Everything about Namco's re-reboot is perfectly tuned and overwhelmingly memorable. A must-have.
Pac-Man has always been a bizarre game. Take a moment to digest the original's pitch: an incomplete pizza roams around a haunted maze scoffing tablets. Weird, right? Pac-Man Championship Edition DX takes the original game's formula and brings it into a new generation. It's still emphatically Pac-Man — pills, ghosts and mazes make up the key gameplay components — but the whole concept's been given a make-over.
Where the original Pac-Man was closer to a puzzle game (we suppose), Championship Edition DX is a racing game. It's not immediately obvious, but when the PlayStation Network title starts throwing "Time Trial" challenges at you, it begins to make sense. Unlike the original Pac-Man, Championship Edition DX focuses on giving the iconic scoffer specific portions of the maze to gobble up. Instead of the whole environment being filled with pills, certain passages and routes will occupy the point prescriptions. This makes the gameplay much more focused, instead of navigating the maze to eat all the pills, you're instead looking for the best route for the next set. Because everything in Championship Edition DX is timed, the game becomes a challenge of shaving off lap-times and learning patterns. Told you it was a racing game.
Another major tweak to the way Championship Edition DX plays is down to the annoying Ghosts from the original game. Instead of being chased by Blinky, Pinky, Inky and the other one (sorry!), Pac-Man will cross a number of snoozing green ghosts on his travels. These light-sleepers will witness the commotion and set chase, building a long conga of spiritual horrors behind Pac-Man. It's all rather tense until you a gobble a power-pill and realise you can gobble hundreds of Ghosts in one unbelievably satisfying sweep. Pac-Man must have got hungry over the past 30 years or so. Even neater is the fact that some Ghosts have power-pills inside them, so you can create a massive never-ending chain of Ghost-gobbling if you're skillful enough, rocketing scores through the roof. Regardless of point multiplying, gobbling Ghosts is one of the most satisfying features in the game. It really is brilliant.
Of course, this wouldn't be a proper remake without eye-burningly pretty HD visuals and a silky-smooth frame-rate. The game runs at an alarming pace on the higher difficulty levels, causing some real eye-straining conditions. We wouldn't have it any other way. While the Tron-esque visuals are the default style, there are also a variety of graphical skins available to completely customise the experience and give it a fresh coat of paint.
Pac-Man's retina destroying speed would cause a real difficulty issue if Namco hadn't been smart about their game design. As it happens, Championship Edition DX implements a ridiculously handy "bullet-time" mechanic that automatically occurs whenever Pac-Man gets close to a Ghost. This gives you two options — run the other direction, or drop a bomb. Yes, Pac-Man's not only developed an appetite, but a destructive side too. Bombs clear away any chasing ghosts temporarily, but are in short supply. It just adds another dynamic to the gameplay.
Being a modern-day re-release, Championship Edition DX wouldn't be complete without leaderboards. Everything from individual levels to combined scores are ranked, and while it should be easier to compare your position with friends, the game does a good job giving plenty of data pertaining to your ranking position.
For such a simple game, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX manages to get virtually everything correct. It's brilliantly addictive and perfectly tuned, a game that's a wonderfully time-waster, but also a disastrously apt home-wrecker. Presumably Pac-Man preaches the "once you pop, you just can't stop" philosophy, and it's rubbed off on Championship Edition DX emphatically.