Pac-Man Rally PlayStation 2
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: Smart Bomb Interactive
Release Date: Out Now
There can be little doubt that Pac-Man was the first gaming icon. Long before the overweight Italian plumber with the dungarees strut his stuff, Pac-Man was known to millions. Of course these days it's Mario that gets all the attention but Pac-Man was one of those games that helped to make video games as popular as they are today. Whilst Mario has handled the move to the 3D game world rather gracefully, Pac-Man has struggled somewhat. Ask any fan of the power-pellet munching ball and they'll tell you the best Pac-Man games are the original 2D arcade games. Few will have a high opinion of the 3D games that have appeared over the last few years or so. Something different is called for then and the latest game for our spherical hero is Pac-Man Rally.
Let's make no bones about this; Pac-Man Rally is a Mario Kart clone. There's no getting around the fact and within just two minutes of playing the game you'll see that, with few exceptions, it's trying hard to be Mario Kart. The game includes a Circuit Mode, Quick Race, Time Trials and Battle Mode (which is comprised of various multiplayer games that can be played against a friend and AI opposition). The modes can be played with either one or two players. There are fifteen characters for you to play as such as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, Tac-Man and Erwin. Each character has four different statistics for acceleration, top speed, steering and weight (light, medium or heavy).
Whilst the game does stick closely to the Mario Kart formula there are some unique elements here that do add a little variation. The races play out in a familiar fashion in that you drive around a rather bizarre circuit that has its own hazards. You'll drive through boxes (called Pac-Boxes) that will give you some form of bomb or missile that you then fire at an enemy. You'll also need to power slide around corners to maintain fast lap times and the power sliding is handled by pressing the R1 button. Power sliding also fills your Guardian meter and once filled it will earn you a Guardian that will give you a temporary boost in speed as well as make you invulnerable for a while. Around each circuit you'll see Pac-Dots and collecting these will fill your Pac-Mobile meter. Once the meter is filled you can press the triangle button to turn all the other racers into ghosts which you can then eat to earn Ghost Currency (which is used to unlock various items). During a race you'll also see fruit on the circuit. Once you've collected enough of a certain type of fruit you'll activate a Fruit Shortcut that will enable you to do a quicker lap. None of these unique additions to the Mario Kart formula are particularly earth-shattering but when combined they do help to give the game something of a different feel.
One of the problems that Pac-Man Rally has is that it's just not capable of providing much of a challenge. Should you jump straight into your first race on the default difficult setting (there are three in all: Easy, Normal and Hard, with Normal being the default difficulty setting) you'll ease into the lead and aside from losing the position for a second or two when you're hit with a bomb you really can't fail to finish in the lead. Increasing the difficulty setting to Hard provides a slightly more challenging experience but it's still nothing to test those used to racing games.
Pac-Man Rally looks OK. The game certainly isn't graphically impressive in anyway but then again it doesn't need to be. The characters don't require highly detailed visuals; they are 3D renditions of simple 2D characters after all. It's to the developer's credit that the each of the different circuits does have its own unique appearance and there's a lot of variety here, which is important. The frame rate is also impressive too and the action flows at a fair tempo. Load times are a little on the long side but it's nothing that would deter you from playing the game.
There aren't any subtitles in Pac-Man Rally but in truth they aren't really needed and deaf gamers will have no problems at all. There aren't any comments from the characters when racing and there's no information that you'll miss out on. The HUD provides all the information you'll need and you'll be fully aware when your Pac-Mobile meter is full and when the Fruit Shortcuts have been activated.
As Mario Kart clones go, Pac-Man Rally isn't bad. As you're never going to see a Mario Kart game on the PlayStation 2 you're forced to consider one of the available clones on offer (assuming you have an aversion to a Nintendo console or aren't in a position to buy more than one console) and if you're a fan of Pac-Man then Pac-Man Rally is a decent option. However, the game isn't that challenging and in truth it's not going to pose much of a problem to most gamers, even on the highest difficulty setting, after a few hours play. Had the asking price (£29.99) been more reasonable the game would have been easier to recommend but as it stands it's only going to be desirable for dedicated Pac-Man enthusiasts.
Pac-Man Rally isn't a bad Mario Kart clone but it's certainly not a great one. Most will probably find the game far too easy and short-lived.