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iPhone  header logo

Pac-Man

For: iPhone

A ghost from the past returns

Product: Pac-Man (iPhone) | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Namco Networks America | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, Arcade | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0.1
 
Pac-Man (iPhone) iPhone, thumbnail 1
They say classics, much like old relationships, are things you should never go back to. Many people truly believe that remakes never recapture the original magic and, in most cases, actually end up souring what was originally a sweet deal.

Of course, this a rule that the balance sheets of publishers around the globe require to be broken, and when a device with the instant popularity and convenience of the iPhone comes along, it's incredibly hard for them not to indulge in a few past pleasures for a bit of financial gain.

Pac-Man is one such classic that, on the surface at least, seems perfect for a reprise on iPhone. A more or less direct port of the 1980s arcade title, the aim of the game is naturally the same as ever. You guide your chomping chum around various mazes eating the 'pac-dots' along the way, avoiding the ghosts patrolling each level. If your yellow hero is touched by a ghost, he loses a life; when all five lives are lost, it's game over.

On the face of it, then, with the gameplay virtually unchanged in 28 years, there'd be little point in recommending this iPhone version over any of the other scores of Pac-Man ports that have plied their trade on almost every other format under the sun.

What is new, however, is the variety of ways you can now control Pac-Man. The iPhone, of course, has no directional-pad and no buttons to speak of, so in default mode Namco has decided to replicate the D-pad on the screen itself, at the bottom of each map. Played in this way, 2008's Pac-Man is nigh identical to those that came before it, the D-pad as responsive as any joystick or control pad.

The second control mode is probably the one that will grab most people, at least initially. Titled 'Accelerometer', it sees you controlling Pac-Man's directional movement by tipping the iPhone up, down, left or right. It's perhaps the most obvious way of making use of Apple's technology, but sadly it doesn't quite live up to its high billing. That's because the tipping itself has to be incredibly definite to have any effect. Turning left or right tends to work whatever the strength of the tip, but heading up or down is a different matter, meaning you'll often find Pac frustratingly unresponsive at crucial moments if your tip is in any way on the gentle side.

Of course, tipping the iPhone dramatically up or down to get an assured movement then hampers visibility, resulting in you tipping yourself along with the iPhone just to keep a grip on what's going on during play. Playing this mode in public is not advised since you'd more than likely find yourself locked up in a secure NHS unit within minutes.

The Accelerometer is a bit of an ill-judged disappointment then, but luckily Pac-Man saves itself with the application of the Swipe mode, which takes the very simplicity of control that first attracted millions to the series all those decades ago and runs with it.

This time, Pac-Man's movement is determined by you swiping the screen (and, crucially, it can be any part of the screen) in the direction you wish him to travel. It doesn't have to be a grand sweep - a delicate stroke does the trick - and it allows a bit of forward planning. That's because you can swipe a few moments before you actually make the turn, giving you an ultra-responsive form of play and enabling even first-timers to navigate maps with a certain degree of savoir faire.

As long as you're not expecting a revolution and you tread carefully as far as the Accelerometer is concerned, Pac-Man serves up a package that fans will find hard to ignore and newcomers will find instantly agreeable, though certainly not easy. No doubt, this won't be the last time Pac-Man's first adventure graces a new format, but if nothing else, his iPhone debut is proves that there's always room enough to return to an old romance.
 
Pac-Man
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 13 August 2008
Though not without its disappointments, Pac-Man nevertheless enjoys a solid stint on iPhone, making good use of the phone's features
 
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