The Pac-Man experience of my childhood was solitary and demanded little strategy or attention. This lack of intensity made me reluctant to frequent the arcade scene, so when I saw Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 at Bandai Namco’s New Year’s Showcase 2018, I wasn’t too interested.
The large, colorful banner behind the game station caught my eye, however, so I lingered a second too long—allowing an on-site staff member to swoop in and entice me to play a quick round. Having never played a Switch game (and wanting to have some sort of interaction with any person in the room other than myself), I incompetently wielded the dark grey Joy-Con, sat down beside (surprise!) Bandai’s Associate Brand Manager, and prepared to mindlessly gobble up some ghosts and fruits. After all, I didn’t expect much else from the game.
But let me tell ya something: Championship Edition 2 for Switch is MUCH more than just walking and eating across the screen. So much more, in fact, that I found actually myself having *fun* playing an arcade game. What is this sorcery?
And it’s all thanks to the Switch’s exclusive, all new 2-player co-op mode.
This Pac-Man game involves a lot of cooperation and coordination. The maps are much larger, and there are many more warp tunnels ready to ruin your life. In addition to the iconic little Pac-Dots, there are also little green ghosts you can consume that are added on as tails to the original ghost cast: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. This component was reminiscent of Snake, as the tails can trap players in corners of the map and effortlessly end their efforts to win. When all the Pac-Dots are eaten, both players have to pick up a fruit and meet up to advance to the next wave. There are a few waves that gradually advance in difficulty, so patience is a must. What’s nice, though, is that players are given a warning to indicate they’ve wandered too close to a ghost. They’re also able to escape from a hungry ghost if the second player can maneuver their way over to save them. After completing the Pac-Dot waves, the ghosts turn blue, which is when players guide the ghosts to a line in the center of the stage and choose either end of the ghost trains to eat and finally finish them off.
I initially played with a simpleton of a CPU so Abby could explain the controls to me, so naturally navigating both sides of the map proved extremely frustrating. When she finally hopped in after I miserably failed to complete the level, things got more manageable and extremely enjoyable: we focused on one half of the map and got into a pretty nice groove.
Just when I thought I had it all figured it out however, of course the game decided to switch it up. Soon we were in a room with two floating boxes lined with Pac-Dots and a big boss ghost. Here’s the real kicker: our Pac-Men could JUMP! The gameplay was basically the same as the previous section, except when the boss ghost turned blue, we’d launch ourselves into a pinball-like frenzy, jumping around and trying to do as much damage to him as possible. This was my absolute favorite part—so much laughter and insanity and feeling like winners even when we couldn’t beat him in time.
Pac-Man’s charming simplicity and potency really sparked my interest in the game. It already feels like one of those classics that anybody of any age and background can enjoy, so I’m definitely picking it up as soon as I can.