Review: "Does 3D make me look fat?"
If ever there was a sleeper hit for the Sega Dreamcast, this is it. Simple in style but deep in substance, our favorite feminine pellet chomper scores a winner in her DC debut with Ms. Pacman Maze Madness.
Here's a game that newbies and veterans alike will find utterly enjoyable. The controls have never been easier. Movement of our bow-headed friend is done exclusively through the use of the D-pad or analog stick. You heard me right, not a single button is needed for gameplay. Fortunately, such a basic control scheme doesn't render this one to be a five-minute thrill. Quite the contrary in fact. In-game objects such as bouncy pads (that allow you to jump to different levels), blocks, TNT crates, warp points, fruit, keys, checkpoints, and the ever popular power pellets keep gameplay fun and interesting throughout your maze meandering experience.
While avoiding ghosts and eating all the pellets throughout the game's many mazes accounts for much of the action, there is a slew of clever puzzle elements that account for the other half. Pushing blocks in the proper spot, jumping off of bouncy pads in the correct direction, hitting switches in the right order all play a part in reaching your final destination. These are some of the most well thought out and designed puzzle schemes I've ever seen in a game. Never did puzzles seem repetitive and never did they become a frustrating hindrance. Kudos to Namco for their designing genius in this area.
All this pellet chomping and puzzle solving is done with a goal in mind. The evil Mesmerelda and her Halloween haunters have corrupted Pacland. The object for you is to set everything straight by obtaining the four gems of virtue. These are found throughout the game as you go from level to level and world to world. In order to gain access to later levels you must earn stars for your achievements on the earlier boards. Stars can be gained for things such as consuming all the pellets on a level or for finding all the fruit. Most boards have a total of four different stars that can be earned and each board can be revisited again later on if you wish to try and accomplish everything.
A nice surprise in Ms. Pacman Maze Madness was the high audio quality. Music was better than I would have hoped for in such a title and the sound effects were equally pleasing. There's just something therapeutic about that "wakka wakka" sound Ms. Pacman makes when doing her pellet chomping.
Visually this game doesn't break any barriers, but a game such as this wasn't meant to. Pacland is a colorful cartoon creation straight from the artists at Namco and it suits this kind of a game perfectly. It's a fine graphical update that sticks closely to its classical roots. Ghosts still flash that same old blue hue when a power pellet has been gobbled and the pellets (and not to mention Ms. Pacman herself) have been given a nice 3D facelift.
As great an adventure this is, Ms. Pacman has plenty more features to keep the replay value high. For those that miss the classic arcade version of Ms. Pacman you can dry your tears, the old mode is included for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Better still is the highly addictive multiplayer modes that are offered. Up to four friends can take part in three different games like Ghost Tag or Dot Mania. There's even a version of "hot potato" in which you can pass a bomb back and forth throughout a maze and the one left holding the explosive when time expires is out of the competition. Adding to the entertainment value, some events even include power-ups.
There's just so much to like about this wonderful game that it would be a shame for gamers to pass it over based on it cute exterior. Namco has once again done a wonderful job providing us with a great update of a classic game. Should this one be as well received as Pac-Man World, you can bet they'll be sure to keep quality titles like this on our western shores.