Joining the likes of Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Pokémon, Pac-Man is at last set to star in his own pinball game for the Game Boy Advance. Like other character-based pinball games, Pac-Man Pinball Advance attempts to combine the features of a traditional pinball table with gameplay mechanics from said character's previous games. So on this occasion, as you use your flippers to whack Pac-Man around the four tables, you'll score points for eating pac-dots, power pellets, and blue ghosts.
The four tables in Pac-Man Pinball Advance are a little over two screens tall, and are named Pac-Village, Haunted Boardwalk, Pac-Village Classic, and Haunted Boardwalk Classic. As their names suggest, two of the tables are merely "classic" versions of the other two, with identical table layouts but different artwork. The classic tables look quite traditional and feature retro-style Pac-Man artwork. The regular tables, on the other hand, look like the locations they're named after and just happen to incorporate objects that function as flippers, bumpers, and such. The visual style of the regular tables is quite reminiscent of that in Mario Pinball Land, although it doesn't look quite as good here.
Both the tables in Pac-Man Pinball Advance are made up of the same basic elements and offer very little in the way of variety. On each table, you can expect to find 25 pac-dots, three large bumpers, a spinner, P-A-C-M-A-N letters to light up, a rail to ride all the way around the top of the table, and a house belonging to Professor Pac, where you can spend pac-dots and play minigames. The arrangements of these elements aren't radically different on each table, and even the minigames at the Professor's house (we've only seen two different ones to date) do little to prevent the tables from feeling quite bare.
With that said, Pac-Man Pinball Advance actually plays quite well. Pac-Man rolls around believably, and attempting to run him into ghosts that float around the table after collecting a power pellet is fun. Additionally, the fact that the second ball in multi-ball situations takes the form of Ms. Pac-Man is definitely a nice touch. The real problem with Pac-Man Pinball at this point is that there just doesn't appear to be very much to it. Neither of the tables is as much fun to play as those in Pokémon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire, and the Pokémon game also boasts some great minigames, and challenges you to "catch 'em all" every time you play.
Pac-Man Pinball Advance is currently scheduled for release on April 12. Expect a full review of the game as that date closes in.