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Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions - 3DS Review

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Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions

3DS | NAMCO BANDAI Games | 1 Player | Out Now
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10th April 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

With Pac-Man Party lingering as a recent memory and the 3DS still a recent entity at the time, it wasn't a big surprise to see Namco Bandai take advantage of the opportunity to try and give Pac-Man a positive image again. If they were cognizant of the idea that you're only as good as your last game, then the brand definitely needed a push -- at least on Nintendo platforms. Their response to all of this was, not an original title, but a collection of sorts with not only a Pac-Man representation, but Galaga as well. Retro fans can be hard to please as their treasured franchises go through more and more hoops, but the dynamic offered by this package will leave both retro and new players alike feeling relatively comfortable about where both franchises are at.

    Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is a mix of both old and new as past efforts are included alongside two 3DS-exclusive iterations for an evenly-balanced packaged. Six games in total for $30 isn't a bad equation for value, providing that these games manage to be worthwhile experiences of course. So with that, it would be fitting to break down the package bit by bit so you have a better idea of what you're getting into.

The first game up for consideration is Pac-Man Tilt -- a semi-innovative 2D platformer. Inspired by elements of Pac 'N Roll, players are tasked with controlling Pac-Man as he collects pellets and fruit on his way to the goal. You'll primarily make use of the system's motion controls to do what is suggested by the name of this game, but in conjunction with that, the Circle Pad will also be used to control the character manually as you tilt the stage to and fro. As you tilt the screen, elements in the background also move to your tilt which is kind of a nice touch. Once he builds up a bit of momentum, Pac-Man will automatically switch to ball form, which allows the mechanics to take on a slight pinball feel once you get going. This is usually seen at the end of levels where you can jump or shoot your way into one of three goal containers, each awarding you a different score bonus. But even prior to this, there are aspects to the gameplay that allow Tilt to have a nice pace to it.

    In all 30 of the included stages, you'll find various pink-coloured traps that often involve the use of the L and R Buttons. These include doors, flippers, and springs, to name a few. In some cases, you can even jump into a bubble and, using inverted controls, move Pac-Man left and right as he floats upwards. But you quickly realize how clumsy this is when your bubble gets popped prematurely and Pac-Man is seen falling at an awkward angle. On a related point, I did have a few discrepancies with some of the level designs, but there weren't any serious errors from what I observed.

The developers decided to use a carnival skin in a number of stages as a means of adding personality to Tilt, which is in keeping with a number of other recent entries in the Pac-Man franchise. I'm not sure why they keep using this theme, but at least they're trying to be consistent in that regard. The music also goes along with this theme, and there are little sound effects like when enemies are hit that may make kids giggle while more serious players won't pay them any mind. Overall, Pac-Man Tilt is pretty fun to play and although the tilting mechanic may serve as an irritant to some, the fact that you are also using the Circle Pad helps minimize both the dominance this feature has over the gameplay as well as any perceived sloppiness on the part of the development team.

    The second new game created just for Dimensions is Galaga 3D Impact. In it, you engage in an on-rails shooter by using the gyroscopic controls of the 3DS to maneuver the camera as enemies enter the screen from different angles. Alternatively, you can instead use the Circle Pad to control the camera, making it an obvious choice if you want to play with the 3D enabled. There's quite a bit of camera adjusting that you need to do as you play under the normal conditions, so having a slightly lopsided viewpoint when you try and bring it back to center stage can get annoying, especially seeing as you're trying to keep tabs on all the enemies at the same time. Instead of just using one set of controls or the other, the gyroscope still remains active while you're using the Circle Pad, so if you move to set your 3DS down, the in-game camera will move as well. Additionally, I found the first half of the environments to be a bit dull, and there are also a number of framerate reductions to speak of. As you can see, there are already a number of issues to be noted with Galaga 3D Impact before even getting into the meat of the game.

As for the gameplay, I found it to be just okay and not at all that exciting. The A Button is used for your default rapid-fire gun, while the B Button can fire tractor beam-like shots that can capture any enemy it touches. These are then deposited into one of six different containers on the Touch Screen with each offering upgrades to your standard weapons as well as other add-ons like a temporary force field. Gradually, the game does get better in this way, with the culminating boss encounters adding to this in their challenge factor. However, much of your time spent here won't leave you with a great feeling afterwards. Stages 3 and 4 in the five-part campaign were an improvement, and the final stage was pretty cool in its own right. As a whole, though, the gameplay is only mildly enjoyable, if that. Unless they were to actually make some refinements with such a move, it's good they didn't make this into its own game.

    Moreover, the structure of this game is a tad impractical in the way it forces players to go through the entire run of the campaign with no breaks in between for saving and coming back later. This ultimately means that Galaga 3D Impact will be played mostly on long trips or in houses and can't really be seen as something with great pick-up-and-play appeal. That's not necessarily a knock to the entire package since, for what it's worth, everything else is convenient to get into, so having something "deeper" by the developer's standards would bring up the substance a bit. But that's just it. While I wouldn't label it as run-of-the-mill, Galaga 3D Impact is neither engrossing, nor deep. At best, it's an adequate shooter, but there really aren't that many outstanding features to it.

