When I heard the news that a Nintendo Direct Mini had been announced, the last thing I imagined was being wowed. The release date had already been leaked for Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, and I couldn't imagine anything else exciting showing up… until I saw Pac-Man World Re-Pac.
More than enough caught my eye for me to believe this direct was a winner. NieR Automata, Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection -- even the three much-anticipated Persona games, Persona 5 Royal, Persona 4 Golden, and Persona 3 Portable -- were announced today as Switch releases. Despite all these bangers, nothing caught my eye more than the little yellow devil himself, Pac-Man.
Pac-Man World Re-Pac is a remake of the original Pac-Man World, the first of a trilogy of PlayStation and PlayStation 2-era Pac-Man platforming games. Pac-Man World Re-Pac is promising UI improvements, finely tuned mechanics, and an overhaul of the visuals -- something a game as old as Pac-Man World would benefit from. Considering it was a critical and commercial success, it's not surprising BANDAI NAMCO chose to remake the first game of the trilogy. They're just wrong for doing so because Pac-Man World 2 is so much better.
Pac-Man World is more of a side-scrolling platformer than it is a traditional 3D platformer. The original game generally similarly locks the camera to something like the Super Mario Bros. series. The difference with Pac-Man World is the fact that there is some depth to the side-scrolling hallways, meaning you can move back and forth upon the screen as if you're in a shoebox presentation. In a way, it's novel, but in my opinion, it sits on the fence too much between traditional 3D platforming and a side-scroller.
If Pac-Man World is akin to Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man World 2 is akin to Super Mario 64. Pac-Man World 2 offers the ability to move the camera around, resulting in a much more interesting level design. Levels in World 2 still maintain a generally linear design, but the variance with the camera means there are more options for hidden nooks and crannies. Being able to move the camera around in a fully 3D environment results in a game that feels like a 3D platformer and not a hybrid 2D platformer.
Pac-Man World 2 also perfected the platforming due to its adjustment of Pac-Man's move set. In Pac-Man World, the Pac-Dot Throw ability allows Pac-Man to do just that: throw Pac-Dots around to slay enemies and interact with the environment. Pac-Man World 2 does away with this ability which, to be fair, is one thing that Pac-Man World has over its successor. This trade-off results in other abilities being altered for the better, like the Rev Roll, which now can be used without the risk of being flung off the stage. In the original Pac-Man World, moves like the Rev Roll felt underused and hard to control, but in Pac-Man World 2, the Rev Roll can be utilized more often due to its stability. It can also be employed into the 3D environment for platforming, which is a benefit to World 2's choice of camera.
Butt Bounce, which is perhaps Pac-Man's most iconic move, makes a return in World 2 with a much more satisfying feel. It can be used to reach higher places than normal, squash enemies, and generally bounce around the level (which is WAY more fun than I can convey in text). In World 2, Butt Bounce is used a bit more throughout the game, mostly in terms of platforming. New bullseye-looking pads launch Pac-Man up in the air if he slams his butt down, making for an awesome and satisfying launch. Changes to the move sets like these aren't immediately noticeable, but after spending time with both games it's clear that a lot of effort went into perfecting them.
Finally, and perhaps the most convincing reason of all, Pac-Man World 2 feels much more like a proper adventure rather than a handful of differently themed levels cobbled together. World 2 starts in Pac-Village, where a simple albeit parody-esque plot unravels as the Golden Fruits are stolen from the town's centerpiece tree by the ghosts from the original Pac-Man. This releases the imprisoned Spooky, who had since then been ensnared by the great Sir Pac-A-Lot.
Sounds goofy? That's because it is -- the plot for Pac-Man World 2 exists only to send Pac-Man on his journey throughout Pac-Land, where he traverses various biomes until he reaches the Ghost Island, and that's OK. Pac-Man's journey feels more like a Pac-Odyssey than anything; ice skating, tree climbing, scuba diving, and rollerblading await you as you embark on your journey to save Pac-Land.
The different areas themselves aren't anything completely novel -- you'll find yourself in your typical grasslands, a towering forest, some icy mountains, a volcanic mountain, the ocean, and a ghost-themed island. The platforming that occurs within these areas is what counts, though, as ba-doinging your way across tree tops and figure skating down an ice-sloped mountain are some things that the original Pac-Man World lacks.
Pac-Man World isn't a bad game to remaster as it'll benefit from being brought back with modern platforming standards in mind. Truthfully, it's the lesser of two evils; if NAMCO opted to bring Pac-Man World 3 back from the dead, I don't think I could handle it. It's the worst of the trilogy by far because of its over-use of a plot that couldn't be less interesting, boring environments, and most egregious of all, a voice for Pac-Man. Everyone buy the Pac-Man World remake so the sales justify Pac-Man World 2.