Tag Archives: Pac-Man

EVAC Review: Pac-Man’s a square

Hexage — makers of Buka, Totemo and Radiant — have made a name for themselves developing quirky, neon, transcendental games for the iPhone and iPad. EVAC is their latest release, and it lives up in every way to precedents already set by these talented and unusual developers.

Around this same time last year, Hexage released Radiant, a space shooter paying homage to classic arcade shooters Space Invaders and Galaga, with nods to Pac-Man and other 1980s references as well. With EVAC the team once more returns to influences of yester-decades, this time paying more than a nod to Pac-Man. In fact, at first glance EVAC appears to be nothing more than an overly neon Pac-Man clone. Dismiss the game as such, though, and you will have done so unjustly. You will have also missed out on a real gem.

EVAC unfolds gradually, adding complexity as it does so. In the beginning, when the game is at its most basic — at its very foundation — the game is Pac-Man. Rather than a yellow orb with a mouth, you play a pink square with a face. Each stage is a maze, its halls littered with colorful pips that you must collect in order to advance to the next stage. Attempting to prevent your escape — filling in for Pac-Man’s ghosts — is a security force of red squares who sometimes patrol the halls, and at times give chase.

These labyrinthine halls belong to one Shadowbox, an evil black square with glowing, purplish eyes. You are his prisoner, but with the help of Cratos — a wizened, yellow box — you are determined to escape. Unfortunately, Shadowbox is quick to realize your intent and does not take kindly to your stealing his “colors” — the pips.

And that would be enough, if this game were Pac-Man. But it is not.

Beginning with the second stage, the game introduces puzzle elements such as pushing blocks, and panels that trigger events elsewhere in the stage. Blue panels open force-fields barring your path, while red security panels set off alarms and bring Shadowbox’s minions in hot pursuit. The third stage introduces stealth elements with safe-houses, hiding places where you may take refuge from patrolling reds. The fourth stage begins to introduce power-ups. The Ghost power-up temporarily allows you to pass through reds unharmed and move through force-field barriers. The Shock power-up zaps nearby reds, stunning them for a short while and rendering them harmless during that time. The Aura power-up surrounds you with a force-field that allows you to destroy the reds on contact for massive points. The sixth stage introduces traps, and so on with new stages gradually introducing new challenges and gameplay mechanics, ever building upon the simple Pac-Man premise with which the game begins.

EVAC also has an excellent scoring mechanism that rewards quick, skillful playing. Collecting pips builds your score multiplier, increasing the value of subsequently collected pips. Dilly-dally too long between pips, however, and your multiplier will begin to decrease until you start collecting again. You can suffer three hits from the reds before being captured, but each hit will immediately reset your multiplier to zero. Destroying the reds also boosts your multiplier and adds points to your score. Finally, at the end of each stage your progress will be rewarded with 1,000 points times your multiplier. To reach high scores, you will need to avoid contact with Shadowbox’s security forces, destroy them when you can, collect all of the pips quickly, and reach the exit before your multiplier begins to drop. The game tracks your high score for each stage, and optionally submits score to its online leaderboards.

Likes:

More Neon Goodness: Hexage’s games bear a distinct look and feel. The company has a knack for imbuing simple shapes — circles, squares, etc. — with vast personality, then cranks the fluorescence to 11 such that everything glows in the dark. Sounds weird and looks questionable in still shots, but the games are lovely in motion and EVAC is no exception.

Sound Design: It’s as easy to recognize a Hexage game by the music and sound effects as by the neon visuals and adorably simplistic shapes. As in the games which have come before it, the sound design in EVAC is spectacular, a thick tapestry of transcendental electronica, and soothing blips and pings.

Puzzling Puzzles: EVAC’s puzzles are lovingly crafted and challenging, but always logical and fair. Some are entirely optional, rewarding you with power-ups, but unnecessary to complete the level.

