Namco Bandai's upcoming Xbox 360 version of Pac-Man was recently made available for download on the "PartnerNet" test version of Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service. No release date has been confirmed for Pac-Man at the time of writing, but now that we've had a chance to play it, we can at least give you some idea of what to expect (and what not to expect) when it's made available for download on retail consoles.
The first thing you need to know about the Xbox Live Arcade version of Pac-Man is that it's essentially a port of the original arcade game. Pac-Man does take advantage of some of the Xbox 360 console's online features, but in terms of gameplay, your 400 Microsoft Points are going to get you the same pellet-popping, ghost-chasing, maze-navigating action that made the 1980 arcade game the most successful coin-operated game in history. We're reluctant to say that this game is identical to the arcade original just yet, but we can tell you that aside from the modern-day Pac-Man images that border the gameplay area, we've yet to find a single difference.
Pac-Man's visuals and audio are indistinguishable from those that wowed arcade-goers 25 years ago, and the ghosts that you'll be up against behave exactly as their ancestors did. The trick of putting Pac-Man into his one and only safe point in the maze (where he can remain motionless for as long as you like without the ghosts ever finding him) at the start of a new level still works; the ghosts will still never go up either of the passages directly above their pen when they're chasing you; and on one occasion we even witnessed the arcade game's rarely seen bug that lets you pass through a ghost without dying.
The game offers a few modern enhancements, of course, such as online leaderboards where you can compare your best score against those of the best players, players of similar ability, or friends. You also have the option to tinker with the game's settings so that you can start the game with more lives or earn additional ones more easily, though playing with anything but the default settings will make your scores ineligible for the aforementioned leaderboards.
Like other Xbox Live Arcade games, Pac-Man has 200 achievement points up for grabs, and we're pleased to report that the game's 12 achievements run the gamut from those that are almost impossible not to get through to those that you'll really have to work at. Some of the easier achievements, for example, simply require you to eat the various fruits and other items that appear in the center of the maze after you eat a certain number of Pac-dots. To earn the achievement that's worth the most points, though, you'll have to eat all four ghosts four times on a single stage.
We'll bring you more information on Pac-Man's upcoming release as soon as it becomes available.