Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man review - The Pac is back on Xbox One and Steam

Since debuting in arcades way back in 1980, Bandai Namco's Pac-Man has munched its way onto nearly every gaming platform under the sun – even Windows Phone! Heck, that version was my very first review for Mobile Nations.

Even though Xbox 360 Pac-Man is already backwards compatible, it only makes sense for Xbox One to receive a fresh release as well. Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man is the latest re-release of the classic arcade game. Does it bring any new features to the table? Read our detailed review to find out!

The original arcade game

The original arcade game that introduced Pac-Man and his ghostly antagonists to the world. This game was so popular that strategy books for it actually appeared on the New York Times bestseller list and the song "Pac-Man Fever" reached number 9 on the Billboard Top 100 chart.

Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

For those that may not be familiar with this classic, the game consists of a single maze filled with tasty dots. Pac-Man's goal is to eat all 256 dots while avoiding the ghosts. If he succeeds, he'll move on to the next level. The maze always stays the same, but the ghosts get faster each time and the duration of the Power Pellets gets shorter and shorter.

Those Power Pellets were the first power-up in video game history. Eat one of the four that appear in each level and the ghosts turn blue for a short time. The more ghosts Pac-Man chomps while the Power Pellet lasts, the greater the score bonus he gets. The ghosts don't stay gone, though; they quickly respawn and resume their hunt for our hero.

Pac-Man has always been a challenging game. To do really well, you have to memorize the perfect path for every level. And other than the difficulty, nothing changes from level to level. Sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, and especially Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ offer a lot more variety and fun. But gamers should know their roots, and that definitely includes the original Pac-Man.

Presentation: Xbox 360 versus Xbox One

Pac-Man Xbox 360

Pac-Man for Xbox 360

Pac-Man debuted on Xbox 360 way back in 2006, and that version is playable on Xbox One. Why would anyone get the Xbox One version? New features, of course!

The Xbox 360 Pac-Man had a scant few enhancements over the original arcade game. Visually, the screen size and position can be adjusted. The widescreen border looks okay but can't be turned off.

In the gameplay department, players can set the number of starting lives and the score target for additional lives. You can also choose to start on any level you've reached before, making it so much easier to see higher levels. The Achievements are also quite easy, but they only give a total of 200 Gamerscore.

Xbox 360 Pac-Man doesn't offer many visual or gameplay options, but their integration deserves recognition. The screen size and position and starting level options are integrated directly into the emulated arcade game's interface rather than external menus.

Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

Xbox One version. Note the level select is an external menu.

Pac-Man on Xbox One clocks in at a much larger file size than the 16 MB 360 game – a whopping 916 MB! This version was developed in Unity and then ported to multiple platforms, which seems to be the reason for the increased file size.

Unity or no, 916 MB is a lot of space for what started out as such a tiny arcade game. Thankfully storage space is less of an issue on Xbox One. Besides, this edition actually has some nice enhancements over previous console ports. There are so many options, they come in three different menus: Display, Sound, and Game Settings.

The Arcade Game Series Pac-Man's Display Settings provide a welcome degree of control over how the game appears on HDTVs. You can still zoom in and out, and also add scanlines for an old-fashioned monitor effect. You get two different widescreen borders to choose from, one in a muted color palette and one with bold colors. Both borders are nice, but this version really should have offered some of the original arcade bezels as well as the choice of disabling borders entirely.

Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

The biggest visual enhancement option is the ability to rotate the display 90 degrees. Pac-Man arcade cabinets use a vertically-oriented monitor, which is why console ports always have so much empty space on the sides of the display. Finally, this version allows dedicated fans to hang a monitor vertically and play with a much truer aspect ratio than you'd ever get from a horizontal monitor.

On the sound front, players can adjust the quality of the sound, boosting and reducing certain elements as well as adjusting reverb length and depth. All of that goes over my head. But I do greatly appreciate the sound test, which allows us to sample all of the game's music and sound effects. I've never seen a port of the arcade game offer that feature before.

In the Game Settings, players can enable the option to start on any previously reached level and adjust starting lives and frequency of extra lives, just like the Xbox 360 version. And like that version, changing these settings will prevent your score from being submitted to the leaderboard.

