Although Arcade Game Series: Pac-Man offers the best version of the original Pac-Man to date, that game is still getting on in the years. Pac-Man 256 is a modern take on Pac-Man that mixes the gameplay of the arcade classic with elements of casual hit Crossy Road. After a successful run on mobile, Pac-Man 256 has come to consoles and PC as a $5 game with new features. Read our in-depth review for all the details!
Pac-Man 256 was originally co-developed by 3 Sprockets, who made a mobile game called Cubemen, and Hipster Whale, the maker of Crossy Road. The latter connection is especially important here. Crossy Road took the basic concept of Frogger and modernized it as an endless runner/free-to-play game with a cubist art style.
The developers have essentially done the same thing with Pac-Man 256: build on the core foundations of Pac-Man, but make it look and work more like the endless games of today. The original Pac-Man was basically an "endless" game anyway, as players simply tried to complete as many mazes as possible without running out of lives. The same holds true here, but now Pac-Man just has one gigantic, limitless maze to roam.
Pac-Man 256 plays very much like the original arcade game, with the same basic mechanics. Pac-Man still moves slower while eating Pac-Dots. Ghosts can outrun him on straight-ways, but he turns corners faster than them.
Our hero can escape from one side of the screen to the other using warp tunnels as well – only now he's briefly invulnerable when coming out the other side. Power Pellets work the same as in the Pac-Man Championship Edition games, in that eating a new one before the last one expires extends the ghost combo multiplier.
The 256th time is the charm
The 256 in the title refers to the 256 bug, a glitch that serious players encountered after beating the 255th stage of the original Pac-Man. The screen would glitch out and make the level unplayable. Pac-Man 256 puts our hero in that glitch-laden 256th world that can never be beaten.
The primary manifestation of the 256 concept is the Glitch, a wave of glitchiness that continuously crawls up from the bottom of the maze. If Pac and friends linger and take too long to move up in the maze, the glitchiness will catch them and end the game. It's your basic endless runner mechanic that forces you to move forward, just adapted to fit the 256 premise.
Pac-Man faces the original ghosts in 256, along with Sue from Ms. Pac-Man (now a separate ghost from Clyde), and three new ghosts: Spunky, Funky, and Glitchy. Each ghost has a specific behavior, just as in the original game. Spunky sleeps until players cross his path, after which he gives chase. Funky travels in packs and tries to block whichever path Pac-Man chooses. Glitchy is a manifestation of the 256 bug, surrounded by a cloud of glitchiness and appearing and disappearing at random intervals.
Power-ups and Quests
Our hero can still chomp ghosts with Power Pellets in Pac-Man 256, but he also has a host of new power-ups to unlock and wield. Three power-ups can be equipped at any given time. These will appear at random throughout the maze, each represented by its own icon.
A meter at the top shows the remaining duration of the current power-up. One little quibble regarding durations is that while the ghosts flicker as a Power Pellet winds down, power-ups have no visual warning that they're about to expire (other than the meter at the top). They really should have a visual indicator on the field, just like Power Pellets.
The big-screen versions of Pac-Man 256 start with three power-ups unlocked, whereas the mobile version only begins with access to one. Power-up upgrades happen instantly too, ditching the mobile version's annoying timers.
Here you get the Laser, Freeze, and Bomb right from the get-go. The Laser fires a beam straight ahead for a fixed time, annihilating any ghosts in its path. It remains one of the best power-ups well into the game. Freeze simply makes ghosts move slower, which isn't too useful. Bomb causes Pac to unleash a (not very good looking) explosion when he touches a ghost.
As you play the game in single-player or co-op, you'll eventually unlock a total of 21 power-ups by eating various quantities of Pac Dots. Not every power-up is created equal. Some, like Stealth Regen, and Freeze are mostly useless since they don't kill ghosts. But unlocking and trying new power-ups is fun, even if you'll probably stick to a handful of them for serious score runs.
Each power-up can be leveled up all the way to 8, increasing its duration and score bonuses. Upgrades cost coins that spawn intermittently throughout the maze (Crossy Road-style). Because each level requires exponentially more coins, it would take forever to get them without a little help. You can't buy coins or coin doublers in the big-screen version, but you can still get gifts.
Pac-Man 256 has two kinds of gifts: random free ones (replacing the mobile version's gifts for watching ads) and quest completion gifts. You always have a single active quest in single-player; quests are inexplicably absent from multiplayer. Typical quest goals involve eating certain fruits or collecting enough of a particular power-up. Completing these quests encourages players to try new power-ups and gives the game some sorely needed structure.
Besides the removal of the free-to-play elements, the significant addition to Pac-Man 256 on consoles and PC is the new local multiplayer mode. Multiplayer is basically co-op for 2-4 players, with everyone trying to get as far as they can and contribute to the group's score as much as possible.
Before starting, each player can select from a handful of characters such as an average Pac-Man, Championship Edition Pac-Man, Pac-Mania Pac-Man, the Chicken from Crossy Road, and a robot. Noticeably absent is Ms. Pac-Man, who really should be a playable character.
