Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Saturday Social-Network Spectacular : Pacman S

Introducing a BRAND NEW FEATURE to the blog. Yes, that's right, an actual BRAND NEW FEATURE! This particular feature for Saturdays is BRAND NEW, and is in no way a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that I didn't do my usual Friday post at all this week... Nosiree, BRAND. NEW. FEATURE!

Now that we have that out of the way, let's take a look at this week’s game, shall we?

EVERYBODY has played Pacman at some point in their life. It would be fair to say that Pacman may be the single most iconic videogame ... um ... icon ... of all time. The simple memorable designs of both Pacman himself and the ghosts have entered into the realm of popular culture, so much so that even your Mum knows who they are and what they represent.

The game itself may well have been a breakthrough when it was released back in 1980, being one of the first games that wasn't specifically about shooting aliens and was instead a family-friendly experience. It does need to be remembered just how worried people were about these arcade machines back then, so it was nice that there was the occasional title that parents could actually feel safe about when they gave into the constant "PLEASE CAN I HAVE ANOTHER 10P FOR IT PLEEEEEEEEEEEASSSSSSEEEEEE?" from me. Um, I mean, their children.

And, for years, Pacman was one of those fond childhood memories. It wasn't until I revisited it with an adult gamer’s eye that I discovered just how harsh the game itself was. And, also, that it hadn't really dated well. Namco, to their credit, were also aware of this, as they released the rather magnificent Championship Edition in 2007, and the even more astonishingly awesome Championship Edition DX in 2010. These games took the basic "Eat dots, avoid ghosts, oh look a power pellet NOW EAT THE GHOSTS!" format, and tightened it up by adding a time-limit, multipliers for eating consecutive ghosts, and placing the entire game into a single maze that was constantly morphing throughout the play experience.

Pacman S on Facebook takes its cue from these games. What starts out looking like just the same old game you may have played 30 years ago soon reveals something much more exciting.

The first change you notice is one that is possibly quite familiar to anyone who has played more than 3 or so Facebook titles. It is this :


This slot machine gives you some bonus points. Now, these points are nothing at all to do with the game score, they are in fact the currency with which you can buy in-game powerups. There are 4 to choose from, shown below.

Have some of those!

I'll save you some time. Go with Slacker and Speed Up, the other two are pretty rubbish.

Then, we come to the game itself. Like I said, it looks like Pacman.

As expected, really.

As you can see, all the expected Facebook trappings are built-in already. Nicely, the friend’s leaderboard is built-in, and takes a good focus at the bottom. (Not so nice when your bloody friends just won't play it no matter how much you tell them how brilliant it is, though.) But then, you play the game itself, and it goes from Pacman with added Facebook frustrations into Pacman with added Magic from the Sex Fairies. Eating the 4 ghosts in succession makes one of the ghosts start carrying a multiplier, and eating that ghost is the true key. Before you know it, the multiplier adds up, and the game speeds up in accordance with your score, and OHMYGODITSOSGOODNOOOOOOODONTGOTHATWAY!


Pacman was rightfully popular worldwide. The recent versions have retained everything that worked, and turned it into the most adrenaline-infusing competitive experience this generation has to offer. As a gamer, you owe it to yourself to play these versions, however possible. Here we have the most accessible version to date, which strikes a finely-tuned balance between the nostalgia and charm of the original and the highly-polished addictiveness and focus of the Championship Editions, without quite going into the pyrotechnic excesses that the new games often stray into. (Although, something like the Ghost Chain in DX would be a welcome addition from this reporter’s point of view.) It is something instantly playable by anyone, that doesn't tie you to your screen for hours at a time unless you want it to.

There may well be some kind of pressure to spend real money on the game, but if there is I have yet to witness it. This is because the balance of points the game gives you to spend on powerups is quite obscenely high, and may well last you the rest of your life. And even if it doesn't, the powerups will cease to matter once you get the knack of the game, and the hypnotic rhythm that comes from knowing exactly which direction to head through the maze to maximise your scoring opportunities. Until this muscle memory sets in, you may well find yourself cursing your keyboard, but more often than not it is just that bastard red ghost you will be shouting at. Which is a sure sign that the game is successful.

I implore you to play this one. There is so much nonsense on Facebook that when something quite incredible comes around it behoves all of us as people who genuinely love games to spread the word.

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