Think Pac-Man is antiquated and irrelevant to modern video games? Well, think again. “Pac-Man Championship Edition DX” morphs the core gameplay of the series into something more exciting and enjoyable than any game with “Pac-Man” in its title has any right to be in 2010. It’s probably the best thing Pac-Man has ever been a part of, and one of the best downloadable games released this year.

“Pac-Man Championship Edition DX”

Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network
Namco Bandai

“Championship Edition DX” still has the same classic idea: Eat as many dots, fruits, power pellets and ghosts as possible to get a high score. But the concepts behind each of those goals have changed drastically. Each maze that Pac-Man has to navigate is now horizontal instead of vertical, and when all of the dots are eaten on one side of the maze, a fruit materializes. When that fruit is eaten, the other side of the maze transforms into a different layout. When all the dots are eaten on that side of the maze, the other side transforms and the process continues. The constant shifting of the maze design keeps you on your toes, figuring out which way to go.

This on its own is compelling, but the revamped ghosts make the game an absolute blast. Many ghosts begin the game sleeping and idle. Passing them on the way to eating dots and fruits will awake them, and they will give chase. An insane amount of ghosts will actively and intently pursue players until a coveted power pellet is found. The feeling of turning around and eating 50 ghosts or so in a row is ridiculously satisfying. It’s the best part of the game and it never gets old. It’s also the quickest way to gain points, so it’s something to try often.

All modes in “Championship Edition DX” are time-based, offering five- or 10-minute score attack options. Time trials also track how fast a certain amount of fruit can be eaten. Each maze is smartly designed to show a clear path to all the dots. But as your score increases, the game speed also increases at a frantic rate so veering off course is inevitable. If Pac-Man is about to run into a ghost, the game automatically slows down into bullet time, giving a bit of breathing room to make split-second decisions.

The game looks and sounds phenomenal. Everything has a colorful, neon glow to it, with a thumping, energetic techno soundtrack that fits well with the frenzied nature of the gameplay. The retro sound effects are terrific, especially the noise when eating ghosts. Each maze has numerous color palettes and art styles, as well.

The complaints that could be lobbied against “Championship Edition DX” are really quite inconsequential. Yes, there are a total of 10 mazes, and while it would have been nice to have more mazes and modes, that’s pretty nitpicky for a $10 game. The game is also lenient in handing out lives, meaning it’s too easy to survive, but it’s not about surviving. It’s about the high score and getting a ranking on the global leaderboard. The absurdly fun “Championship Edition DX” is one of the few games that actually make high scores feel like they matter in this day and age.

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