Since I was a young’un, I have been accused of cheating through practice. The allegations usually went something like “you own the game, so you must play it all the time. That’s why you beat me!” But that was never the truth! With the exception of a few games I could never put down (Street Fighter 2 might be permanently fused with my Super Nintendo), I did not play multiplayer competitive games by myself. I anxiously awaited an opponent on the most popular “party” games, and rarely played such games by my lonesome. I wanted to actually fight in any given fighting game, and game on any wannabe board game. I was an only child! I didn’t want to be better than my buddies! I wanted to have fun with my friends!
But, man, games like Pac-Man Fever do not make that easy.
At release, Pac-Man Fever was judged as an obvious and slapdash attempt by Namco to get a piece of the Mario Party pie. And those conclusions were right! This is your basic four player “digital boardgame” where the goal is to advance down a one-way path, and every “move” is accompanied by a minigame that lasts a little under a minute. Start the game, play Asteroids for 45 seconds, winner moves the most squares, repeat until the players long for the brevity of Monopoly. Though the important difference between Pac-Man Fever and any given contemporary (2002) Mario Party title is that Pac-Man Fever offers “less” in practically every department. There are a scant six playable characters representing four franchises (less if you are a “Soul Calibur is the past of the Tekken universe” truther). There are a total of three different boards. And, while it is difficult to find an exact count on the number of different mini games available, the answer seems to be “few”. There are some minigames that are unique to boards, but many are shared across the whole game, so get ready to see the exact same events over and over again. In short, Pac-Man Fever has all the fun of a Mario Party title that has been cursed by a malevolent gnome to only allow you to enjoy ten minutes worth of content.
But nobody let a little thing like brainless repetition stop the daily grind.
This game has a plot. Every time you boot up Pac-Man Fever, you will be reminded via opening movie how there is apparently a competition that Namco characters have been training for, and they are all ready to fight for the Mini-Game Cup. But Pac-Man’s Ghosts (do they have a better collective name? The Monsters? The -inkys? The guys from that one shirt?) steal the trophy, and our potential protagonists must compete for tickets to earn entry to the cup’s location. In a way, this is just an excuse for whatever the heck is happening here, but if you are interested in “completing” the game, then, yes, you must work your way up to that trophy. And how do you earn entry tickets? Is it through winning a match against opponents? Having more players playing simultaneously? Internal game counter? None of the above! You get tickets randomly over the course of a match through a lottery! And all player “accounts” are separate, so having more players involved doesn’t help at all!
Here is exactly how it works:
- Like Mario Party, there is an in-game currency.
- These coins are most commonly collected through coin squares, or minigames that are distinctly focused on coin collecting.
- Coins may only be used on shop spaces.
- To be clear, it is very possible to play an entire game and never land on a shop space.
- If you land on a shop space, you may buy a variety of different “results” that will help you to win the game, like sending a player backwards a few squares, or tripling your next advancement total.
- Or you can ignore everything that might actually help you win, and purchase lottery tickets.
- Lotteries are only activated once a player reaches one of the last three squares on the board.
- A ticket is then awarded to the player that wins the lottery. If you have purchased more tickets previously, you have better odds of winning, but a player with zero ticket purchases may win. It is still very random.
- Note that if you land on a shop square after the (maximum of three) drawings are complete, purchasing new tickets is useless.
- After all this, whether you win, lose, or pass out while playing the game, the only “lasting” reward for having played a board of Pac-Man Fever (which seems to take at least a half hour for the shortest courses) are the lottery-won tickets. Anything else involving the currency is wiped off the board after each session.
So if you want tickets, you have to focus on them at the expense of other strategies. Spending coins on actually winning the boardgame is a waste if you want to win the long game of Pac-Man Fever, and finally earn that trophy.
And how long could the long game of Pac-Man Fever be? Very long! Tickets are used to purchase mini games for an “endless mode” (or “free select” mode? Pick your poison), and I was able to buy a whole three mini games after three games exclusively focusing on earning more tickets. While there are not that many mini games, there seem to be around twenty, and if every one of those games took at least a half hour… That’s ten hours of Pac-Man Fever! And, considering how Pac-Man Fever gets repetitive before hitting even one hour, you’ll be begging for an actual fever before contracting more Pac-Man Fever.
But grinding for tickets is the only way to complete Pac-Man Fever. Not only is this ticket challenge tied to the “story”, but purchasing all the minigames is the only way to unlock Decathlon Mode. And that might be remotely worth it! If you actually enjoy these minigames enough to unlock all of them, you would probably enjoy a mode that allows you to challenge these games without the boardgame trappings.
In short, if you like Pac-Man Fever enough to want more Pac-Man Fever, you will have to play the game for hours and hours.
And, if you want to play this game against other humans… that might not be a good thing.
