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Pac-Man Championship 2 is an outstanding example of a franchise reinventing itself. Bandai Namco adds just enough twists on Pac-Man to make it fresh for modern audiences while making sure the game is still Pac-Man, making for one of the best arcade-style games in recent years. When we talk about how so many franchises mine our nostalgia instead of trying something new, it’s because games like Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 prove that with some revamping, our old favorites can be timeless.
Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 creates an exciting dynamic where ghosts are still dangerous, but the overall game is more forgiving than the original--and it’s more entertaining as a result. Arcade ports tend to be games we play in short bursts--mostly for the nostalgia factor. Pac-Man: Championship Edition 2 certainly relies on that nostalgia to a point, but it handles the classic game in a way that plays with expectations to surprise you. It’s the same game enhanced in the right directions to be make an old concept fun, innovative, and challenging all over again.
It might be a case of sky-high expectations, but this sequel doesn't live up to its sublime predecessor Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+. Still, I'm not so sure it ever could -- that game was damn near perfect, putting Bandai Namco in a tough spot when creating a follow-up. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 is worth playing for its frenetic new style and ruleset, but it's no replacement.
“It’s just too similar in gameplay and presentation to make it feel like you’re getting something new.”
Affectionately and respectfully stylised, with a whole host of customisation options for camera angles, soundtrack, maze architecture, and ghost designs, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 drifts a delicate path between reinvention and reverence. It carries the same compulsive urge towards high scores as the original, and introduces smart mechanics to drive the eternal loop of pursuer-turns-pursuee-turns-pursuer-again in slightly new ways. Anything that gets me enthused about a 36 year old game must be doing something right, and the parts of the weekend I just lost to Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 indicate this title is another sturdy reinvention of that familiar, forever-munching face.
Maybe that’s what peeves me most about Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. There’s a solid idea at the core of the game, one that’s endearing and compelling despite some major changes to the formula. But nothing backs up that idea. It’s just that—an idea, and not much else, though the familiar Pac-Man gameplay still holds up. While I’ll probably attempt to best some of my own scores in the coming weeks, though, there’s not enough engaging content to keep me hooked in the long run.