Flexible Level Design: There are often multiple methods of completing a stage. The seventh stage, for example, presents you with an optional puzzle wherein blocks must be pushed onto eight floor panels to remove barriers obstructing an aura power-up. The bulk of the stage’s pips are in a section of the maze heavily patrolled by reds, with entry only possible by crossing over an alarm panel and raising security. And so the player must decide how to proceed. She can solve the puzzle, collect the aura power-up and use it to muscle through the guards while collected the pips. But the puzzle is challenging; one false move and ruin it, and it’s even possible to trap yourself with no way out, requiring the stage to be restarted. All of this can be avoided; the player may simply trip the alarm, then rely on stealth to get past the guards, ducking into safe-houses and waiting until the coast is clear. So much waiting around, though, is going to hurt your multiplier. It’s really up to the player to determine how they wish to proceed, how their efforts are best spent, and what method might allow them to attain the highest possible score for the stage.

Great Replay Value: Tying into the flexible level design, players may wish to revisit completed levels in an effort to better their score, and to determine the most effective strategy for completing any given stage.

iOS Multitasking: EVAC supports iOS multitasking. Hurray!

Dislikes:

No Game Center Support: Sadly, EVAC lacks Game Center support. It would be great to see achievements implemented for completing various tasks in the stages. For example, completing the puzzle and attaining the power-up described above, or meeting a high score threshold for each stage.

Hexage makes good games, and EVAC is yet more proof of it. The game takes the relatively simple arcade mechanics of Pac-Man then expands upon them manifold with elements of puzzle, stealth and action gaming. Rarely do games accommodate so many different styles of gameplay while maintaining a perfect balance, but EVAC pulls it off. The game plays equally well on the iPhone and iPad, so it’s entirely up to your preference whether to buy the SD or HD version, or both. The game’s 24 challenging levels and excellent replay value offer great value for your buck. Fans of Pac-Man or arcade games in general, consider EVAC a no-brainer. Buy it.

EVAC and EVAC HD are developed by Hexage and retail individually for $0.99. Reviewed at version 1.0 on an iPhone 4 and iPad.


Treasure Grab Review: Burgle the rich, burgle them good

Imagine, if you will, a marriage between Pac-Man and Metal Gear Solid, and the offspring produced by this union might resemble THQ‘s Treasure Grab. An unlikely pair, you think? In one you navigate mazes, collecting pellets and dodging ghosts. In the other you navigate facilities — mazes in their own right — accumulating gear and avoiding detection (and the inevitable pursuit). When you get down to brass tacks, the games are really very similar, based upon navigation, collection and evasion.

Treasure Grab inherits the best traits of its supposed parents. As up-and-coming master thief Alya Loot, players infiltrate the mansions of the city’s elite in order to bereave them of their affluence and run them out of town.

Alya begins each robbery already in the mansion. The goods — tableware, statues, jewelry, books, paintings, food and more — are easy to find. Alya will automatically swipe objects she passes near enough to, and so the object is simply to sweep each room and hall clear of its valuables. This is easier said than done, however, as the floors are patrolled by guards and maids who can quickly bring Alya’s pilfering to a premature end. Also, Alya has only two minutes in which to rob the place before the alarms sound and the guards become aware of her presence. Be quick, be quiet, then be gone.

Guards spotting Alya will give chase, and there are no second chances if caught. Alya will be ejected from the mansion without her loot. As they patrol the mansion guards will open and close doors, converse with one another, and sometimes become lost in their own thoughts. Their behavior can sometimes be used to Alya’s advantage, and sometimes the opposite. Maids cannot directly harm Alya, but scream when they see her, causing nearby guards to converge on the room. By breaking line of sight and remaining unseen, Alya can shake pursuit.

On each raid, Alya is accompanied by a trickster spirit who grants her various benefits such as distant sight, instant loot collection, disguise and more. She begins the game with access to only one of these spirits, but will unlock others during the course of the game. Alya may leave the mansions at any time through one of several exits, escaping into the night with her spoils.

Likes:

Graphics: Treasure Grab is beautifully drawn and animated using pixel graphics. Characters are large and detailed, and imbued with a great deal of … well, character. Alya is slim, curvy and cloaked, and despite not having a face, easy to read. The guards are menacing, the maids demure, and the rich adequately despicable. At the very least, you’ll feel they deserve to be robbed from.

