Developer: Namco Bandai Games / Publisher: Namco Bandai Games / Played on: 3DS / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence]
This 3DS mini-retrospective of the legendary Pac-Man and Galaga franchises contains the original arcade games that started it all, the reboots from the Xbox 360, and two all-new games exclusive to the 3DS. Even with the repackaging of four great titles and two brand new ones, Dimensions is a hard recommendation given the burden of its full price tag.
Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is a compilation package featuring three games from the Pac-Man series and three from the Galaga series. For starters the cartridge contains arcade ports of Pac-Man and Galaga. Both games are still fun to play, even 30 years after the original releases of their respective arcade cabinets. Pac-Man has you gobbling up as many dots as you can while avoiding ghosts to get the highest score; Galaga pits you against wave after wave of insectoid foes to achieve the top score. No one will doubt these are great games and most people have probably already played them in some form or another, so including them on the cartridge doesn’t add much to the overall value.
A much better addition to the compilation comes in the form of the more recently released Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions, previously available exclusively on the Xbox 360. Galaga Legions follows the same basic concept of the original game, but in a much faster paced environment. Instead of enemies falling into lines and following the same pattern, they will fly in from all sides, swarm around your ship, and dive kamikaze-style straight at you. You are also free to maneuver your ship around the entire screen as opposed to only being able to move side to side in the original Galaga. Championship Edition is the superior Pac-Man experience in my mind, as it is a much more challenging and thrilling game overall: Maps are varied and change dramatically during gameplay; Pac-Man and the ghosts move much faster, look prettier, and levels are more intense with improved mazes to navigate and strategies to employ. Both games come with achievements to unlock and challenge modes to test your skills. Though nowhere near the classic status of their brethren, Championship Edition and Legions are an absolute blast to play.
The sole new additions to the game come in the form of Pac-Man Tilt and Galaga 3D Impact. Pac-Man Tilt is the better of the two game, throwing Pac-Man into an adventure/platforming game very similar to the Genesis Sonic the Hedgehog games. Tilt utilizes the 3DS’s gyro sensor to interact with the environment. If you tilt the 3DS left or right, the stage itself will shift, causing Pac-Man to roll faster or jump higher. This adjustment of physics takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it the game is enjoyable. Tilt incorporates interesting puzzles like sideways ledges you have to tilt the system to get over. I found this gameplay to be cool, and can easily see other games emulating this idea in the future. After playing the first ten or so levels, though, things can get a little stale, with no new innovation in level design.
Not nearly as fun, though, is Galaga 3D Impact. The game is an on-rails first-person shooter that puts you in the cockpit of the Galaga ship as you blast away insect foes. You have to physically move around the 3DS to aim at targets and shoot them (very similar to how you can aim in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D). While it might sound fun, the game is actually very boring. Enemies fly in slowly and just sit there, waiting to die. There isn’t any reason to play the game for more than the first few levels to get the idea of it, and then realize that Galaga Legions is a much better game and switch back to that.
The small screen on the 3DS can hamper how you play each of the games. I found it a bit tougher to shoot down enemies in Galaga because the screen was so cramped. The same goes for navigating around in Pac-Man: making turns quickly can be tough because you can’t react fast enough due to the reduced size. Each game supports the thumb stick or the d-pad for movement. Pac-Man Tilt handles well, but definitely takes some getting used to in order to hammer down the tilt mechanic. The same can’t get said for Galaga 3D Impact though: lining up shots by moving around the actual 3DS system is awkward. Enemies do move slowly, but having to constantly realign the camera or your reticule gets very tedious very quickly. Only Tilt and 3D Impact use the touch screen, and even then at a very minimal amount. Overall the controls are average, but don’t expect to achieve a high a score as you did on other versions of the game right off the bat: it could take a few hours getting used to a game you have already played before.
Waka waka waka waka…
That’s all I really have to say and you know I’m talking about Pac-Man. The two classic games have some of the most recognizable sounds in all of gaming, and they sound perfect on the 3DS. The other four games hold up just as well. Pac-Man Championship Edition uses pretty much the same sounds from the original Pac-Man, and Galaga Legions has a nostalgic pew-pew noise when firing. Both games incorporate a soundtrack, something the older titles did not have at all, and they sound good too, with beats that add to the frantic action and intensity of each title. The nostalgia runs through all the way to Pac-Man Tilt and Galaga 3D Impact, with some of the same sounds playing through here. But these two games sound more flat than the other titles, perhaps because we’ve already heard them all so many times before. I think the two new games hang too heavily on the nostalgia factor and come off dull and unimpressive.
Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is a hard game to recommend. While the four re-released games are all good in their own right, there’s really no need to play them again. On top of that, the two new games aren’t enough to warrant a purchase on their own, with Pac-Man Tilt being the only one worth at least some of your time. If you’ve somehow never played a Pac-Man or Galaga game, then this is a decent purchase, but everyone else should stay away.