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Ms Pac-Man (Smartphone)

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

As familiar as a 27-year-long marriage

Product: Ms Pac-Man (Smartphone) | Developer: Namco Bandai Networks Europe | Publisher: Namco Bandai Networks Europe | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Ms Pac-Man (Smartphone) iPhone, thumbnail 1
As far as we're aware, there are no figures in yet determining how many girls have been quick on the uptake of the iPhone as a gaming platform. Its similarities to the DS and chic value as a lifestyle accessory suggest it'll do very well in the lipstick and nails market, so it's a wise move of Namco Bandai to get Ms Pac-Man on the App Store from day one.

Pac-Man was designed with female gamers in mind, and although it'll never be quite as recognised as the original, in many ways Ms Pac-Man provides a superior playing experience. The slightly slicker gameplay, variations in the maze and a more suitable main character for a girl's game all conspired to make Ms Pac-Man a terrific improvement on one of the most popular games of all time.

But there's always that nagging doubt as to whether a highly simplistic and over-played retro title can really offer anything new – especially on a fledgling platform like the iPhone, where users are currently more interested in testing the system to its limits rather than regressing it 27 years. But here she is nonetheless, so let's take a look and see if Pac-Man's 'missus' still has anything to offer.

First and foremost, this is a picture-perfect conversion, but that's not a particularly mighty accolade considering the age difference between the two systems. Anything less than an arcade-perfect port would be totally unacceptable, though it's good to see Namco has resisted the temptation to spruce things up a bit and lose the nostalgic bent that will appeal to many retro gamers.

The obvious stumbling block is the control system, but as we already reported, Ms Pac-Man has been given some serious consideration to ensure her game still plays accurately. Three options are available, and each new game (or continuation of a previous one) allows you to choose your controller preference.

The D-pad system allows you to touch-control the retro arcade joystick at the bottom of the screen, while the Swipe method asks you to draw lines on the screen with your finger in accordance with Ms Pac-Man's movements. Although both work very well, it's the accelerometer method that's the surprise winner. Using this mode, you navigate the maze simply by tipping the handset in the required direction, with the 'centre' being represented by an approximate 45-degree angle – the ideal viewpoint for looking at the iPhone while holding it.

This adds a subtle extra dimension to the gameplay, by instilling a sensation of rolling a dot-eating marble around the maze. It's also something of a gift to have a difficulty setting, since Ms Pac-Man was notoriously unforgiving. But it's not the gameplay that raises a concerned eyebrow with the game – there was never any question as to what the download would include and the coin-op classic is fully present and correct.

No, the question is one of value and comes from the rather heavy price tag wrapped around a very old, frequently ported and overplayed game. Were that price tag closer to a third of its current £5.99 asking price it'd be a lot easier to recommend, but six quid (and a poorly shark) restricts Ms Pac-Man to ardent retro-heads only.
Ms Pac-Man (Smartphone)
Reviewer photo
Spanner Spencer | 21 July 2008
It's classic gameplay through and through, but Pac-Man's missus doesn't come cheap (as we're sure he'd tell you)
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