Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

Pac-Man 2, The New Adventures

Introduction

Pac-Man, the classic Namco arcade game, was released in 1980. It received something of an unenthusiastic response in its native Japan due to the popularity of Space Invaders and other fixed shooters. However, much to the surprise of its creators, it quickly became a cultural phenomenon when it reached North America, grossing over a billion dollars in quarters by the end of the decade. Its appeal overseas was such that it spawned an American-made sequel, a pop rock song, and even a short-lived animated series. Fourteen years after the debut of the original, Namco produced and published an official sequel, Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, for the SNES and the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive.

Analyzing the Experience

Despite its name, this game is more of a spinoff of Pac-Man than a proper sequel. The reason I say this is because Pac-Man 2 is not a game in which you navigate the titular character through new mazes in an attempt to eat all the dots on screen while avoiding ghosts.

In fact, contrary to almost every other game ever made, you don’t actually control the main character. In something of a postmodern twist, the game is played from a first-person perspective, and it’s up to you to guide Pac-Man through his misadventures. Pac-Man usually wanders forward by himself until he happens upon an obstacle he cannot circumvent. This is where you come in – you are given a slingshot and you are made to shoot various things to keep Pac-Man out of danger. You may even need to use the slingshot on Pac-Man himself at times.

Pac-Man 2, The New Adventures - Gameplay

As you do not have direct control over Pac-Man, you can get him turn around by making him look in the opposite direction he’s facing. You can also use this command to get Pac-Man to notice, and potentially interact with, important objects that are above his head or on the ground. Other times, simply shooting the important item is enough to get his attention. You can also feed Pac-Man a power pellet when he is attacked by ghosts, allowing him to turn the tables on them.

In light of this, Pac-Man 2 could be loosely described as an interactive cartoon or an unconventional point-and-click adventure game. Though I would have to say the subtitle this game bears is a little misleading, as Pac-Man 2 doesn’t feature what most call a journey. Instead, the challenges Pac-Man faces include getting milk for his child, picking mountain flowers, and finding out why the ghosts are stealing gum from kids.

Pac-Man 2, The New Adventures - Or lack thereof

And in case you thought I was kidding…

Admittedly, it is pretty funny just how complicated these mind-numbingly mundane tasks end up being (for instance, getting flowers involves hang gliding), but it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear thin. The biggest source of frustration in this game stems from being unable to get Pac-Man to cooperate, for his emotional state functions as a core mechanic. As one might expect, Pac-Man is more likely to listen to you if he’s happy. If he’s sad, it can be difficult to motivate him into doing what you need him to do. Similarly, if he’s irate or smug, there’s a good chance he’ll start acting reckless or even flat-out mean, taking his anger out on hapless bystanders. It’s one of those things you need to see to believe. After a while, it feels like you’re babysitting a toddler.

Pac-Man 2 - Not a reasonable thing to do when you're angry

Not helping is that Pac-Man in this game could probably give the Spelunker protagonist a run for his money in terms of sheer uselessness. We’re talking about someone so inept, he can’t even get a can of soda without the help of slingshot-wielding maniac capable of breaking the fourth wall. |You even have more of a hand in defeating the game’s sole boss than Pac-Man does.|

A common criticism lodged at point-and-click adventure games is that they can be solved not with logic, but sheer brute force. These interfaces tend to be less versatile than titles which use a text parser. For example, the action “pry boards off door with crowbar” would be accomplished by selecting the crowbar in an inventory menu and clicking on the boards with it. In other words, you couldn’t type “use crowbar on boards” and expect to get through.

Owing to the fact that there is only one way for the player to interact with the world of Pac-Man 2, the puzzle solutions come in two flavors: insultingly obvious or completely unintuitive. Consequently, the experience of playing this game is akin to those times I’m sure at least a few people reading this have had where you’re playing an old-school adventure title only to hit a brick wall, prompting you to try every possible action until you drum up the solution by accident.

Such that it is, this game does have something of a saving grace. As this is an interactive cartoon, the scene will end if Pac-Man either faints or is otherwise rendered unable to continue for whatever reason. When you inevitably grow bored of the game, you’ll start developing this irresistible urge to see all the numerous, creative ways Pac-Man can lose. A lot of them made me laugh when I first tried this game, but if it has gotten to the point where finding every possible way you can mess up has more entertainment value than trying to succeed, it’s a good indication you’re not exactly playing a quality title.

