Following the release of Namco Museum, Namco has given its prodigal pellet muncher his own star vehicle on the Game Boy Advance. Pac-Man Collection is a slick retro-gaming compilation that features three original Pac-Man games as well as a new action-based Pac sequel. If ever there were doubts, Pac-Man Collection proves that handhelds and classic gaming do indeed go together.
The collection opens with Pac-Man Arrangement, a new interpretation of Pac-Man that mixes classic pellet-eating gameplay with sundry power-ups. Jails, ghost-nabbing pouches, strength builders, teleportation pads, and speed boosters are just a few of the many useful objects available in the game's 22 arenas. Amusingly, the ghosts can make use of these items too. Three-dimensional visuals portray the jungle, factory, and park locales of Pac-Man Arrangement with relative ease, while familiar "doo doo doo" theme music is bolstered by the addition of new-age marimbas and steel drums.
Next up is Pac-Man, the game that led to Pac-Man Fever in the first place. With only minor quibbles, this version of Pac-Man is the closest to arcade perfect since Namco Museum Vol. 1 hit the PlayStation in 1996. Navigating a maze of power pellets and Pac-hungry ghosts, you will be relieved to note that all the revered "wakka wakka" sound effects and graphical smoothness of Namco's original have hit Nintendo's handheld intact. Since gameplay is spot on, right down to Blinky's tricky directional changes, about the only real criticisms lie in the game's display options. Like Ms. Pac-Man in the Namco Museum compilation, Pac-Man forces you to choose between a diminutive full-screen option or a heavily cropped scrolling display, neither of which is very comfortable on the GBA's 2.9-inch screen.
Pac-Attack, an oft-maligned Tetris rip-off, is the third Pac title included in the compilation. There's nothing terribly innovative here, as you're mainly just clearing away rows of shapes interspersed with ghosts, but the game does provide an adequate respite from the rigors of the other included Pac titles. Pac-Attack includes both normal and puzzle-based gameplay options, but its best feature is easily its cheesy late-'80's Pac-rock soundtrack.
The final game included with Pac-Man Collection is Pac-Mania, a 3D variant that introduces a single groundbreaking change to Pac-Man's basic maze-romping premise: the ability to jump. Back in the day, this adjustment soured the hearts of many purists but also earned the franchise a newer, younger, and more diverse audience. As with the other Pac ports, Pac-Mania is arcade perfect with respect to gameplay, visuals, and audio, although the GBA's screen is zoomed in a little more closely than that of the arcade version.
Regardless of their age, the simple, undemanding diversions found in Pac-Man Collection are perfect for today's portable systems. By selectively targeting a single franchise and including nearly perfect ports, Namco has made a compilation that Pac-Man fans are sure to enjoy.