I love Pac-Man... and Ms. Pac-Man for that matter. Who doesn't, right? So, I was understandably excited to learn that Namco Bandai has been hard at work on a new Pac-Man game. Not another clunky platformer, or downloadable content, but a real game.
Pac-Man Battle Royale is an old-school arcade tabletop, the kind mostly found in pizza joints these days. The cabinet itself is a beautifully styled and appropriately retro. Up to four players can stand comfortable around its flat surface where they can rest their beers as they shout at each other between bouts. It adds up to an immersive social experience in a real world setting. What a concept.
The four players battle each other through up to five distinct levels. At first the mazes start out small, but increase in size and complexity after each level. The gameplay mechanics are familiar to anyone who's ever played Pac-Man, (or who visited Google recently). Hardly changed at all in over a quarter century.
Each of the four players controls a different color Pac-Man. In the beginning of the round there are a small number of pellets on screen. After all initial pellets are consumed three power pellets will appear. Power pellets increase Pac-Man in size, making him faster and able to munch ghosts.
The twist is that any other player who doesn't have a power pellet is turned blue, and an all out battle to eat the other Pac-Men before the power pellet wears off ensues. The powered-up Pac-Men can eat ghosts, while their non-powered opponents are immune to them while a power pellet is in play.
Power pellets do not appear again until either all pellets are eaten or one player grabs a classic food item such as a pretzel or cherry. Also, there is not an even distribution of power pellets. If there are four players, only three power pellets will be in the maze. If there are two players remaining, there will be only one, and so on, leaving one player to rely only on wit, skill, and luck to survive.
If any two players of equal status come into contact they will crash into each other and be repelled in opposite directions. This provides for a great strategy for killing an opponent when both players don't a power pellet. Enemy Pacs can be bumped into a ghost, or into another player who has a power pellet. It doesn't matter who take out whom since there's no credit given for kills. The objective is simply to be the last Pac standing.
This game is purely awesome, highly addictive, and I expect most people who play it will fall in love" and dump their quarters in as if they can't control themselves. Pac-Man Battle Royale is exactly what needs to be in every arcade, bar, school, restaurant, and living room in the country.
Keep an eye out at your favorite video arcade. This game will be shipping in September 2010. According to a Namco Bandai representative, the game will also begin appearing in on all three major consoles various online components as downloadable content some point after the launch of the coin-op. The idea of online play on a service like Xbox Live Arcade increases my anticipation for next game in the Pac-Man franchise.