Title: Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle
Developer: Heavy Iron Studios
Release Date: November 17, 2020
Reviewed On: Stadia
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: Battle Royale
Stadia is hurting for some exclusives, so leave it to the retro hero Pac-Man to give gamers a reason to use the platform. Developer Heavy Iron Studios attempts to breathe some modern life into the series in their release, Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle. By introducing a battle royal element, the system can be kind of fun, but that excitement won’t last for very long.
Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle has some interesting mechanics, but the most fun you’ll have is if other players are as competitive as you. The idea isn’t as straightforward as a typical battle royal game, though. Yes, you face off against a group of other players, but your score runs independently of theirs. It’s completely possible to play an entire game and not see another player even though they play their respective games on each side of your board. This ends up making better experiences tied to instances when other players understand how to play.
As a fan of the original game, I began playing Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle like I would be in any other Pac-Man game, but after a few matches, you realize that there’s a bit more to this than clearing the screen of dots. Aligning the walls are tunnels to other boards, which you can see other players playing on. As you clear each level, you increase in speed, but so do the ghost enemies. This means they become a bit harder to handle, but you can take the experience facing them through a tunnel to another board. This will net you some higher points as you pretty much steal from your opponents in a semi-cooperative way.
Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle is not the easiest to describe because it does so many untraditional things with both Pac-Man games and the battle royale genre. When it comes to the Pac-Man systems, you have your straightforward approach of clearing boards of dots while avoiding ghosts. While you do this, power-ups because available, which can increase your speed, open new tunnels, lock your tunnels, confuse ghosts, and even attract the ghosts to you. There are not too many of these power-ups, but they do add more strategy to be utilized when clearing your boards and surviving the higher levels.
Each time you clear a board of dots, a new board generates. The board designs are creative and fun to navigate, and they even feature themed levels that fit the holiday. I did enjoy these small touches on the gameplay because it made a familiar experience feel new. Still, even with the themes, I don’t feel like the boards drifted too far into the obscure and resembled their retro counterparts well. This is a plus, if only because it makes it approachable to gamers of any generation.
When it comes to the battle royal systems, well, you are playing against many players, but you have independent goals to meet each run. These range from reaching specific levels, to even eating several players. They get creative and force you to try new things outside of complacently playing on your board.
Playing with other players on the board can be chaotic, but it also introduces a divide and conquer approach to higher stages. Still, being a battle royale game, you compete. So there are items that can affect other players, and you can other people’s items for bonus points. I felt kind of bad sometimes invading other’s games only to take their points and eat them, but that’s the name of the game.
As fun as Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle can be, it’s so self-contained that after a couple of hours, you may end up a little bored. There’s not enough diversity between runs right now, as others don’t seem to understand the art of invading boards. When I was up against competent players, I felt the challenge that this game could provide, and it made me want to play again. However, these experiences were few and far between for me.
Sadly, playing on Stadia also saw some latency issues, which have previously never been a problem for me. However, in this game, these lapses happened a little too often to overlook, which only hurt a puzzle game that sometimes requires split-second decisions. There are other elements to the gameplay and rewards loop, which include unlocking costumes and being able to customize your playing experience. Everything works towards making the game hipper, but I didn’t really find myself caring about cosmetics too much.
Pac-Man: Mega Tunnel Battle is a unique approach to turning the Pac-Man formula into a battle royal experience. I think the way it was handled works for this type of game as you independently work on getting high scores while invading other’s boards to rob opponents of possible points. Still, it loses its charm so quickly, given that the online community doesn’t seem to want to lean into the new systems while they focus on clearing their boards in simple Pac-Man fashion.
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