. Had this game’s difficulty been reduced to accommodate the slower, less accurate controls, things wouldn’t be so bad. As it stands, this version is just too challenging to be fully enjoyable.
Achievements: Rotten fruit?
High difficulty carries over to WP7 Pac-Man’s Xbox Live Achievements as well. Many of them revolve around collecting fruits from later stages in the game. But as I mentioned, this game is tough as nails, and the Xbox 360 version’s option to continue on the same stage where you died is nowhere to be found. Few will ever survive to see the elusive Galaxian (this ship from Galaga is not technically a fruit, but Pac-Man isn’t picky). Don’t go into this one expecting to collect the full 200 GamerScore.
20 quarters to play
Pac-Man’s final issue is that of value. Sure, Pac’s original outing is an all-time classic. But that’s all you get here, with no extras and no real effort put into its presentation. This title offers so much less content than sequels like Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man Championship Edition. Those games have multiple mazes, whereas Pac-Man on WP7 has a single maze that gets tough too quickly. It costs $4.99, the same price as the easier and more fun Xbox 360 version. Let’s hope the frequent sales the game sees on other platforms will extend to the WP7 release as well.
Hardcore gamers won’t find much to like in Pac-Man’s Windows Phone 7 port. The controls aren’t up to snuff, making the game harder than it needs to be, plus the price is too high for such a threadbare package. Casual gamers don’t seem to mind its problems, though, as Pac-Man is currently the best-selling Xbox Live game on the platform. Those who remember Pac-Man fondly enough to deal with this version’s control issues and overlook its relatively steep asking price will find a classic maze game that still charms after all these years. Everyone else may want to wait for one of the inevitable (and arguably superior) sequels to come to WP7 instead.
Pac-Man costs $4.99. It also has a free trial. You can grab it here (opens your Zune software) at the Marketplace.