Hardcore players can even disable the Round 256 bug. This bug causes the game to become unplayable upon reaching the 256th level of the game due to the level count being stored as an 8-bit integer with a maximum value of 255. Few of us will ever reach that round (even with the option to start on previous rounds), but supremely dedicated players will appreciate being able to beat Round 256 at last.


Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

The Xbox 360 version of Pac-Man offers 12 Achievements worth 200 Gamerscore, all easy to get but one. On Windows Phone, the Achievements share the same value but are dramatically harder to get because it doesn't let players select the starting stage (argh).

Pac-Man on Xbox One offers 20 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Out of those, all players should be able to get 14 Achievements and just over 500 Gamerscore. Even if you don't go for the challenging ones, you'll still earn twice as much as both previous Xbox ports put together.

Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

In the tough-but-doable range, four Achievements involve eating all four ghosts multiple times in the same round, and doing so while eating both fruits. You'll have to study a guide and follow the perfect pathway through a level to do that, which took me about 30 minutes of attempts.

The final two Achievements require players to beat three levels without dying or eating a ghost, and eat the fruits from the first 8 levels in one playthrough. Both are tough, especially the latter. You can sort of abuse the save system by going offline to prevent cloud backups, but who wants to do that?

Overall Impression

Arcade Game Series Pac-Man Xbox One

Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man is the best home version of the original Pac-Man arcade game yet. Whether or not the new features warrant an upgrade from the Xbox 360 version depends entirely on your devotion to this Pac-Man game and whether or not you care about Achievements. If you do like both Pac-Man and Achievements, this release is a no-brainer.

This version of Pac-Man sells for $3.99 on its own or as part of a $7.99 3-pack that also includes Galaga and Dig Dug. The 3-pack is easily a better value since you basically get one game for free. Note that Ms. Pac-Man (the superior sequel to this game) is not included in the 3-pack and must be purchased separately.

