Crossy Road was a surprise hit for me, if only because Frogger is one of my least favorite video games, but this rethinking of the classic hooked me. Maybe because it was endless and random…or maybe because the characters are so charming and cute…maybe because it’s all voxel…or because it’s a good challenge. Regardless, Crossy Road became a hit and now the team behind it, Hipster Whale, caught a big license: Pac-Man
I think every video gamer of a certain age has a soft spot for Pac-Man. Sure, the franchise has had its highs and lows, but the original and Ms. Pac-Man games hold up almost 40 years after their release. That’s saying something…but with that comes a lot of respect, so when someone announces a new Pac-Man game, people can get suspicious, myself included.
Pac-Man 256 is the new endless Pac-Man game that’s very much in the flavor of Crossy Road. It’s random, it’s endless but this time instead of a chicken (or robot, or vampire, or whatever) you’re navigating your old friend Pac-Man.
All those ghosts are there too – including some new ones – that will keep you on your toes and frustrate you to no end. In short, it’s Pac-Man. You, of course, have your standard power pellets thrown around that let you chomp up a ghost but in Pac-Man 256, you get some weapons too.
As you eat dots, you’ll unlock various power-ups that let you shoot, freeze and chomp your way through those pesky ghosts. Each one can be upgraded using in-game coins (which will look and sound familiar to any Crossy Road player). The goal, if it wasn’t obvious, is to just stay alive as long as possible and rank up score.
Much like Crossy Road, this is a pick-up-and-play type game that you can enjoy and then toss, but I still think Crossy Road is the better game.
Crossing the road
The one thing you’ll notice right away about Pac-Man 256 are the controls. As you know, Pac-Man doesn’t hop, so to navigate him around you swipe in all directions. This doesn’t sound too bad but I found myself wishing Pac-Man could just bounce with a tap of my finger. Crossy Road’s hopping is just far more responsive than swiping. Sure, you get used to it but 9 times out of 10 your death will be related to a failed swipe.
Also missing from Pac-Man are the characters. Okay, so I know you can just throw anything at a franchise like Pac-Man, but where’s Ms. Pac-Man…or Baby Pac? Make them a random win from the prize machine or something. And actually, Pac-Man 256 doesn’t even have a prize machine which takes a lot away from motivation.
Crossy Road’s reward system was near perfect. It never took too terribly long to get an unlock and watching the present open was always a treat. Watching ads to get coins was also well worth it in that game, which is more than I can say for other games, including Pac-Man.
All in all, Crossy Road just has more charm than Pac-Man 256 but that doesn’t make Pac a bad game. It’s fun, it’s cute, it’s Pac-Man…but that’s it. But let me say that Pac-Man 256 is a textbook example of how you make a new game for a legacy brand. Everything they’ve done is perfect, even if the overall experience is not as rewarding as Crossy Road.
It’s probably unfair to compare the two games but they share so much besides just being made by the same people. You can tell Pac-Man 256 was made by people that love and know Pac-Man. I appreciate that as a classic gamer and Pac-Man fan, and that will keep me playing for a long time.