Pac-Man 2, The New Adventures - Pac-Man Owned

Drawing a Conclusion

Pros:

  • Interesting concept for its time
Cons:

  • Puzzle solutions tend to be obtuse or mindlessly simple
  • Often difficult to get Pac-Man to cooperate
  • Very short
  • Bland music

It’s never a good sign when a game’s precursor is included as a bonus feature and is unequivocally the superior title. If you need proof that a unique game can be bad, look no further than Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures. You’re better off watching other people’s playthroughs online instead, because while the situations Pac-Man regularly finds himself in throughout the course of this game are rather amusing, it’s not worth looking into by any stretch of the imagination. There is a good game lurking within Pac-Man 2, as I think it had a better take on the concept of an interactive cartoon than FMV arcade titles such as Dragon’s Lair. However, with the way it was executed, Pac-Man 2 is essentially one continuous escort mission, which is only slightly more advisable than making a game that’s nothing but a series of quick-time events.

Final Score: 2/10

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12 thoughts on “Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures

  1. Oh man, I’m getting some bad memories from renting this game as a kid. It was back when I was so young I didn’t bother with video game magazines or anything, so I knew nothing going into it. I remember being dumbfounded at how this was even a Pac-Man game!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we all picked up a dud here and there back before sites such GameFAQs or Wikipedia existed. They were darker times; as this game demonstrates, even going with an established brand wasn’t necessarily a guarantee that you would avoid a clunker.

      It’s weird because I want to say my experiences with the game were a bit more positive than yours, and of the games I’ve written negative reviews about, this is actually the one I dislike the least. Having said that, I have absolutely no doubt that it’s the worst thing I’ve reviewed on this site so far – it’s not even close.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think I was ever able to make it through Chapter 3 of this game. And I only think I got through Ch2 by accident. (The game had chapters right?) I hated it but I also kind of enjoyed just how weird it all was. I’ve thought about replaying it as an adult to see if I could finally figure out the puzzles and beat it, but all this hate I hear for it really makes me think better

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, the game has four chapters – each with a different objective. Though in practice, it’s more like a series of fetch quests. I know what you mean; I too liked how weird it was despite not being a good game, but I don’t think it’s worth playing. You’re probably better off watching Let’s Plays of the game instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had really good memories of this game. So much so that I made sure to pick it up when I re-obtained a Super Nintendo. Man, did it not live up to the memories. Somehow, I had blocked out all the times when Pacman gets too bummed or pissed to actually listen to you, and how long you spend just watching helplessly as he grumps along doing nothing but taking actions that makes him even further beyond your influence. This is a game you don’t so much as play as have some mild input and hope it works out for the best. It is impossible to keep Pacman from doing the dumb things, sometimes, and then that just ruins your ability to affect how future things go.

    Every once in a while, I get the impulse to pull this up again, but I’ve never actually made it to the end. Usually, I don’t play too much beyond the city section. It wears thin quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your description of the experience of playing this game is right on the nose. It reminds me of those movies where the protagonist has no significant impact on how the plot develops. In the worst cases, it makes you wonder why the writers even included them.

      I too have good memories of playing this game; I even made it to the end through sheer persistence. Funnily enough, the final challenge in Pac-Man 2 has something of a parallel to Earthbound of all games (not that the two games are even close to being in the same league, mind you). It’s short enough that it wasn’t too much of a hassle, but it’s not worth the trouble.

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  5. To be fair, you do have to give Namco some credit – it’s impressive how they managed to turn one of the greatest arcade games ever made into something so painfully boring.
    Have you ever played Pac-In-Time? It’s just as bad as this game, and in some areas even worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is pretty impressive – it’s the kind of thing most people would have difficulty doing on purpose.

      I’ve never played Pac-In-Time, but I have heard of it. I saw gameplay footage, and it doesn’t look very impressive either. It just seems like a generic platformer. I heard the controls are pretty bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh trust me, you have no idea.
        It’s a good thing we still have the original game, Championship Edition, the two Pac-Man World games and Pac-Land (I know there’s a Pac-Man World 3, but that game has its own problems).

        Liked by 1 person

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