Pac-Man 256 – Review

In the words of Bruce Forsyth (and later Joe Pasquale), the price is right. You certainly wouldn’t want to pay more than £3.99 for this mobile conversion – it’s a no-thrills package, that hasn’t seen any major enhancements other than a new four-player mode. Well, that and the removal of in-app purchases.

Thank Pac for that.

Due to their heavily stylised nature, we can live with the fact that the graphics haven’t been improved, but the lack of music strikes us as a very peculiar omission. Remember that compelling, pulsating, soundtrack that featured in the wonderful Pac-Man Championship Edition? Here, there’s a short remix of the classic theme-tune on the title screen, and after that you’re left only with Pac-Man’s infamous ‘Wakka wakka’ noise to tap your toes to. It’s really quite odd.


Being a mobile game originally, the game’s structure feels rather out of place on console too. It’s a score chaser like granddaddy arcade Pac-Man, only now an assortment of power-ups are drip-fed to keep players hooked, all of which can be upgraded to improve chances of survival. On mobile, you could pay to (potentially) win. With IAPs removed it’s now a sheer case of focusing on completing challenges in order to acquire enough upgrade points to max out power-ups. Upgrades start off cheap, rising to the point where they become several games apart. “Free” gifts do thankfully speed up this process, while also serving as an unwelcome reminder of the game’s roots.

Three power-ups can be in Pac-Man’s arsenal at once, found at random within the endless colourful maze. That’s endless in the sense that the screen scrolls upwards indefinitely; the central premise is to escape the corruption rising from the bottom of the maze – a reference to a glitch in the arcade original, which occurred during the 256th stage. These power-ups – including lasers, burning trails and tornadoes – help to eradicate the ghosts, while assisting in keeping the multiplier chain going.


Ingeniously, pills no longer continuously fill the pathways – they’re now placed sporadically. Taking the wrong route can lead to a break in the chain, instantly ending a score multiplier streak. This sometimes encourages you to dice with death, getting up close and personal with ghosts just to keep a chain going. It’s a clever little mechanic that doesn’t really come into its own until the challenges for beating certain high streaks appear. Beating previous records feels both compelling and rewarding from thereon in.

Alas, it isn’t enough to prevent tedium from settling after just a few hours; this is a game intended to amuse and entertain for short periods of time, not lengthy caffeine fuelled console gaming sessions. We imagine this is why the developers felt the need to add a four-player mode, which while is a pleasing enough addition, doesn’t stop the package as a whole as feeling a little throwaway. For a game centred on eating, there certainly isn’t much to get your teeth into here.


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