Flashback Attack: Pac-Man
Version Played: Pac-Man Vs. (Gamecube, 2003)
If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what Pac-Man is, first off welcome to the internet. It’s a terrible place and you’ve made a huge mistake, but as long as you’re here, let’s see if I can’t explain to you what Pac-Man is.
Probably the best introduction to Pac-Man would be this video. No, wait, that’s a horrible introduction. Um… Pac-Man is a game about playing as a little yellow hockey puck with a mouth, running through a dark neon-lit maze eating little white pellets and being chased by ghosts. Unless you eat a big white pellet, then you can eat the ghosts, but they always come back. Sometimes there’s cherries or other fruits. You play it in arcades?
It looks like this? Maybve you've seen it before?
Look, if you don’t know what Pac-Man is, I’m afraid there’s really not much help for you. It’s kind of just a thing that you’ve either experienced or you haven’t. You get it or you don’t. And I got it, I got it in a big way. Pac-Man for the original Gameboy was one of the first games I ever bought.
The game has been done to death, though. Sure, you can slap a bow on his head, but it’s still the same game. You can even put him out in the wild in a 3D environment, but then it’s just a bad Sonic Adventure rip-off. I’m going to be honest, this is kind of a weird Flashback Attack, because I’m not really here to talk about the original game, I’m more interested in talking about Pac-Man Vs.
This motherfucker right here
How does this version differ?
Pac-Man Vs. is one of the freshest takes on Pac-Man that I’ve played in years. It was when I first played it in 2003, and it still is to this day. I know there’s a little crossover between this game and Pac-Man Battle Royale (no relation, unfortunately), but I still think Pac-Man Vs. is a ton of fun.
The basic idea is, what would happen if Pac-Man was multiplayer and three of the players controlled the ghosts while the fourth controlled Pac-Man. Now, some of you may not remember this, because it was a seriously underutilized feature, but the Gameboy Advance had the ability to connect to the Gamecube using a special wire (sold separately at like $30 or something).
Seriously this is it. How does this cost $30?
Now the way that Pac-Man Vs. utilized this little feature is that the Pac-Man player would play on the Gameboy Advance, and their view would be what you would normally see in a game of Pac-Man (ie. the entire board). The other three, however, basically played split screen on the TV and could only see a small portion of the board around them.
The goal of the ghost players is to catch Pac-Man before he can finish eating all the pellets. The ghost who catches Pac-Man gets a certain number of points for doing so, as well as the chance to play as Pac-Man in the next round. Pac-Man gets points for however many pellets he eats (along with a bonus if he manages to clear the board). At the end of each round, the players physically trade places with the help of on-screen cues, and play continues until one player gets a pre-determined number of points. Okay, I'm starting to sound like a board game manual.
Aaaaaaand, of course they made a Pac-Man board game.
Sounds like a ton of fun, right? That’s because it is. Unfortunately there’s no single-player mode, so you do need to have at least one friend (the remaining players become computer controlled). That, and the game doesn’t really sustain interest for too long. The really big problem with this game, though, is that the way it was distributed was weird as hell, making it somewhat hard to actually find.
It came on a separate disc when you bought the Player’s Choice edition of Pac-Man World 2, or you could get it for free from certain stores, or you could also get it with Gamecube versions of I-Ninja or R: Racing Revolution. There has since been a release of the title on the DS packaged with Namco Museum DS, which is probably the easiest way to get it.
Oh, it's also available on phones, but only in Japan for some reason.
And Japan is weird, so…
But, does it stand the test of time?
This is sort of a weird question. Has Pac-Man Vs. stood the test of time (it did come out almost 10 years ago)? Well, aside from the Vs. components it still pretty much plays the same as the original Pac-Man. So has the original Pac-Man stood the test of time? I would say almost certainly. One of the first things I do when I go into an arcade, to this day, is find the Pac-Man machine and pump a couple of quarters into it. It’s definitely stood the test of time more than the Pac-Man Christmas special.
So, yeah, if you’ve never played Pac-Man, give that a shot, it’s great. If you have played Pac-Man, though, and you somehow get the chance, give Pac-Man Vs. a try. I think you’ll be surprised at how much fun such a tiny change can add. Also, I need more people to help me convince Nintendo to bring it to the Wii U. I mean, come on, with the Wii U gamepad, this should have happened already, right?
Oh, also, the announcer for Pac-Man Vs. is Mario. Did I not mention that? Because it’s awesome.
Flashback Attack is a weekly column that goes up every Friday, in which Matt Overstreet takes a look at some older games and tries to figure out if they've stood the test of time. Do you have a game you'd like to recommend? Leave a suggestion in the comments or e-mail Matt at email@example.com.