One of the most recognizable icons in video games is still hard at work, chomping on an endless supply of multicolored ghosts. His digestive track seems to be doing just fine, after having recently reached the ripe old age of 30. This year, Pac-Man gets a new game called Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, which expands on the original Pac-Man Championship Edition released in 2007. Because Pac-Man CE was played by competitive gamers who competed in the first Pac-Man World Championship in New York City, it wasn't always as accessible for newcomers to play. Pac-man DX includes new features that will help new players get all the pac-dots they need.
The basic premise of the game remains the same. You run around a maze, eating as many dots as you can while avoiding the always-watchful ghosts to rack up a high score. The more dots you eat in a row, the higher your multiplier gets. In DX, you now have bombs, which will send all the ghosts back to the house once you activate them with the right trigger. Your multiplier will be halved, however; so if you're gaining 100 points per dot, it'll go down to 50, and you'll have to build your way back up again.
For newcomers, there are three difficulty settings per mode, so the easier the setting, the more bombs and lives you'll get. One of the biggest additions is a new type of ghost. Sleeping ghosts are carefully placed all over the map, and as soon as you pass by, they'll wake up and run after you in a giant conga line. Their pattern is mainly just to follow you, so as long as you continue to move forward, they won't catch up to you. It starts to get tricky when your chain of tormentors gets really long, which makes it hard turn in smaller spaces because you'll likely run into the ghosts that are on the tail end of the line.
While there are many different modes in Pac-Man DX across nine different maps, the demo we were shown was timed, and we had to get as many points as we could within five minutes. As the timer ticks down, the game speeds up, so eventually, all you see is Pac-man zipping across the screen with a huge line of ghosts behind him. Like the last game, if you start your turns early, sparks will fly, which will let you take your turns faster to increase the distance between you and those multicolored fiends. Random ghosts still appear from the house as soon as you chow down your first power pellet. They'll come out and start wandering the maze, and when you get close enough to make them angry, they'll hop into the conga line as well.
The game really starts to get crazy and hectic the longer you play, but anytime you're surrounded or make a wrong turn and are about to die, the game will suddenly go into bullet time, giving you precious seconds to either use a bomb or turn the other way. It's a cool feature and may seem a little like cheating, but once you realize how quickly the line of ghosts build up, you'll be thankful for the slowdown. We didn't get to actually play the game to see how easy it is to grasp with the new mechanics, but we were told that you die a lot less often with this feature put in, making it more accessible to Pac-Man newbies.
Several new modes have been added, including a Time Trial mode and Ghost Combo. They're both pretty self-explanatory, but with Ghost Combo, your goal is to get as many ghosts to follow you as you can and then eat them with a power pellet. Now, there is also a bar under the timer that indicates when your power will run out, but ghosts will randomly give you pellets as you're mowing them down so that you don't suddenly run out of juice halfway through the conga line. Another mode involves collecting fruits on either side of the screen. You need to clear out half the maze for the fruit to appear on the other end, and vice versa, until you reach the requirement.
Visually, the DX will look very much like the previous Championship Edition, and you'll have the option to flip among various styles of Pac-Man if you like. Whether you prefer a more pixelated old-school look or a rounded 3D art style, you can pick whatever mode suits your mood. Once you unlock Free mode, you can change all the variables in the game, such as how many ghosts you want when you start out or how much time you need so that you can customize your own game. Some examples of other maps that you'll unlock include a maze that is completely dark except for a small radius around Pac-Man and a dungeon-style maze that comes complete with dead-ends.
There's definitely no shortage of pellets in this frantic version of Pac-Man, so look for Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the PlayStation Network, this fall.