Co-op works surprisingly well, especially thanks to the revival mechanic. After someone has died, a respawn power-up always appears somewhere on-screen. Grab it to bring back one downed player. Sitting out while dead is a bummer, but at least you'll cheer on the remaining player(s) to bring you back.
Multiplayer has only two problems. The aforementioned lack of quests means that you won't earn gifts while playing with friends, making it hard actually to unlock anything in co-op. The other issue is the player names on the left side of the screen sometimes obscure the action when players or ghosts occupy that area. The obvious fix would be for the scores to become transparent when a moving character goes behind them.
Pac-Man 256 has a scant 10 Achievements on Xbox One worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Some Achievements can be earned in Multiplayer, and all local players can earn them. The fun and challenging ones involve eating 256 Pac-Dots in a row without missing a dot (which kills all ghosts on-screen) and eating 16 ghosts in a row without letting your Power Pellet run out.
The two grindy Achievements involve unlocking every power-up and then fully upgrading every power-up. Both will take a great many games, perhaps too many for as simple a game as this one. There is a trick involving forcing the game to close after buying an upgrade that could drastically speed up both Achievements. But that would also remove much of the game's long-term appeal.
Pac-Man 256 is an excellent take on Pac-Man that nearly rivals the Pac-Man Championship Edition games in quality. It looks and plays great, with cool power-ups, several fun visual themes to choose from, and high-quality co-op.
Only a few things hold Pac-man 256 back from greatness. The game could really use some music (like the Championship Edition games) to make the experience a little peppier. And it just needs another mode or two to instill more variety. What's here is fun and will definitely appeal to score hunters and multiplayer fans. But if you didn't care about score and didn't have friends to play with, it would get old a lot faster than Championship Edition DX.
Luckily, Pac-Man 256 sells for just five bucks on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. The low price and clever gameplay make it a must-buy for Pac fans, even if the content's a bit light compared to the last few original Pac-Man games.
- Clever but authentic new take on Pac-Man
- Local Co-op is Pac-tacular
- Several visual themes and a Shuffle option
- All of the mobile version's free to play elements and In-App Purchases removed
- Single-player gets grindy. More modes would have helped.
- No global leaderboards on consoles; just friends leaderboards
- No music except on the title screen
- Where's Ms. Pac-Man?
Xbox One review copy provided 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!
Nice! I love Pac-Man
No music except on the title screen? What in the hell?
I mean, that's how it was in the original game
Yeah....that's true. Just seems like while they are changing everything else, they could add a touch of music. Then let you turn it off if you really can't stand it.
If only on phone....
i love pac man
Thanks for the reminder to buy this game!
Android and ios got this freakin game for free!!!when you guys keep up and beat all those crappy???
Try reading the review before commenting.
No UWP, no game.
You must not buy very many games then.
He only buys the ones worth buying. This is another one of those "everything but Windows" games that deserves no support.
There are thousands of PC games worth buying, so that's a silly perspective. Anyone who'd take that stance obviously wasn't interested in playing Pac-Man 256 in the first place. :P
Seriously? Do you really think boycotting games on the platform does ANYTHING but hurt the platform?
Guys, I did not comment seriously, obviously play games that are not UWP. But if it would be interesting to take the opportunity to also publish it in the store. The msft store needs new content, whenever I go to see appear the same games.
excellent review. you hit all the high points. the low points aren't that bad, as you can play your own music if you want, and i don't really care for multiplayer. the games themes are excellent, but only useful to see once. there is a new power up - green laser that is only on the console versions, its not that great for scoring, but looks neat. the biggest issues, is there are NO LEADERBOARDS, which means it's useless for people, unless you want to compare scores with friends. there are steam leaderboards, that only track steam players. there are also trueachievements.com leaderboards, but only for those that are registered. so since i only compete on leaderboards, i'm pretty much done with the game (except for powering up all the powers to the maximum). this game has a very short lifespan. also, they took away the continue from the mobile game, so you only have one life, more lifre options would have been nice.
Thanks! It actually does have online leaderboards - they're just not displayed very prominently. When you're on the game over screen that displays your score, gifts, and quest, select the medal icon at the bottom of the screen (the left-most icon). I couldn't work in the mention of continues being removed, but I don't see it as a major negative. For leaderboard scores to even matter, it needs to be a no continue run anyway.
Hi paul, as i mentioned, those leaderboards, only show friends scores. there is no global leaderboard. it is being requested to the developers, but no guarentee of it being added. currently you have to go here: http://steamcommunity.com/stats/455400/leaderboards/1201474/
This looks like a lot of fun. I'm gonna have to pick this up sooner or later and lose some hours.
Its a fun game, didnt think that Pac-Man would come to this style of gameplay. Its too bad it doesnt have online multiplayer, but it comes with local 4 player coop which is really nice for friends and family visit.
Sounds like fun. Love that there's a glitchy twist built into this.
Interesting, but I'm kind of over these arcade games than get 15-20 different releases every few years. Good review, just not of a game I care to play any longer.
I'm digging it so far on PS4. Really love the art style of the different play fields.
Endless runner Pac Man? Sounds very interesting
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