The next two games are ports of downloadable titles that originally released for the XBLA service and are appearing on a Nintendo platform for the first time. The first of these is Pac-Man Championship Edition. Now before I say anything, a number of individuals expressed before this game even came out that they couldn't understand why the developers didn't include the apparently superior Championship Edition DX. At first I questioned their reasoning behind that, but now, after having played it for myself, I'm really not that disappointed.

    For those who are unfamiliar with this title like I once was, Championship Edition borrows the tried-and-true elements of the original arcade release and enhances them with a stackable bonus structure, morphing mazes, and a whole new digital feel. There are a number of options to choose from aside from the main Championship mode, including two Challenge and three Extra layouts. I found Fusion to be the best one of the Extra stages as I loved seeing how the maze would transform further and further away from the compact design it started out as. Music is gradually introduced, and accompanying the electronic song are sets of familiar sounds from the original game amplified by echoes and the like. And although the 3D has a bit of an effect in a few areas, it's not show-stopping. Again, if you've never played Championship Edition, I'm positive that you'll see it as a great improvement on the original arcade release. Once you see the addiction factor come through, it'll be hard to resist playing a round of this when the cartridge is in your 3DS.

My views on Galaga Legions are very similar, except even more positive. When I first played this game I thought it was pretty amazing how they re-imagined the now-primitive concept present in the arcade version, but doing so in such a way that it doesn't lose sight of its original roots. Choosing from either the Adventure or Championship modes, players use the Circle Pad to control an on-screen spaceship, and fire with the R Button as enemies arrive onto the scene. Their appearances are always preceded by neon-like strings that indicate the upcoming pattern that the next batch of enemies will hold to. Enemies don't often return fire, but they can easily push you into a corner if you don't manage the territory effectively. To help you do that, you can deploy one of your ship's secondary components as a stationary turret that can fend off enemies that come in from the side or behind. The button you press on the right of your system will determine the direction they face (e.g., Y for left). To reclaim these units back to the sides of your ship, all you need to do is pass over them and your firepower will return to full capacity.

    Never mind the background visualizers and the sudden swarming in of the different enemies, the gameplay itself is actually quite mesmerizing in its own way. The mechanics feel refined and easy to jump into, yet the game certainly doesn't hold back in bringing the challenge factor fairly early on. Other special things to keep in mind are the wormhole-like items that can capture all the on-screen Galaga and turn them over to your side as your weapons experience a significant upgrade. As you utilize the divide and conquer strategy hinted at above, the system allows you to build up combos for increased score potential. All in all, Galaga Legions is an impressive departure that plays really well and is very much worth checking out if you haven't already done so. 

For those who just want to play the original Pac-Man or Galaga in handheld format, the developers decided to throw those into Dimensions as well. When playing either one, you're given a choice of three different views, with one of these presenting gameplay at an angle as per a standard arcade cabinet. I don't have much to say about the worth of these games in a package like this, except that seeing Pac-Man alongside Championship Edition just makes the inferiority of the original much clearer. I get bored going back to Pac-Man nowadays, but I know others will stand by the arcade game no matter how much time passes, so having it in this format may be appealing to such an audience.

    Galaga Legions, Pac-Man Championship Edition and the other two arcade games feature achievements listed on the bottom screen during play sessions. They're nothing worth raving about, though. By highlighting the Score Ranking option on the Main Menu and establishing a connection to the internet, you can compare your scores in all six games on a worldwide scale or limit it to just people on your Friends List. The final bonus is a special anniversary video that's kind of neat, but nothing more than that.

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is a game I can definitely see others whipping out for a quick game or two on a spur of the moment. There really is something for everyone here. Kids, hardcore players, arcade buffs, platformer fans, challenge-seekers; everyone gets something catered to them in some fashion to varying degrees. Your reaction to Galaga 3D Impact may be a bit mixed, and the decision to omit Championship Edition DX is certainly an odd one, but other than these two issues, Dimensions is still worth buying if you fall into any of the groups mentioned above.

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Tilt is well-paced with a few minor issues, 3D Impact is little more than average, cool ideas explored in Championship Edition and Legions
Presentation 7/10 - Good music and sound effects, 3D doesn't do a whole lot whenever it's used, wow factor of Galaga Legions, different atmospheres
Enjoyment 4/5 - Tilt is pretty fun, 3D Impact is a bit weak, Championship Edition is addicting, Legions is an impressive expansion, caters to multiple groups
Extra Content 4/5 - Achievements in four games, omission of Championship Edition DX, leaderboards, arcade titles included, multiple stages to clear

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions
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