Who's afraid of a guy named Erwin? You might be, if you happened to be Pac-Man and the Erwin in question were an evil genius intent on wreaking havoc across your beloved Pac-Land. That's the central theme to Pac-Man World 3 for the Nintendo DS, an early build of which we got to see at this evening's Namco press event in San Francisco. This lighthearted adventure game looks to be firmly in the Pac-Man tradition, though it's been tweaked slightly to fit onto Nitendo's dual-screened platform.
It seems this mad braniac Erwin is in the middle of constructing a machine that's causing the spirit world--home of those Pac-Man-hating ghosts--to crash into the real world of Pac-Land, which is a certain recipe for disaster. As Pac-Man, you'll chomp, jump, and punch your way through the many levels in the game, all in the hopes of foiling Erwin's nefarious plans. Along the way you'll team up with a friendly ghost named Orson, who will assist you in your quest to stop Erwin.
The levels we saw of Pac-Man World 3 showed off some nice variety, including one underground level that featured the rotund yellow hero gulping down pellets and bashing through enemies among several different levels. One key difference in this game will be Pac-Man's offensive capabilities. No longer is he solely reliant on power pellets to take down enemies; instead, you'll be able to punch out enemies that get too close with just a press of the button. Power pellets will still play a big part of the game, however, and in addition to the standard power pellet--which turns the ghost enemies blue and makes them ripe for the chomping by Pac-Man--there will be a few other types of pellets, including one that will make Pac-Man temporarily invincible and another that will grant him a super bounce attack.
In addition to teaming up with the aforementioned Orson, Pac-Man will also find himself the beneficiary of assistance from two unlikely sources: traditional ghost rivals Pinky and Clyde. In certain levels, you'll periodically run in to ghost markers, at which you'll be able to take control of either Pinky or Clyde, depending on the color of the marker. Each ghost has his or her specialty. Pinky's a puzzle solver, while the brutish Clyde is good for clearing through tough enemies. Once you've cleared a specific object with a ghost, you can hop back to Pac-Man to continue through the level.
The DS version of Pac-Man World 3 will make use of the handheld's dual screen mostly when it comes time to solve puzzles. Certain levels will have gates that will require keys or crystals to pass through. When you come up on these gates, you'll use the DS touch screen to activate these objects and to open the gate. Certain special moves, such as Pac-Man's rev roll, will also require the touch screen to pull off. To execute a rev roll, for example, you simply run your finger or stylus along the touch screen in a rapid circular motion to "charge" up Pac-Man's roll. Then you tap the screen to set him off like a bowling ball. Finally, the lower screen will also keep a running tally of all the fruit you've collected on each level. Collect all the fruit and you'll be treated to some special Pac-maze levels, which play just like Pac-Man games of old with both a traditional 2D view on the lower screen and an overhead 3D version of the level on the upper screen.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Pac-Man franchise, and according to producers, Pac-Man World 3 is a cornerstone of the celebration of the series. With some lively level design, quick pace, and some new twists on the ghost-gobbling formula that's made Pac-Man so successful for a quarter of a century, Pac-Man World 3 looks to build on the franchise as it heads in to its 26th year and beyond. The game is currently scheduled for a December release, so we'll have a full review once it hits store shelves.