Sunday 5 June 2011


Hey so you know what Pac-Man, that maze game with a yellow circle eating other yellow circles needs? A Tetris-esque spin-off of course!

Oh look here's one, Pac-Attack from 1993. Also known as Pac-Panic, through fears Europeans would interpret this as gang violence or something. It's one of the few Pac-Man spin-offs that's amazing in its own right, though I say this having not played the majority of them.

Of course once again I've gone for the Mega Drive version of the game (I'm so predictable!), but Pac-Attack is also available on the Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Game Gear and the Wii's Virtual Console service (a.k.a. the SNES... again). There's also been various "updates" for compilations and devices such as the iPhone, but they offer nothing you couldn't see on the systems of yesteryear. The Mega Drive and SNES versions are the top brass, mostly because they have the theme tune and aren't running on twenty-year-old handheld platforms.

As a Tetris clone, Pac-Attack is somewhat predictable. You're given various 2x2 blocks, and you're to position them in such a way to create horizontal "lines". Each 2x2 block has, of course, four pieces, which can either be solid, house a ghost, house Pac-Man himself, or house nothing. Basically, blocks are good, ghosts are bad, Pac-Man gets rid of ghosts and nothingness does, well... nothing. Gravity is in play in Pac-Attack, so you can't have hovering pieces, similar to the likes of Puyo Puyo.

You can only clear lines with rows of solid pieces, which means ghosts need to be eliminated. Pac-Man's role is to eat ghosts, and when your block is positioned, he will attempt to travel down the play area swallowing ghosts as he goes. If he gets stuck, he dies, so the idea is to create a "path" of ghosts and have Pac-Man follow said path, otherwise your game will be clogged up with ghosts you can't get rid of and life will become more difficult.

It's not the easiest game to explain in a textual format, but once you give it a go the rules become clear. You lose if blocks pile up to the top of the stage, and the game offers a variety of options to keep you busy, just like Tetris. Eat enough ghosts and a happy fairy will come by and rid you of a few more. The better you do, the faster the gmae gets. Standard stuff.

Pac-Attack offers three main modes, a "normal" mode, which is raw Pac-Attack as I've just described, a puzzle mode which tasks you with clearing off all the ghosts on screen in as few pieces as possible, and a versus mode, which... well do I really need to describe what a versus mode does?

In fact it's very difficult to describe Pac-Attack in any more detail than I already have. It's just a very good Pac-Man spin-off (though I should point out it's just a repackaged "Cosmo Gang: The Puzzle", which debuted in Japanese arcades). Certainly worth the pitiful amount of money that this game retails at second hand, but don't go expecting much depth to this one.

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