Review: Pac-Man 256

From the developer of Crossy Road and Bandai Namco comes yet another free-to-play Pac-Man game; Pac-Man 256.

glitchWhat’s the 256 stand for?  In the original arcade game of Pac-Man, once you cleared 255 levels the game glitched out on level 256.  They have taken the concept of this glitch and wrote it into an isometric view pellet eating “endless munching” Crossy game.

The game doesn’t deviate much from standard Pac-Man rules.  Eat pellets.  Eat fruit.  Get the energizers and eat the blue ghosts before they turn back into their multi-colored deadly selves.

The maze is endless; scrolling infinitely;  you eat until you die.  Along the way, you’ll get mini-quests like “Eat 5 Apples” or “Eat 124 Dots” which will reward you with a “gift” of credits or coins (yeah, here comes the IAP part).

Sometimes you’ll be offered a gift if you’re willing to watch a video.

The “glitch” part comes into play as the coaxing tool to keep you moving.  In Temple Run you had gorillas … in Pac-Man 256, you have “the glitch”; the play field being systematically destroyed behind you.  If you’ve ever seen “The Langoliers” movie you can’t help but make a comparison.

If you get caught in the glitch, you die.  As you play further, you’ll see more little “glitch holes” appearing on the playfield ahead of you (although they seem to be there for aesthetics).  Update: Ghost sometimes spawn out of them.

Each time you start a round you choose whether to play free or for one credit.  Naturally this doesn’t happen until you’ve played the game awhile (as with all good crack dealers – the first hits are always free) as weapons become available to you.

After you have eaten a requisite number of dots, you’ll start accumulating weapons; laser, freeze, bomb, tornado – and while these randomly placed weapons found around the board can help you (if you paid the one credit entry fee) you’ll soon discover that they are really there to be the “intermediate currency” portion of the free-to-play game.  More in a minute.

As you munch the maze, there are plenty of little Dopamine triggers to keep those neurons firing.  Mainly in the way of “chains”; dot chains and ghost eating chains.  As you eat dots consecutively, a counter builds.  In fact, the dot chain is part of the leaderboard tracking system.  Ghost chains are similar; eat an energizer and start slurping ghosts.  Get as many as you can to form your longest “ghost chain” before the energizer wears out.

When things get slow, the game will toss a fruit onto the board – these serve as another reward system; it adds a temporary multiplier to the points you munch down.

Scoring high points in the game is a balance of avoiding poor-choice greed situations and learning the ghostly behaviors of the “sleeping” and “paused” ghosts you’ll be running into.  It isn’t too high brow, don’t worry.

You’re allowed to keep six “credits” on hand at any given time; credits are used to start a new game WITH weapons or to get a one-time continue when you die.  The limit of one continue is great; that keeps the playing field level for the score attack chasing friends looking to one-up themselves on the leaderboards.

In keeping with the spirit of Freemium, you can buy credits with real money; a pack of 12 will set you back the proverbial .99.  However, the game will allow you to take credits COMPLETELY out of the equation for a one time fee; $7.  You can also wait for the credits to rejuvinate on their own.

Now, if $7 really removed all the “intermediate currency” and IAP/Freemium limitations in the game – that might have been a decent deal (although for Pac-Man – any Pac-Man – the magic number is $4.99).

Unfortunately, Pac-Man 256‘s biggest sin in mobile gaming is allowing “pay to win” and this simple fact ruins the game from being any sort of fun as a score attack/chase with your friends.

Weapons are unlocked by “grinding” – that is, eating hundreds of dots.  Everyone has to do that – you can’t buy them.  That’s good.

Sadly, weapons can be leveled up using the intermediate coin currency.  This currency is found in small drips within the mazes of the game (starting to sound familiar?).  Each upgrade can take minutes to HOURS to complete – and while that is happening, you can’t use it.  You cannot pay, however, to speed up the wait (I’m shocked by this; that’s Ten Commandments of mobile gaming stuff right there).

Of course – you can pay real money to buy a “coin doubler” (about $4.50).  This doubles the amount of coins you earn while playing.  This gives those that pay a DISTINCT advantage over those that do not pay.

In my book, that is an epic fail.  Free players cannot compete on the scoreboards against those that are willing to pay.

If there is a “sunny side of the street” to Pac-Man 256‘s IAP system, there is a “final price” you can pay to “own the game” – and that appears to be about $11.50.  If you want to play the game on a level, competitive playfield – you and all your friends need to pay $11.50.

Those opposing the game’s “swipe” control methodology would do well to give it another go.  As someone vehomently against swipe controls I’ve learned in four-direction games they can be a lot more useful and reliable than a virtual d-pad if implemented correctly.

If you cannot overcome your aversion to swiping – Pac-Man 256 supports standard Android controllers including the Shield Controller on our beloved Shield devices.  This, of course, adds another rung on the playing field ladder.  Those swiping to play may have a disadvantage to those playing with a controller.

While the game is pleasant and fun to play – running just long enough to be a good distraction but not long enough to make you realize there isn’t much to the game – it is slow to get back into.  One of the Ten Commandments of casual gaming these days is to ensure the player can get back into the game immediately if not sooner – to keep the excitement (and cash) flowing.

It actually takes too long to get back into the game once you die (unless you’re willing to part with a credit of course) which really drags the adrenaline rush down for me.

While I wasn’t a huge Crossy Roads fan (I already played it before; when it was called Frogger), I recognize the successful elements of the game and how this game lacks those one or two elements to make it stand out.

Outside of the leaderboard lopsidedness for paying customers, there is nothing inherently wrong with the game.  It’s fun in short bursts and it has a familiar, fun feel mixed between an arcade game legend and a modern day phone game.

The game works on all three Shield devices, supports real controls and is free to try (again, it’s about $11.50 to disable most of the IAP).

On the tablet it supports both landscape and portrait orientations.

Get it on Google Play.  Below is our own play video on Shield Android TV.

One Response to Review: Pac-Man 256

  1. administrator says:

    There seems to be an issue restoring purchases too. I purchased unlimited credits on the Shield Android TV. I did a RESTORE PURCHASES on both my tablets – neither restored (despite saying they did) and even trying to make the same purchase another time resulted in nothing. Strange.

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