First Look: Pac-Man Fever

We check out Namco's PlayStation 2 party game.

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One of the genres the PlayStation 2 hasn't seen much action in is the party game genre. Fortunately, Namco and developer Mass Media will be moving to fill that void with Pac-Man Fever, a board-style party game in the tradition of Nintendo's Mario Party games. Featuring a roster of familiar faces from the Namco universe,the game will offer a ton of minigames presented in a board-game setting framed by a basic story.

You'll be able to choose from seven familiar Namco characters, including Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Heihachi and Tiger from Tekken, and Astaroth from Soul Calibur, among others. The game's plot finds the cast trying to retrieve a stolen trophy. You'll choose from three different boards, each with its own unique theme. You'll find medieval-, tropical-, and space-themed boards featuring the trappings you'd expect according to the locales. You'll also be able to set the length of the path you'll take in the game, which will affect that particular game's length.

Gameplay will be turn based and will feature a plethora of initial minigames, and you can purchase more during gameplay with tokens you collect during the game. Each board will feature squares that contain ghosts and other hazards that will adversely affect your token counts, as well as other squares that will let you move ahead of your opponents, challenge them to minigames for a token, or impair their progress in some way. The minigames are an eclectic mix ranging from simple token-catching games to more involved games such as fishing or blowing beach balls at your opponents for points. Control is kept extremely simple and keeps the game accessible. Loading is pretty speedy and keeps the game's pace constant.

Graphically the game features semi-superdeformed versions of Namco's characters, and they're basically cute, although the Pac people fare much better in the "cute" department than Astaroth and Reiko. On the upside, all the characters are large and detailed. The boards feature clean textures and graphics and offer enough detail to keep things visually interesting.

The game is currently slated to ship this September for the PlayStation 2. Look for more on the game from E3 next week.

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