Adaptive Difficulty: Dependent upon your level of success alleviating the wealth of the city’s bourgeoisie, the game will adjust its difficulty to accommodate you. Following a successful heist, your victim will increase the guard. Fail in your attempts at burglary and the victim will overconfidently lower his guard. On the stage selection screen the number of lit windows in each mansion is indicative of the challenge you will face inside. Those who excel at the game will face challenges befitting their skill, while those who struggle with it will be catered to. To wit, anyone can enjoy this game regardless of skill level.

Trickster Spirits: The trickster spirits are a wonderful addition to the game and provide you with tools allowing the stages to be approached in different ways.

Controls: By touching anywhere on the screen a d-pad appears allowing you to move Alya. Touch-anywhere controls are the jam, the toast and the knife that spreads it. Oh, yeah.

Mini-games: During stages, Alya will encounter locked doors which must be picked to be opened. Lockpicking is played out as a timing based mini-game and can cause same some tense situations: trying to get through a locked door and out of sight before the guard rounds the corner, or when cornered by pursuers with your only escape locked tight. Aside from the main game there are also 36 time challenges in which you must race against the clock to acquire specific items.

Dislikes:

Menus: A minor gripe, but it feels as if there are too many screens to navigate before you’re actually allowed to play the game. Also, there is no Retry option when caught. Instead you’re kicked back to level selection screen and must navigate the menus again.

Repetitive: Sadly, Treasure Grab’s four mansions offer virtually identical experiences. The antagonists seemingly shop at the same stores, hire the same decorator, contract with same security company and employ the same maid service.

Treasure Grab is now a year old — an app store dinosaur (ROWRRR!) — but none the worse for wear. The game looks and sounds fantastic, and it’s still loads of fun to play. Pac-Man fans and those wanting some stealth action on the iPhone should definitely check out Treasure Grab; it plays well on the iPad too, though not as a native app.

With its recent price drop to $0.99, Treasure Grab is an absolute steal; grab it while you can. And then look out, rich folk, ‘cos Alya Loot is gonna steal all of ya loot!

Treasure Grab ($0.99) is published by THQ Wireless. Reviewed at version 1.0.18 on an iPhone 3G and iPad.

Pac-Man turns 30 Years Old, Fire Sale on the App Store

By now, we should all know that Pac-Man has turned 30 years old (link only good for May 21st, 2010), as it was first released all the way back in 1980.  Sadly, I wasn’t born to witness the birth of one of the large game icons in history, but of course, I’ve played the game through the years from the arcade to the iPhone.

It’s a unique game that many are still fascinated by, and while I’m not very good at it, I remember spending so many coins on the arcade machines, probably spending more than $20 on one sit through.  This game icon surviving for 30 years is quite a large feat, and we definitely congratulate Namco for passing that milestone.

But we’re not the only ones happy for Namco, as Namco themselves seem to be in a great mood.  They’ve lowered the price of some of the Pac-Man games in the App Store to $0.99, while the original iPhone and iPad version went down to $3.99.

Pac-Man Games on Sale

Along with the fire sale, Namco has announced their upcoming Pac-Man title Pac-Match Party, which is described as, “Collect gifts or chomp on cakes and power pellets to get through this PAC-MAN-themed Match-3 title.”

We don’t have much more info other than that tidbit, but it should be available soon.

The fire sale for all Pac-Man games will end on Sunday, May 23rd, so I suggest you pick up whatever you want to pick up now before the price goes back up.  Among them, I can definitely recommend Pac-Man Championship Edition.

‘Pac-Man: Championship Edition’ Released Onto App Store

Pac Man for the iPhone was just okay, it wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.  We gave it a ‘Buy’ rating for its good graphics and interesting gameplay, and the controls were just okay.  They weren’t the best, but it worked and I was glad that I could play Pac-Man on my iPhone.

