Pac-Man Party 3D Review [3DS]

Send it pac-king.

rating:2.5

As one of video gaming€™s first icons, Pac-Man has had something of a shaky career outside of the fame and fortune of his 1980 arcade debut. There have been many attempts to give Pac-Man his own spin-offs over the years, but it€™s the addictive - pellet munching - original game itself that€™s still the most fun. It's a fact that was recently epitomized by the amazing HD revamp Pac-Man Anniversary Edition. Still, with Mario and Sonic hogging the limelight with so many of their own spin-off games, it€™s only fair that Pac-Man continues to give it a shot himself. This time he€™s attempting to succeed with his very own party game, following in the footsteps of the ridiculously popular Mario Party series. While that series has continued to be a successful player on the multiplayer orientated Nintendo Wii, Pac-Man Party now comes to the Nintendo 3DS. Fans of that series will also be right at home here, as the game features a similar mix of a traditional board game structure, blended with a collection of over 50 competitive mini-games. The real focus however is on collecting point bonuses and munching cookies as you traverse around the board. Jumping into the story mode and you€™re immediately pushed into the first of the games three boards (each one making use of a theme such as Halloween). There€™s a basic hint of plot - something about discovering a cookie recipe - but really the story mode is as simplistic as the basic party modes. On the bottom DS screen you€™re given a board game map, while the top screen transforms the board into a colourful 3D landscape. Moving around the board is done by competing in short events which emulate the roll of a dice, including slot machines, dart boards and Plinco. As you move around the board you€™ll control each square you land on (providing it€™s empty) by erecting rows of coloured property in the form of castles ala Monopoly. It's the ongoing contest to maintain the majority of spots of the board which drives Pac-Man Party forward. If you or another player lands on an owned spot, the opportunity arises to battle in order to contend and take over the spot. It€™s at this point at which the 50+ mini-games of Pac-Man Party appear, with a game being randomly selected and forcing up to four players battle for the domination of the board. Sadly, it€™s also many of these mini-games which kick off your frustration with Pac-Man Party and only serve to highlight the other downfalls of the game. With such a huge amount of mini-games at the centre of Pac-Man Party, it€™s a shame that so many of them fall short. What makes matters worse is that many of the mini-games seem like they have the potential to be lots of fun, but are ruined by clunky controls which often feel unresponsive. Frequently you€™ll find yourself tapping away at the screen to little success, despite following the instructions accurately. It€™s not helped that these directions are confusing and lacking in detail, resulting in initial experiences with mini-games being driven by trial and error. Thankfully, there's enough decent mini-games to balance out those which simply don€™t work. Haunted Pumpkins is an enjoyable on-rails shooter which offers some of the best 3D effects in the game. Another highlight is Oasis or Bust, an Angry Birds style romp which sees you flinging yourself around a level to break blocks and collect fruit. Many of the games are so similar that they blend together or become forgettable. Pac-Man Party is also an experience which feels confused, due to the conflicting ideas at the heart of the game. While you€™re busy trying to dominate the board and win mini-games, it€™s actually merely about collecting the most cookies. You can be king of the board and winner of every mini-game, yet luck will fall into the lap of another player through cookie bonuses and bonus treasure chest stages. In multiplayer this unpredictability makes for a better experience, but when trying your best in single player it€™s infuriating. Playing alone becomes tiresome fast, as it€™s clear that this is a game designed to be played with friends around a larger screen. Having to watch the computer slowly take its turn and sitting through a save screen after each and every round adds to the frustration. It also doesn€™t help that enemy A.I is often unfairly balanced in the games favour, sporadically changing in difficulty from game to game whenever your rivals begin to fall behind. Multiplayer itself also falls somewhat short of the potential for a game which builds itself so heavily on a party style experience. There€™s no online play whatsoever, and pass and play options on the same console are incredibly limited. While the back of the box boasts that four players can play with one system, in actuality only a mere three mini-games are offered, with none of the meat and potatoes of the party mode. You'll only get the most out of Pac-Man Party if you€™ve got enough friends with 3DS consoles that are willing to actually play it with you over local play or via game download with one cartridge €“ which does thankfully offer a complete party experience. Pac-Man Party represents something of a missed opportunity. As a party title it€™s severely crippled by a lack of online play and the fact that it€™s on a portable console rather than a multiplayer orientated home console like its Wii counterpart. The mini-games don€™t fare much better, with many failing to make an impression and others suffering from weak controls and poor instructions. There€™s definitely the potential for some fun to be had with Pac-Man Party - especially if you and your friends can€™t get enough of board or party games - but there€™s simply not enough here to justify the rough edges and design flaws. Pac-Man Party 3D is available now for the Nintendo 3DS
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Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.