Tetris – A fun but confusing nightmare
Released late on April 9th, the Nintendo Switch got a free-ish game in the form of Pac-Man 99. The game uses the same formula as the late Super Mario Bros. 35 and the excellent Tetris 99.
Before we get to my thoughts, you need to understand something. I don’t want to age myself, but there is a picture of me at two years old sitting next to my dad as he plays Pac-Man on Atari in 1982. Some of my earliest memories of my wife are me and her playing a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet in an Arabica Coffeehouse in Coventry near Cleveland. I even have a tattoo on my left arm that is just Pac-Man maze wrapping around my upper arm. I was even born the same year as Pac-Man. I love the yellow dork.
So when I review this game, I want you to know that it comes from a place of love.
In Pac-Man 99, you play Pac-Man against 98 other people. As you make large combos and do better, things are sent to your opponents to make their life difficult. Mostly this comes in the form of weird after images of Pac-Man that slow you down as you pass over them.
You can also build up massive combos by collecting tiny ghost items that cause a nearby ghost to become a long train of ghosts. The issue is that this game is a lot faster than Tetris and has a LOT going on in a short period of time and visually can be an absolute nightmare. I can make a quarter in a Pac-Man machine last a long time. I’ve seen the 256. And yet, with all the stuff going on on-screen, I was hot garbage here. This was one of my early attempts.
After that, I bought two of the many themes for the game. The themes are like Tetris 99’s but instead of earning the free homages to other Nintendo games that you get by simply playing, Pac-Man 99 makes you pay $1.99. The themes pay homage to past Namco games.
Admittedly, they’re pretty cool. Some almost make it look like a completely different game but sometimes it can make it harder. In the video below, you can see one instance where I didn’t even see the ghost that hit me. And in the second, because the enemies are so insane-looking I did really well despite everything happening around me.
There are a lot of themes to pick from featuring famous games like Galaga and Dig-Dug. There are also several modes that aren’t available to free players. It will run you about $20 for the extra modes like versus the computer and time attack, or around $30 for the full version of the game with all the themes.
All in all, it’s an okay experience. There’s a lot going on and a game like Pac-Man can be done in less time than it takes to load. It’s fun if you like Pac-Man but with absolutely no tutorial, a lot of people are going to find themselves frustrated by the fast-paced madness. I also noticed that the controls were weird. Even with high-speed internet, I occasionally met laggy moments where I just didn’t turn when I was supposed to and ended up running straight into the arms of a ghost.
While Pac-Man 99 brings that fun, fast-paced nature of Tetris 99 to yet another beloved franchise, it doesn’t translate as well here. Many of the rules never get explained and poor visual choices make for an occasionally scream-summoning experience, even for a veteran Pac-Man player like myself.