When the original Pac-Man hit arcades well over a decade ago, it was an instant hit because of its distinctive graphics and simple yet challenging and addicting gameplay. Since then, there have been a number of games featuring the jovial pellet-eating hero, all of which tried to capitalize on his fame. In most cases, these attempts proved unsuccessful, which has caused the Pac-Man license to lose much of the popularity it accumulated in its early arcade days. The latest effort, Pac-Man: Adventures in Time, is an attempt to bring Pac-Man back to his roots, but with surprisingly solid 3D graphics, good level design, and a few new gameplay features.
The most impressive aspect of Pac-Man: Adventures in Time is the graphics. The colorful 3D graphics and the overhead perspective do a great job of giving Adventures in Time a brand-new appearance while still retaining the same simple colors and shapes as in the original game. In the Ancient Egypt levels, there are Pac-Man hieroglyphs on the walls that are clear and vibrantly colored; even hieroglyphs that seem to have deteriorated over time or are covered in sand are clearly noticeable. The game also effectively uses some full-motion video effects in some of the later stages, such as the train stage, where the scenery rushes by as Pac-Man jumps from car to car while collecting pellets. You'll also notice subtle lighting effects that highlight Pac-Man's robust shape, but they're not quite as apparent in some stages as they are in others. Adventures in Time also manages to retain a brisk frame rate even on a machine with the minimum system requirements.
Pac-Man's transition into a lush, fully 3D world introduces some new twists to the classic Pac-Man gameplay. Instead of restricting a stage to one single flat maze, you can make Pac-Man run up walls, slide down or climb up hills, and use elevators to reach different platforms. These new environmental features are incorporated seamlessly into the traditional Pac-Man gameplay thanks to the game's solid level design. For instance, obstacles are used in such a manner that they don't just block your progress, but they are actually a well-integrated part of the level. One stage places you in the middle of a cave that slopes down toward the middle where a sleeping dragon is located, and every time the dragon takes a deep breath and exhales, it spews a fireball that travels down a particular part of the maze. Another level takes place in the middle of a medieval jousting tournament as two jousters travel back and forth across a particular section of the level. In the various Egyptian levels, you'll see baskets that contain snakes that will lunge at you if you get too close. There are even environmental objects within the levels that can aid you in your task, such as during one of the Wild West levels that takes place in a saloon with a piano. You can actually run by the piano to make it play, which causes the ghost monsters chasing after you to completely ignore you as they start dancing uncontrollably. In addition, different types of terrain in each of the levels can cause Pac-Man to slow down and speed up accordingly, which can make it challenging to judge how close you are to one of the ghosts or an obstacle - especially in the later levels when the ghosts speed up and the obstacles become more difficult to avoid.
Pac-Man has a number of new abilities to help him navigate the terrain and capture pellets. Now you can make Pac-Man jump to avoid ghosts, boulders, or any other dangerous obstacles that might be in your way. Unfortunately Pac-Man doesn't really get a chance to use his new abilities that often because it can be very difficult to properly time a jump to avoid danger. Controlling Pac-Man also becomes an issue in the later levels because Pac-Man moves in whatever direction you point him in, and he doesn't stop moving in that direction until pointed otherwise, which makes the game's control seem sluggish and unresponsive when you're trying to make sharp turns as a ghost chases you.
The game offers three different multiplayer modes that are equally well-done twists on the classic game. The best of these modes is ghost tag, where you must tag your opponents in order to change back into Pac-Man form and capture enough pellets to beat out the other competitors. Unfortunately, there is no online player-matching service included with the game, so finding an online multiplayer game may be difficult, but Adventures in Time does have a hot-seat option for four players at one computer, and you can also play against computer-controlled opponents.
Pac-Man: Adventures in Time attempts to take the classic Pac-Man formula and adapt it to a three-dimensional world and succeeds at doing so while still retaining the classic sense of the original game. The single-player levels, as well as the multiplayer modes and the minigames, all keep Adventures in Time from becoming repetitive too quickly, though in essence it's still just a remake of the classic Pac-Man. The occasionally sluggish control can be a little frustrating but not enough to take the fun out of the game.