It's 2004 now, and in the 24 years since Pac-Man's inception, he's appeared in something like 9 billion different games. The quality of those games runs the gamut from the unquestionably classic (the original Pac-Man, or perhaps even Ms. Pac-Man) to the weak (Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures) to the just plain weird (the obscure trivia game Professor Pac-Man). But despite the fact that it's all but impossible to get your hands on a box of Pac-Man cereal these days, the dot muncher keeps on doing his thing. This time, Namco's put the yellow, munchy, disc-shaped thing into a puzzle game for mobile phones in the frankly named Pac-Man Puzzle. The game works well and provides some good brainteasers, but the extremely slow run speed really gets in the way if your handset isn't up-to-par.
Each of Pac-Man Puzzle's 50 levels gives you an eight-by-eight box that contains Pac-Man, some dots, some ghosts, and occasionally some walls. You're then given a handful of Tetris-like puzzle pieces that must be placed into the maze. Once you've done that, the game lurches into motion--Pac-Man and the ghosts start moving according to set rules (they'll turn one specific way when they encounter walls), and if you've placed the walls properly, Pac-Man will eat all the dots on the screen while avoiding (or eating) the ghosts. If you haven't placed the walls in the right spots, Pac-Man will either end up running around in an endless loop or get eaten by the ghosts.
As you'd imagine, the game starts out slowly, giving you only a couple of walls and easy-to-place puzzle pieces. But once you get out of the first three or four levels, the hand-holding stops and the brainteasing starts. You can try any of the game's 50 levels at any time, but the levels progress in difficulty pretty well, so you'd probably be better off taking them in order. All in all, the concept is good and the game works well. But due to some technical limitations, Pac-Man Puzzle tends to be a drag.
On our test phone, a Samsung SPH-A600, Pac-Man Puzzle runs at a crawl. You can move pieces around without any trouble, but once the action phase begins, everything moves at a snail's pace. This can be especially frustrating on longer, more-involved levels. Considering that watching to see what you've done wrong is really the best way to learn how to tackle a puzzle the next time around, you'll get very impatient with the game's sluggishness very, very quickly. On a faster handset, though, this isn't as much of a problem.
Graphically, the game looks like Pac-Man. The maze walls that you place look a fair amount like the walls in the original Pac-Man, and the man himself looks, you know, like Pac-Man. Unfortunately, there isn't any sound in the game. A little bit of Pac-Man sound and music would have gone a long way here.
Overall, Pac-Man Puzzle is an average puzzle game that fans of brainteasers will enjoy. The game's logic is easy to pick up, and the selection of levels gets nice and devious as you work your way through it. But if you have an older handset, you may wish to skip out on this one, as the slow pace really gets in the way of the action.