Following on from last month's release of Klonoa: Phantasy Reverie Series, Bandai Namco has come back with an update of another one of its PS1 classics: 1999’s Pac-Man World. Sadly, unlike Klonoa, this is a remake of just the first game, rather than a remastered collection including the two PS2 sequels. Thankfully, Pac-Man World Re-Pac stands on its own as a solid platformer and a modernised version of one of the most interesting experiments in Pac-Man history.
In a tale that makes The Last of Us look like an episode of Sesame Street, Pac-Man returns home on his birthday to discover that his wife, two infant children, dog, professor, and the wee guy from Dig Dug, have all been kidnapped. To make things worse, he discovers he is a victim of identity theft as the ghosts are advertising a meet-and-greet with Pac-Man on Ghost Island. The villain behind this is identified as Toc-Man (an evil robot Pac-Man) and our hero must spring into action to rescue his family and defeat the imposter.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest changes in Re-Pac are on the presentation side; the visuals are far more vibrant this time around, with the levels receiving total visual overhauls. Re-Pac also sprinkles extra cutscenes throughout the game before the boss fights, making Toc-Man a far more present villain. The opening cinematics have been completely changed, both in what happens and in getting rid of the voice acting from the original, replacing it with gibberish. If you’ve paid attention to the Pac-Mandom over the last few years, you no doubt know about the ongoing dispute surrounding the copyright of Ms Pac-Man. Due to this, new characters like Pac-Mom and Pac-Boy have replaced her and Jr Pac-Man in the game.
Rather than the collectathon style of platformer that Spyro and Super Mario 64 popularised in this era, this game is more in the style of Crash Bandicoot or Super Mario 3D World, in which the goal is simply to reach the end of a stage. The six-hour adventure consists of six worlds, most of which include three levels and a boss battle.
These levels each come with their own set of collectables; the fruits from the original arcade game are the main ones; these serve as keys for doors littered throughout the stages. The majority of these doors will be locked when you reach them, but the required fruits are rarely any further than the next screen over to the right, requiring minimal exploration. These doors can be home to all sorts of things: extra lives and health, buttons that affect the level layout, hidden P-A-C-M-A-N letters, and the Galaxian doors, which unlock a bonus maze level in the style of the classic arcade game. Each world also holds one key that allows you to free your captured family members.
Since there wasn’t exactly much source material to work from in the character's jump to 3D, Namco had to get creative with his move-set. Your main form of attack and traversal is the butt bounce, which lets Pac-Man jump higher and gain momentum while defeating enemies. You also have access to a ranged attack, in which Pac-Man hurls pellets he's collected at his enemies, as well as a dash attack in the vein of Sonic’s spin dash. You can’t have a platformer without some form of power-ups, and Pac-Man World offers three; the classic power-pellet turns him into a giant invincible eating machine destroying everything in his path, the metal-pellet allows you to walk underwater, and finally the rare bomb-pellet blasts away every enemy on the screen with a butt-bounce.
While not an incredibly challenging game by any means, Re-Pac has rebalanced the game in a few key ways. First off, you now have access to a flutter to extend Pac-Man's jump time and help with some of the trickier landings. The game also offers an easy mode which extends your float time to make some of the tricker bits even easier.
Re-Pac also makes changes to a few of the boss fights to make things simpler; the original game’s infamous Anubis Rex fight has now been made far easier by filling the ground between the four singular platforms. What’s most striking about Pac-Man World compared to other 3D platformers of the era is how unique each boss fight is. You can go from a typical arena fight where you bounce on the enemy's head to a first-person race with clowns and a Galaga pastiche. However, a death during these multi-phase fights will send you straight back to the beginning of the somewhat lengthy battles.
Tommy Tallarico’s great original score returns in this remake, which strikes a great balance between blending classic Pac-Man tunes with their own original flavour. However, the music in Re-Pac sounds very low-fidelity at times. We can’t say for sure if they’re using the original PS1 tracks, as when we went back to listen to the original OST on youtube it sounded better than those. However, the tracks are noticeably low quality on some of the levels, whereas others can sound completely fine.
Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a fun look Pac in time to an era where 3D platformers were far more prominent than they are today. While it doesn’t quite outclass some of its contemporaries like Crash Bandicoot Warped and Super Mario 64, Pac-Man World isn’t one to miss if you’re looking for another solid 3D platforming adventure. Depending on how you view the new difficulty balances (or if you just really love Ms. Pac-Man) this is undoubtedly the best way to experience the PS1 classic.