Pac-Man Fever is wall-to-wall minigames, but the majority of them do have tips and tricks. While something like “climb the rope by playing Simon Says” is straightforward from the get-go, many of these games have clear strategies. For instance, a shoot ‘em up-esque space game about demolishing junk initially appears to be something akin to Space Invaders, but further plays reveal that initial impulses to hammer the shoot button constantly will always lose to someone who is “charging” and using more precise blows. Similarly, there are “simple” games where you have mundane rules like “run around and collect shells”, but training exposes that obstacles (like an angry crab) can be successfully baited, and you can literally run circles around the competition if you know what you’re doing. And all of that is before we get into the more complicated games, like an approximation of Toobin’ (I swear someone remembers that game) that has a consistent arena with some evident but-not-obvious safe zones. While these minigames aren’t rocket science, they are “trainable”, and anyone that has played said minigames more than a handful of times is going to have a plain advantage over the other players.
And if you are the one who owns the game, and had to play through its content dozens of times to unlock everything so you would have a full game when your friends come over… Well… Guess how well your friends are going to fare against you…
Pac-Man Fever is an unwinnable game. You can win the minigames. You can win access to all content on that humble disc. But if you win so many times against the AI, then you will be too powerful to ever let your friends win. And if you exclusively play with your friends, you will never earn enough tickets to play the entirety of the game you purchased.
Pac-Man Fever: the official Shoot Yourself in the Foot simulator.
SBC #26 Pac-Man & Pac-Man Fever
Pac-Man in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
- He any Good? So, is the implication of Smash Pac-Man that he has mastered the ability to turn into a circle and command ghosts? I am no fan of random projectiles (this week), but having multiple “moving forward chomping” skills is what I want to see out of a Pac. Oh, and that trampoline has gotten me out of some tough spots. Thank you, Mappy.
- That final smash work? Horizontal giant Pac-Man forever. It is easy to dodge/duck, but brutal if you wind up on the wrong side of those… teeth? Nobody wants to be a dot.
- The background work? Pac-Land has to do in the absence of the amazing 3DS Pac-Maze. Honestly, I kind of hate this stage, as players spend too much time dealing with the scrolling and stage hazards. How did Mushroomy Kingdom nail this concept back in Brawl, but now it is a giant pain in the patoot?
- Classic Mode: Ageless Classic, featuring Pac-Man fighting a bunch of 80s guys. Does the Young Link, Simon, Samus, Pit team up refer to Captain N? Or do we need Mega Man for that? Dracula is the boss. Is it because he is an 80s boss, or because his public domain ass is older than Pac?
- Smash Trivia: Pac-Man can generate The Prince of All Cosmos as part of his taunt. So he is in smash!
- Amiibo Corner: Pac-Man is almost perfectly round, but with extremely pointy eyebrows. One way or another, the boots and gloves seem kind of unnecessary… but I don’t want to consider Pac-Man’s fingers, so we will stick to the mitts.
- Does the character work to represent this game? Pac-Man Fever does a lot to reference old Namco games, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate loves recalling old Namco games… but they do not interact with each other. Maybe they should include a super deformed version of Heihachi?
Pac-Man in Pac-Man Fever
- System: Nintendo Gamecube and Playstation 2. The PS2 version was used for today’s review, as I obtained a copy of that for five bucks at some point.
- Number of players: Four player board game. It is a lot easier to get a foursome together on the Gamecube.
- Favorite Minigame: So there is this “vending machine” minigame that initially looks like some kind of random roulette thing, but actually is a very precise timing puzzle. There is an excellent little rhythm to it, so once you have it under your thumbs, it just plain feels good to play. That said, it is the kind of thing you can practice and perfect, so it lacks the essential randomness of some minigames.
- Minigame I always win: Raise the Flag is just “press the buttons on screen now”, and it moves at a leisurely pace, so I rarely have an issue. It is similar to the rope climbing game, and that moves fast enough that I occasionally hit the wrong button. Probably some kind of gym class-based trauma going on there, too.
- Just play the gig, man: Just last year, a developer confirmed on Twitter that the song Pac-Man Fever was going to be included, but Namco decided not to pay for the rights. In other words, the owners of Pac-Man decided they didn’t need to purchase Pac-Man’s poppiest song. Weird! Particularly odd given Lollipop Chainsaw did pull the trigger on that one.
- Did you know? Speaking of music, this is the first game where music is credited to Chris Tilton. Tilton has composed for a number of games and TV shows, including J.J. Abrams’ Fringe. Remember Fringe? It had John Noble and Anna Torv? Who was also in Heavenly Sword? Anybody remember Heavenly Sword?
- Would I play again: Nope! Even if I need to have a party with my friends, I think I can find something else that is a little more fun. Hey, Super Smash Bros Ultimate sounds pretty good…
What’s next? It’s Wankery Week (in spirit), so we have to take a look at one of the horniest lizards in Smash Bros. Please look forward to it!
Nobody is a winner today