Since then, Namco has released Pac-Man Remix onto the iPhone creating a full 3D view of the Pac-Man world.  Of course, that game was just okay also, and it didn’t fail to meet my expectations.  It didn’t exceed my expectations though, which is quite surprising as Namco has had tons of time to fix their issues and problems.

After the release of Ace Combat, I believe there’s still hope for Namco.  A lousy port was the problem with Namco though as Ace Combat is probably one of the worst ports I’ve ever seen from such a big developer, and with so much content lacking, it’s quite disappointing.

This seems to be the case with Pac-Man: Championship Edition.  It only looks like $2.99, but underneath that beautiful skin is a $3.99 expansion pack that includes more than half the rest of the game.  The total for your purchases would probably come up to around $6.98, a price I would have rather paid in full from the beginning.

Namco is starting to become a little shady when it comes to DLC, and we’ll have to play this one by ear.  For now, the port itself seems to be a solid port, but content seems to be extremely lacking.  Namco, if you’re hearing this, please release some solid content.

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Pac-Man Remix Review: Welcome to the 21st Century

Namco Networks has just recently created a branch specifically for making iPhone games.  This seems to be one of their first releases, and I must say it is pretty impressive.  A lot of their other remixes like Galaga weren’t as great as I thought they would be with either bad controls or ugly user interface.  Although Pac-Man Remix still needs some work in its interface, the controls work pretty well, and I found myself enjoying the game more and more as I fought through each level.

Likes

Remixed: When it says Pac-Man Remix, they really mean ‘remix’.  Namco did a great job with adding a lot of new stuff that wasn’t in the original Pac-Man, and I personally enjoyed the new look and powerups.  The game is a lot more complicated than it used to be, and your strategy has to be a little bit more than running away.

Powerups and Items: Pac-Man Remix features tons and tons of little powerups and items to help you along the way.  For example, there is a little speed arrow that stuns a ghost when you hit them and doors to block the ghost’s path.  Other powerups include teleporting and of course, the big yellow ball that makes it so that you can eat the little ghouls.

Sounds: One thing I really liked about Pac-Man Remix was the sounds.  The sounds were accurate and clear, and they just sounded really nice with the game.  The background music isn’t annoying, and the Pac-Man noise doesn’t bother me at all.  The sound produced when pressing a menu button is nice and clear, and response was great.  I’m not sure if Namco focused on the sounds, but they did a really nice job with them.

Controls: I really, really, really like the controls in this game.  Most of Namco’s games failed in controls, and the original Pac-Man in the App Store was hard to control even though it did have 2 or 3 control methods.  Although Pac-Man Remix uses only 2 control types, the onscreen d-pad and swiping the finger both worked really well.  The d-pad is big enough for ham hands to play, and the overall touch area of the d-pad is greatly improved.

Dislikes

User Interface: Namco still needs to work on the interface.  When first opening the game, you’re introduced to a moving Pac-Man background along with some ugly, orange buttons.  The font used in this game is also a little pixelated, which is somewhat awkward in a “remixed” game.  This has been a problem in almost all of Namco’s iPhone games, and sadly, Pac-Man Remix follows that path.

Expensive: For $5.99, I can get 6 other iPhone games instead of paying for one.  Also, most of Namco’s remixes feature the original and classic versions of the game.  It would have been nice if the game was around $2.99-$4.99, but Namco is known for charging pretty high for their games.

Pac-Man Remix is a wonderful improvement from the classic Pac-Man with some great twists and turns.  Although it is a little expensive for the average iPhone user, the game delivers some solid gameplay.  If you already have the Pac-Man classic though, it’s a little hard to recommend this game also.  Usually, Namco’s remixes consist of the remix and classic versions, and paying $5.99 for only the remix version is a little too much.  If you don’t have Pac-Man classic though, this is a great game to satisfy your Pac-Man needs.  This game along with Space Invaders Infinity Gene are retro classics done right, but again, I can’t really recommend this game to users who already have the original version.

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Pac-Man Remix was developed by Namco Networks America, Inc., and I played through version 1.0 on my 1st generation iPhone.  The price is $5.99.

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