Pac-Man All Stars

The easy joke is that this game should’ve been called Pac-Man: Arena, and it might even be a funny joke if it weren’t so true. All-Stars is a multiplayer party game: playing as Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac Junior, or Professor Pac, you compete against your friends to devour as many free-range pellets as you can while avoiding the obligatory Ghost Gang. The Pac who eats the most pellets has the honor of freeing a Pac-Land fairy from the clutches of Wandy the Wizard.

4_1Why a learned academician of Professor Pac’s stature would stoop to participate in such a gluttonous scraping of the Pac-license barrel is a question the game doesn’t even attempt to answer. To be fair, Pac-Man All-Stars is a perfectly innocuous diversion, especially since it was originally sold as a budget release. The action takes place over six different worlds, from The Creepy Forest to Snowy Mountain all the way to Wandy’s Castle. Each world consists of four sub-levels, making for a grand total of 24 levels to explore.

There are no mazes this time out, but each level has a unique 3D design appropriate to its world, complete with springboards, warps, conveyers, and bumpers. Whenever a randomly appearing flower is touched by a Pac, it sprouts into a patch of pellets, setting off a feeding frenzy for points. Fairies leave power-ups — including, of course, the ghost-terrorizing power pellet.

If you don’t have three friends to play with (a likely occurrence if you’re trying to tempt them with Pac-Man All-Stars), you can compete against the CPU in single-player mode. Beat the game on Medium and Hard difficulties, and you can unlock two new head-to-head modes. It’s not the most ambitious game ever, but All-Stars can become oddly addictive. I only wish there was a tactical difference between the Pac people.

System Requirements: Pentium 90 MHz, 16 MB RAM, Win95

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