Pac-Man 99 Review – How Much Can You Munch?

    Title: Pac-Man 99
    Developer: Arika
    Release Date: April 7, 2021
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Genre: Battle Royale

Nintendo has a recent history of hosting unconventional Battle Royales with titles such as Tetris 99 and the now delisted Super Mario Bros. 35. This genre has been taking the world by storm, and Pac-Man 99 is yet another implementation of a classic franchise into this wildly addicting and popular gameplay style. While its paid DLC is rather questionable in pricing and application, the game proper is an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride that never gets old no matter how much you play.

In Pac-Man 99, players take control of Pac-Man in a seemingly normal game of the titular character’s origins while simultaneously combatting against 98 other players performing the same tasks as you. As players munch on Ghosts after eating pellets, they get thrown to other players’ games. There are also smaller Ghosts, called Jammer Ghosts, that impede player movement, drastically. There are also different targeting patterns that players can employ by flicking the right-stick, bringing a continual sense of strategy to what would seem to be a thoughtless and mindless gameplay experience.

This is actually my very first Battle Royale, having not even dabbled in Super Mario Bros. 35 or Tetris 99, so I can not comment on how the gameplay loop, learning curve, or general ideas are implemented in comparison to those titles. However, on its own, I admittedly had an arduous time understanding exactly what was happening on my screen for a good chunk of matches.

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Seeing numerous other players cover the edges of my field of vision and not really knowing what the right stick’s commands were doing, I felt pretty overwhelmed, which I believe is a natural reaction to a jarring game such as this. I doubt that there are many reading this who are like me and have never even tried a Nintendo Battle Royale before, but if you haven’t, you will assuredly have to be patient.

The game does not really explain itself to you through text at all, so it all comes down to playing some matches and slowly parsing how everything works. Despite the potential perplexity a brand new player might encounter, the gameplay loop itself is still satisfyingly addicting, regardless.

First and foremost, you have to at least remotely enjoy playing vanilla Pac-Man to derive any real sense of enjoyment from this title since, that is, after all, what this experience is based on. However, you also do not to be an expert or anything of the sort to have fun or eventually gather what is going on. Pac-Man 99 is nothing if not approachable. As long as you understand the gist and simplistic gameplay loop of how these titles work, you will gradually gain footing in the constant bouts to be the last remaining player.

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Aside from the free 99 player mode, which I spent most of my time in, there is a slew of other gameplay modes locked behind paid DLC that are honestly not too exciting or fulfilling. The first of these additional modes is CPU Battle, which is essentially the same idea as the standard 99 player Battle Royale, except you instead face off against 98 CPU players.

This is supposedly a beginner-friendly mode meant to instill new players with “getting a feel for Pac-battles,” but to be blunt, I find it unnecessary. COM difficulty levels and such can be adjusted, but I find the best ‘practice’ to come from playing against other actual players. There is no unique sense of fulfillment or even fun when playing against CPUs, so its inclusion, let alone its priced nature leaves me more baffled than anything else. CPU Battle, unfortunately, feels like a needless shell of the game’s primary mode.

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Score Attack mode is exactly what it sounds like and is a nice novelty that can act as a refreshing breather if one is growing drained by the 99 player mode. Blind Time Attack is also a moderately enjoyable mode that I had some minutes of fun with. The latter especially offers a somewhat unique gameplay style and challenge that none of the other modes provide, and I found it to be the most worthwhile aside from the free, default 99 player style.

When it comes down to it though, all of these DLC modes are merely appetizers that do not offer anything close to the same level of constant replayability the free 99 player mode offers. Private Matches are also locked behind a paywall. It is quite disappointing that all of these modes are bundled together in the Mode Unlock package and the Deluxe Pack, making it impossible to purchase these individually. This ultimately makes the prospect of delving deeper into this title’s content an unexpectedly pricey affair.

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Pac-Man 99 is an exceptionally entertaining Battle Royale boasting a genius incorporation of speedy matches and on-the-fly strategy. Its default, free mode, is where players will be spending most, if not all of their time duking it out, while it’s pricey, paid packages are tough sells that offer very little in the realms of replayability or meaning. I personally recommend sticking to the free version, but if you find yourself wanting some more variety, no matter how slight it is, those extra modes are there for you to pick up.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.