Does this party ever end?
Pac-Man Party 3D is a port of a Wii game that takes Pac-Man, the ghosts, and a host of weird-looking new characters, and throws them into a Mario Party clone that’s not nearly as fun or frenetic as that series. But hey, it’s in 3D, so that’s new. Even though I had no friends with 3DS’ to play this game with, the story mode perfectly replicates the tedium of a full four-player game.
You’re out not to collect coins in this board game, but cookies. Each player gets a certain number of cookies at the start of each game, then it’s off to the races to steal other players’ cookies, earn cookies by winning mini-games, or simply win cookies by luck alone. Once you accrue a certain (very high) number of cookies, you win. Simple as that!
Except it’s not. Everything about Pac-Man Party is a mini-game, even rolling the dice. In fact, there are no dice. At the start of each round, the players play pachinko or throw darts or play a slot machine to determine how far they move. Thankfully, everybody moves at the same time—it’s only when players stop, and their fates are determined, that things start to slow way down. In a bit of a nod to Monopoly, empty spaces that a player lands on are “won,” and a castle is built there. If a player lands on his or her own castle later in the game, they get cookies, and they can also upgrade their duds to increase the number of spaces the castle takes up—increasing the chance of winning cookies. If an opponent lands on your castle, you have a mini-game duel, and the winner keeps or takes over the castle.
There are random effect spaces too, which may award you cookies, take cookies away, or move you (or everyone) to a different position on the board.
But the mini-games are the stars of our show. There is seemingly an endless variety of them: You’ll be shooting holes in doughnuts, log-jumping, eating power pellets, playing Fruit Ninja, bouncing around a simplified pinball table, shooting objects with cannons from afar, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. I don’t think I played a repeat mini-game during my entire first game or until well into the second one. If you’re lagging behind, you can use one of your oodles of cookies to temporarily power up, although it’s certainly not a “win” button. All of the mini-games were clearly designed for the Wii pointer—even the cursor is straight out of most Wii games. There are no games that are specific to the DS or 3DS’ touch screen, which isn’t really a bad thing, but it drives home the point that this is a port of a Wii game (which is a little sad, right?).
While the mini-games are fun, they all last about 30 seconds and are instantly forgettable. You’ll spend more time agonizing over the game’s surprisingly long load times and the fact that it checks the save data and saves the game between each round, then makes you look at everyone’s progress before continuing. This adds an amazing amount of time to every game, and I found it really distracting and irritating. The story mode’s first game is basically your training mission, giving you one player to play against, but the second game throws an entire complement of four players on the board, and it takes an unbearably long time to get through. Maybe this is more fun with four human people?
Actually, it probably is, and it’s probably better on the Wii, where everybody is looking at the same screen and using their own Wii Remotes. Think about it: how likely is it that three of your friends also have 3DS systems and this game (although, to be fair, there is single-card download play for up to four people)? Isn’t it far more likely that one of your friends has this game on Wii and several Wii Remotes? Don’t worry about the 3D effect—it doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.
There are some alternate modes. You can play a single-player or multiplayer game, or only the mini-games (which is probably the best option). You also have the admittedly cool opportunity of playing the arcade versions of Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Galaga. This may be the game’s saving grace—they even go through boot-up sequences. I learned that I completely forgot how to play Dig Dug, which is embarrassing.
If you’re thirsting for some Pac-Man partying, I’d go out and find the Wii version, as it’s more accessible and, for pete’s sake, the game was clearly designed for the Wii. You can probably ignore this 3DS port, and just wait for the inevitable Mario Party 3DS game that adds internet play and video chat (and world peace).