A strong base game loses luster in the margins.
The first Pac-Man Championship Edition came out so long ago I don’t remember all that much of it. The 2007 game, which only saw a Nintendo release on 3DS in 2011, reinvented Pac-Man successfully for the first time in close to 25 years. I don’t recall that much positive buzz around its sequel, the 2016 release Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, which is now on Switch as Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus. On Switch, however, Championship Edition 2 is a fun high score-chasing game limited by some offline restrictions. While not every aspect of it is great, the brand new two-player mode is aces.
The core is what was present in the original release: Score Attack and Adventure. Score Attack features an array of tables, each with different difficulties, and is all about besting your personal high scores as well as, if you tread online, trying to topple the leaders around the world or among your friends. The gameplay here is very much still Pac-Man, but it’s weird. Pellets are collected, but now Pac-Man can touch ghosts. Touch a ghost too many times and they get mad as hell and can damage Pac-Man. The general flow of every board is that you venture to collect enough pellets to unlock a fruit or power-up. Collect the fruit, move on to a new arrangement, and repeat. When you collect a power-up, you can eat ghosts, which are often part of a large ghost train. Pac-Man can eat that train in absurdist, over-the-top fashion. It’s rewarding, amplified even more so by some overbearing but rad HD rumble. Unfortunately, when the action gets frantic, the game gets struck by slowdown and a lessened frame rate. Not the end of the world, but in a score-driven game, it’s not optimal.
The Score Attack levels are all five minutes long, emphasizing efficiently getting through boards and earning points as fast as possible. The advancing difficulty levels keep the relatively small number of boards more varied. It’s engrossing and fun. Adventure, on the other hand, is more focused on easy-to-fail, time-restricted levels. Because of their more deliberate design, repeating them isn’t that much fun compared to Score Attack, but especially if you intend to beat all the difficulties, replaying the levels is paramount. Bosses are at the end of each world in Adventure, but they are merely a new dressing for the same stages that culminate in a cutscene of Pac-Man beating a boss.
Fortunately, the new two-player mode has awesome bosses. Modeled after the Score Attack mode, this new mode can be played cooperatively with a second player or the CPU. Two Pac-Mans work together to eat all the dots, and then march to the next board, eventually ending in a series of boss fights. The bosses actually involve 2D side-scrolling and jumping, as after dots are collected, a power-up lets you beat the hell out of the giant-sized ghost. This repeats until you run out of time. Naturally, if you beat a lot of bosses, your score will be super high.
Each mode has its own leaderboard, split into worldwide and friends lists. I don’t know how much I’ll get into chasing scores here; the communication of what scores you’re close to aside from your own isn’t that great. What makes the leaderboards weaker is the fact that any score earned outside of WiFi cannot be uploaded to the leaderboard. It’ll stay as your local score, but it currently can’t be used online. Considering the very design of the Switch is the home console you can bring with you anywhere, this is a failure of the system’s versatility. With the majority of the levels being five minutes long, ideal for impromptu pick-up-and-play situations, not being able to take your offline scores online is a gigantic miss.
The core of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus is good, especially with the Score Attack mode and the novel new local two-player mode. Unfortunately, the botched offline score uploading, minor technical issues, and disappointing Adventure mode drag the entire experience down. If you have friends locally to play the two-player mode or friends online to score chase with, this is a fine game, at least as long you’re always near WiFi when you get high scores. Without the well-implemented high score chases, it’s still fun, just maybe more fleeting than it could have been.