Pac-Mania 3D E3 2005 Hands-On Report

We get hands-on with mobile's 3D Pac-Man offering from Namco.

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We got the opportunity to play Pac-Mania 3D, Namco's mobile 3D version of the classic arcade game. Although fully 3D, Pac-Mania does not use a 3D engine, which makes it accessible to a greater number of Pac-Man fans that might have lower-end handsets. Namco is also planning to support quite a few different phones and is currently trying to get the game on 11 Verizon and five Sprint handsets.

Pac-Man, who celebrates his 25th birthday this year, gets a makeover in Pac-Mania that features a few twists to the tried-and-true gameplay. The most obvious of these is the three-dimensionality, which necessitates that the camera be pulled down to an isometric view, letting you see the curvature of the maze walls and the characters within them. The new view doesn't change the gameplay all that much, except that you do have to anticipate turns a little more readily than in the classic game. Another change to the gameplay is that the mazes are significantly larger. Between the size and the 3D, it's impossible for the entire map to be visible on the screen at once, which makes the game much more challenging. Ghosts appear from corners when you least expect them, so Pac-Mania becomes more about adaptability and less about prediction. Due to the increase in map size, there are now nine ghosts instead of four, so you'll get to play against both the Pac-Man-exclusive Clyde and the Ms. Pac-Man-exclusive Sue. The four remaining ghosts are completely new to the series.

Of all the additions to the gameplay, the most interesting is the jump button, which grants players the ability to launch over ghosts instead of merely running away from them. This feature can be turned off for Pac-Man purists, but it does add a completely original dynamic to the game. Gone are the ways of Billy Mitchell, memorizer of Pac-Man artificial intelligence patterns. Although jumping seems like it could make the game too easy, on later levels, the ghosts begin to jump as well, boosting the difficulty quite a bit. To add even another layer to the jumping element, Pac-Man jumps higher than the ghosts, so if you properly anticipate their movements and time your jump properly, you can jump over their jumps. What's most interesting about the jumping is that while in the air, you miss the pellets underneath you, which means you'll have to come back for them at some point if you want to clear the level.

Although the game maintains a lot of the features of the original, such as power pellets and fruit, everything is bigger and bolder in this game. There are now super power pellets that offer you different bonuses rather than just role reversal. In total, the game will feature four different mazes and 23 levels among them, and you should expect to see it arriving to a phone near you toward the middle of the summer.

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