Pac-Man and the ghosts working together!?
Pac-Man’s been making his mark in the world of platformers lately, with the Pac-Man World series. Pac-Man World 2 was a solid effort with lots of nostalgia thrown in for effect. The classic elements definitely worked to the game’s benefit, which makes Pac-Man World 3 very surprising. Apart from a few remnants, the game lacks much of the charm found in prior Pac-Man titles.
This time around, the villain is Erwin. He’s siphoning energy from the "spectral realm" to take over the world. Apparently, at some point between Pac-Man World 2 and Pac-Man World 3, Pac-Man became friends with his long-time foes, the ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde. It’s a good thing, because he’ll need their help to stop Erwin. The game plays out as a series of large levels which are split into sections, as opposed to the design in the previous game, which was set up like Super Mario Bros (World 1-1, 1-2, etc). The large levels give Pac-Man World 3 more of an adventure game feel, taking away from the more classic styling of the previous game. Instead of straight-through levels that go from Point A to Point B, Pac-Man is now presented with large open areas and a series of things to accomplish, such as collecting a key to open a door to the next area of the level. The emphasis is less on platforming skill and more on collecting items, a trend becoming more and more common in the genre.
That's not to say that Pac-Man World 3 is terribly easy. The difficulty is fairly standard for this type of game. It's just not as fun as it used to be. Going through the levels seems more like a chore than a test of skill. Plus, the objectives are all basically the same, though they may be superficially different. Finding a key to open a door and finding a stick of dynamite to clear a new path are essentially the same thing.
There was a lot to collect in Pac-Man World 2. Pac-Dots and fruit were scattered all over the place. It was somewhat of a challenge to get them all. They're both still in Pac-Man World 3, but it's not quite the same. With the short levels in Pac-Man World 2, it was easy to jump in and try to get everything in one run. Pac-Man World 3's level take at least 30 minutes each to complete (though they're sectioned off so you can save mid-way). If you missed one cherry at the start of the level, you'd have to walk all the way back to get it. The Pac-Dots are still there, but they're no longer collectible. Perhaps that's for the best, given the massive levels, but now it seems as if there is no reason to even bother munching them up. They now serve as more of a guide on how to walk through the level.
The Galaxian emblems are also back. Snagging one immediately brings up a classic-style Pac-Man mini-game. You'll have to munch all the dots without being attacked by the ghosts. Everybody loves Pac-Man, which is why all the changes made to it for this mini-game make no sense. The ghost AI is terrible. They don't use any teamwork to get you, but seemingly wander the maze with no intention of actually trying to find you. There are dash-pads in the mazes, making it impossibly hard to go exactly where you want to go, and the whole maze is presented in a horrible 3D view that makes it very hard to see the upper half of the maze. The entire mini-game begs the question, why mess with a successful formula?
With the ghosts on Pac-Man's side, he'll have some new enemies to fight. These enemies include Erwin's brainwashed followers (which appear to be some sort of generic monsters), mechanical creations, spectral monsters, and various other things that get in Pac-Man's way. The game tends to throw a lot of enemies at Pac-Man all at once. It might seem difficult at first, but as long as you keep hammering away at them, there is a good chance they won't even have time to throw a punch. What it boils down to is pressing the B button ad nauseum until they're all gone. A host of power-ups help to give Pac-Man the upper hand (as if he didn't already have it). They work well, but in the end, all they really do is make the fighting less time-consuming. In the case of the spectral monsters, Pac-Man will have to munch a Power Pellet to defeat them. These fights are just as boring as the rest, and they boil down to running away until the Power-Pellets reappear and then going on the offensive.
The biggest change to Pac-Man World 3 is that you are able to play as the ghosts. Pinky and Clyde will help Pac-Man at certain points on his journey. Pinky can make special platforms appear, and Clyde can use his powers to defeat spectral monsters with ease. It almost seems like blasphemy that the ghosts would team up with Pac-Man, but the mechanic is fun regardless. It's also used sparingly, so it doesn't become tiresome like many other aspects of the game do.
Pac-Man World 3 is not a terrible game. It's just not as fun as the previous games in the series. Too much of the formula has changed, and almost none of it for the better. In relatable terms, it seems more like a Banjo-Kazooie game and less like a Mario game, which is not a turn for the better. The game is solid, but it simply feels like too much of a chore to be fun.