Xbox One version provided for review by Bandai Namco.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Superb compare and contrast review Paul.
  • Great price for a great game. Nice review
  • No, no its not a great price. It should be $0.25 for a game that's 30 years old or so. I can't believe they are just re-wrapping it, and that its almost a an entire GIGABYTE of space for something that used to fit on 16k. Seriously??
  • Yeah man, maybe they should just pay you to play the game instead of charging for it... Not. They paid people to develop the (very nice) emulator, and they deserve to be compensated for their work. The file size is indeed large, but that's Unity for you.
  • Great review (although the review score is lower than I anticipated)! +916 MB download size, woah! Crazy how time passes, just made Pacman using C++ in console mode as a project in the first semester last year, brought back so many memories, going to play it on my Windows Phone now! :) 
  • Thanks dude. It's really hard to score a classic game like this. The price of the game is great, but I expect that players who don't have nostalgia for this exact Pac-Man game won't get as much out of it as someone who has played it before.
  • True, fair point.
  • Good review!    256 eh.. intrestingly ip's that your router can have is typicaly 255 max.    so is your first and i think might be the max or its 255.
  • 8 bit hwo durr they work???/
  • Don't think I've ever read an un-interesting review from you Paul.
  • I want to see a side by side graphics comparison between the xbox one version and the 360 version. I hope that with the power of the xbox one, we can have pac man with 1080p 60fps graphics. Maybe even 4K? After all resolution is the most important thing! XD Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Great option of screen rotating, now I need a led TV that can rotate lol
  • Good article on Pac-Man.
    Ease fix the faulty html when viewed on WP8.1. Has giant rating stars abs stray code at end.
  • We can't fix it because of the WP8 app no longer being in development. At least this way, you can read the review rather than when we use the advanced template that the WP8 can't even display.
  • very good review paul. as i hold the xbox 360 record at 7.1 million, and am top of the steam leaderboards, and will be on the xbox one soon (i don't own one, so i have to use a friends).   you left out the comparison to the pac man museum xbox 360 version also, which is a much better deal, as you get a lot more value for the money. now of course that's not on the xbox one.   also, there's a namco museum version which is the best of all them, since you get tons of value for the money (again for the 360).   not that it matters, but the xbox one version is probably the most accurate. but the controls are terrible with a gamepad. i am using a custom joystick to play this and other games. it's impossible to play galaga, dig dug or ms pac man on the xbox controller, they were just not meant to use for these types of games, if you want to master them. (i am also on the tops of leaderboards for those on steam). anyways, it breaks down to this: defaults ------------------- xbox 360 namco museum and pac man standalone- no kill screen - starts over at cherry on board 256, but still uses the 9th key pattern, scores in millions steam / xbox 360 pac man museum - kill screen at board 256, score turns over at a million   xbox one --------------- pac man (standalone is backwards compatible from 360) - same as above steam / xbox one pac man arcade series - kill screen optional (is off by default) , after level 256 goes back to cherry, but 9th key patterns, score flips at million   later -1
  • Re: Negative1one,
    Respectfully, your post is hard to read. Is that your goal? It seemed like you had some good information, so I did struggle through.
    Thank you and best wishes.
  • what so hard to read. i can read it just fine. later
  • Glad you enjoyed the review! I did review Pac-Man Museum for Xbox 360 back when it came out. I wanted to mention it in this review, but it ran a little long so I couldn't fit that tidbit in. It's certainly not impossible to play games like this with a controller; I played a perfect round with the default Xbox One controller. But 4-way joysticks are a lot better for these titles, so I take your point. My 8-way stick actually makes the game harder to play than with a controller, surprisingly.
  • Interesting, I have used 4 way sticks also, but all of mine are currently 8 way. So its just a matter of adapting to it.
  • oh, and yes, i played the windows mobile phone version also on windows 7.5, but that is the worst version of all, so i didn't bother to go to level 256 on it.  touchscreen controls are ridiculous, and insane to use to play at the master level. i just got all the achievements, and that was it. they were the hardest ones out of all them.
  • Not a bad price, actually a bit surprised it's only $4. I think I'd prefer Galaga and Dig-Dug, Pac-Man's not exactly my favorite arcade game. I wonder how many total versions of the original Pac-Man there are, given how many versions get re-released and ported and remastered and all that.
  • Nice review Paul, as normal. Ms Pac is the better game...I acutally own the orignal coin-op MS Pac-man. If your a BIG Pac fan, you need to play Pac-Man Jr(not the pinball/video game version).  More mazes but, side scrolling. My Ms Pac arcade machine has both boards, Ms Pac and Pac-man Jr (if you want to see it, send me a PM on the fourm and I'll send a pic). Jr Pac is truly the best and most challanging PAC game... Note: $4 is hard, Look up MAME and for a PC.....
  • mame is using illegal roms. don't pirate.
  • It's not pirating.....its called free domain. Look it up. The roms themselves might be illegal, but the games are so old they care considered free domain, and do not matter.
  • Pac-Man is not public domain. Bandai Namco has retained the copyright on it and you do not have permission to steal it. We do not condone piracy discussion here, so please drop the subject.
  • I love Pac-Man Jr. It's a shame that Bandai Namco chooses not to include it in collections and rereleases. Like Negative said, we don't condone or support piracy or discussion of it. Emulators are fantastic, but when a legal means to own and play a game exists, that's what people should use. Especially on platforms like consoles that don't support freeware emulators.
  • Pac Man Jr. is caught in legal limbo, which is why it can't be released unless someone forks over serious money. The game was never a hit, although lesser games have been released. Marketing this sequel (along with the multiple-choice quiz game of Professor Pac-Man) without Namco's approval ultimately led to the termination of Namco's licensing agreement with Midway. And unlike Ms. Pac-Man, Namco has never recognized Jr. Pac-Man, as an official Pac-Man product. It was only ported to a handful of systems - including the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64, and the MS-DOS operating system. Many players of the 2600 version consider it the best official port of a Pac-Man game done by Atari, despite the fact that technical constraints lead to the mazes scroll vertically instead of horizontally.
  • A collection like Pac-Man Museum for the Xbox 360 would be cool, but there's nothing wrong with low-priced individual titles either.
  • Nice review. Will definitely consider getting this now!
  • Paul, please review Atari Vault on Steam.
  • Thanks for the request. I do plan to review that one in the next couple of weeks. :D
  • Great review!
  • Thanks man. :)