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"Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."

~Ephesians 5:16

Thursday, May 7, 2015


It's always interesting when a reviewer claims a game is too hard and lists that as a negative. Many commenters would precede to attack: saying things like, "Well, that means you just aren't experienced enough!" or "What's the point of an easy game?" While it is true that a video game should be challenging, I think there's a difference between genuinely challenging and genuinely annoying. For example, a very challenging game is MegaMan Battle Network 4. The final boss in particular is very tough. Instead of getting angry every time one loses, the player comes back with a new strategy to test out. The player wants to face it again, because it's truly rewarding. That's what every game should strive to be like.

And then there's the other category.

PAC-LAND is one interesting game from a historical point of view. For one thing, it predates Super Mario Bros., making it one of the original sidescrollers. It also features Pac-Man with arms and legs playable for the first time. Despite these things, it remains relatively unknown to most people. The reason why it's enjoying a mini-surge of popularity is because of the inclusion of the stage "Pac-Land" in the newest Super Smash Bros. To capitalize on this, Nintendo released the game on the eShop. Being a fan of Pac and finding the concept of a sidescroller with him intriguing, how could one not download it? The stage in Smash was very inviting, so one would think the game was too. Unfortunately, downloading it is one big mistake. It's also a gravely missed opportunity, and you'll see why below...

See that picture? Look how happy Pac is and how detailed & colorful the backgrounds are . That's the game we should be playing. Instead, we get this...

You see, that's the original NES version. The picture above this one is the American adaption, which is more fondly remembered. Ironically, the stage in Super Smash is lifted straight from that version, not the crude looking looking Japanese original. Why Nintendo released this one over the one people like more is beyond me. Still, I have to credit for the original version having a church with an actual cross on it. (The American version took it out for whatever reason.)

So what exactly makes PAC-LAND genuinely annoying? Let's ignore for a second that thanks to the Wii U in virtual console games we can save wherever and whenever we please. The game itself doesn't offer any type of save option. There are over 25 levels. So let's say you lose in level 22, you're back at level 1. "But it's an arcade game" you say, and "back then the systems couldn't handle a saving feature!" That may be true, but the game has severe communication problems. For example, when the player first meets the Fairy Queen, she gives Pac the ability to continually jump. That's great, but the problem is that there's no indication this actually happened. So the player jumps not knowing what to do, and wastes a life. And let me tell you, lives are extra precious here. Because by simply touching a ghost you lose one. Ir's just overly frustrating. Without spamming save slots, I could almost guarantee I would not be able complete it. In fact, I think I could almost say it's near impossible without saving. So if you're one who has played this game all those years ago and beat it, you deserve at least seven gold trophies.

Still, to call Pac-Land a bad game would be a disservice because there are truly poorly made games out there. This was made in 1984, yet still works better than some Nintendo Wii games. (The worst game of all time is called Casper Scare School Spooky Sports Day, something that came out 31 years later!) Being made so long ago, it wouldn't be right to fault the gameplay too much for it's unfair mechanics and terrible, non-existent communication. The backgrounds are all pretty simplistic, but again it's forgivable for the period. There's basically just one theme which plays on loop every level. It isn't bad, but it would have been nice if they used the actual Pac-Man sound effects.

Overall, if you like annoyingly impossible games, PAC-LAND is for you. Unless you're some super gamer whom is an expert at this game, you'll be constantly spamming the save slots. It would be a lot less annoying if the Wii U had used the version everyone likes, but nope, rather we get the bland one. PAC-LAND is not a fun game. You're better off playing the classic for 126th time.


1 comment:

  1. It's interesting how the final picture says Namcot. I guess Namco used to be called that or was it some kind of typo by the company? Yeah, games where you can't save aren't my style. I have a space side scroller for the GBA where you can't save and I just can't bother with it. If you lose, it's game over. Difficult games should be good, but not if it's artificial. Give me F Zero or Mega Man any day. That being said, one game that suffers from this a little is a modern one that does have a save function, but that's a review for another day...