Pac Man has always been intense. The Pac Man Fever wasn’t just about how popular the game was, but how frantic it could get. That feeling of rushing around to get that last pellet. The ghosts getting smarter as your power pellets effect grows shorter. It becomes rhythmic; hypnotic even. Cleverly, 2007’s Pac Man Championship Edition capitalized on that fact. It changed the way Pac Man played to make it faster and as a result, more frantic. The constantly appearing pellets on half the maze and blistering speed made getting a high score that much more rewarding. Namco improved upon this idea with a sequel, Pac Man Championship Edition DX. This one added trains of ghosts, changing landscapes, and made it even faster. If Pac Man Championship Edition took the original to 11, then DX took it to 12. It was my go to game for stress relief for years, so when another sequel was announced, I was excited to see if they could top DX’s rush of adrenaline. Pac Man Championship Edition 2 not only succeeds on dialing it up to 13, but breaks the dial off the whole freaking speaker.
In Pac Man CE 2, you dash around mazes eating pellets and ghosts to obtain a high score. You are going so fast that you can barely keep track of the famous yellow quarter-eaten pizza, so reflexes are a must. After you eat so many pellets, a fruit (Or you know, a Bell or Key) appears, and when you eat it, more pellets appear and the layout changes a little bit. Keep doing this until you either run out of time or die, all depending on the mode. There will be the four equally famous ghosts chasing you, but they also enlisted the help of legions of green sleeping ghosts. When you pass one, they will wake up and trail behind one of the main four ghosts, effectively making the ghosts snakes. When you eat a power pellet and start chomping at the front of the line, Pac Man goes through each of the ghosts in the line, multiplying the score in what can only be described as pure gaming dopamine. If you feel things getting too frantic, you also have a supply of bombs that resets your position back to the center. You can also have your mother hold your hand as you attempt to navigate the dangers of your bubble wrapped home, you giant pansy. You see, saving all your bombs and lives contributes to that elusive high score, and while getting the high score isn’t what makes the game fun, it is what you’ll obsess over after repeated playthroughs. It’s the kind of arcade bliss you wish you could pull away from once you start.
Most of this applies to CE 1 and CE DX, so what’s new here? For one, it breaks the cardinal rule of Pac Man and lets you touch the ghosts. You can hit the ghost once, and it will get angry for a brief period of time, as indicated by the glow around it. If you touch them while angry, then they will kill you. This was likely added to make the game less frustrating, as both you and the ghosts are moving so fast, you’re almost guaranteed to collide at some point. There’s a lot of cool little effects added to make the style pop. Whenever you start eating a trail of ghosts, the camera angle zooms in to really show the damage you’re doing, and when you eat the final ghost train, everyone spirals out of the maze in a flashy, ridiculously over the top cutscene. Sometimes, when you eat a fruit, all the characters just launch into another maze, and it is awesome. It’s more theatrical than the previous two games mostly taking place on 2D Planes, but here, they go for a 2.5D approach. It’s satisfying as all get out, and the game owns it. Everything bobs in time to the electro dance music, and which song you choose feels just as important as having a controller to play. It’s masterful at keeping your focus glued to the screen, giving you an emotional rollercoaster in just five or ten minutes.
Besides the normal score attack mode, with different goals and time limits, there’s also adventure mode. In it, you complete a variety of missions in a variety of stages, ultimately leading up to the main attraction: the boss fights. No, that wasn’t a typo. No, fire is not raining down from the heavens. Pac Man has boss battles against giant ghosts made up of multiple small ghosts. This is the reality we have to accept. In these battles, you play like you normally would, except that once the fruit appears, the boss makes all the ghosts permanently angry. You must dodge them and get to a constantly moving fruit, making it a bit more of a challenge than just the normal, theoretically infinite stages. You keep going until you collect a certain number of fruit and then, the real spectacle begins. All of your unused lives come to life, making an army of Pac Man to devour each of the small ghosts. It’s like the end to a Pac Man movie; a climax to all the trials you were put through getting to this point. It’s not Bayonetta in terms of final bosses, but it’s such a rewarding way to end off a world in Adventure mode.
Mechanically, Pac Man Championship Edition 2 is a more fine-tuned version of CE and DX, like a good sequel should be. But what helps make this entry stand out is its sense of style, that pop factor that the other games had to some degree, but failed to bring to life in the way this game does. Is that important to gameplay? I’d say yes, in this case. The arcade game is built upon that addictive nature, and the appeal of Pac Man always been its sense of rhythm. No Pac Man game has ever felt more rhythmic than Championship Edition 2. This is the ideal game to bob your head to, twitch your fingers, and down a few energy drinks with. Pac Man Championship Edition was like Pac Man in a nightclub. Pac Man Championship Edition DX was like Pac Man in a nightclub on speed. Pac Man Championship Edition 2 is like Pac Man in a nightclub on speed where the DJ is throwing people at the lights. And it is awesome.
FINAL VERDICT: Some of Pac Mans' finest
ONE SENTENCE REASONING: Pac Man Championship Edition 2 takes the championship series to new heights, raising the bar higher than ever