Review: Pac-Man World Re-Pac

Pac-Man World was something of an anomaly when it hit the original PlayStation in 1999. It was Pac-Man’s first foray into 3D platforming and was released right after Sonic Adventure hit the Dreamcast, marking yet another legendary gaming mascot trying to maybe not topple Mario 64, but put its own stamp on the then-new genre. It was something of a sleeper hit historically because it sold well in its day and got a couple of sequels, but hasn’t been re-released a ton. When you think of late ’90s platformers, many have been given prominent re-releases. Sonic Adventure has been re-released a lot, while Crash and Nights have as well and Mario 64 has gotten selective re-releases alongside things like Klonoa getting a recent big re-release alongside its sequel. Pac-Man World has largely been lost to the mists of time until now and like Klonoa and perhaps more fittingly, Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom, it has gotten a complete ground-up remake that puts Pac-Man’s original 3D adventure in a whole new light.

Re-Pac offers up a new lease on life for a game that never got its just due fully in the twenty plus years since its release and showcases elements that I’d honestly forgotten about that hit completely differently now than they did then. Things like the Metal Pac-Man power-up were clearly a send-up of Metal Mario, and yet we haven’t seen that done to death in the 26 years since Mario 64 — so it comes off as more of an homage to a classic than a copycat game idea as it did in 1999. It also feels fresher now having not been used even in Mario’s 3D adventures and strangely keeps that power-up alive better than Mario does. Similarly, the inclusion of overhead traditional Pac-Man bonus stages feels so much fresher here than it does in even more modern games like Pac-Man CE 2.

The main reason is that the environments are far more varied here since they use the same level themes as the core game stages and thus stand out compared to the usual black background with blue trim and yellow power pellets. It’s a small thing that didn’t stick out back in the day because they were secondary stages and the focus was on the mainline 3D action, but playing Re-Pac does put a renewed emphasis on these stages and makes them feel more important. The execution is still fantastic and it feels like the original Pac-Man game, just with a polygonal style. It’s a shame it’s analog-only control for them instead of supporting d-pad controls, but it’s not a game-breaker.

There are issues with this modernization that come to mind early on. The super-dark cave areas wind up being something that will make the player toggle the brightness level fairly high in order to see what’s coming up. It’s a jarring issue too since the prior area is this super-bright and vivid beach area and then you’re just thrown into these dank caves and it’s nearly-impossible to see anything with great ease unless you bump that brightness up. This makes the areas much easier to navigate, but the real key is that it prevents enemies from blending into the background. Generally, I like to stick with the game-recommended middle-tier brightness, but here, cranking it to 75% is a must. It sticks out like a sore thumb too since I’ve been many years since I’ve even had to tinker with a brightness setting in a game.

Thankfully, this issue only affects that one part of the game — leaving the rest of it intact and easily-playable without fiddling with brightness settings. For a remake of a twenty plus year old game, Re-Pac has had a lot of work go into making sure that it plays smoother than ever before. We have seen with things like the Bikini Bottom remake that keeping in a bit of the jankiness of the original release can hurt the final product and make it feel like an older game than it now looks like, but care has been taken to make this feel as much like a modern-day release as possible. Much like the Klonoa collection, the visuals have been overhauled while keeping the core gameplay intact and smoothing some of its rough edges over.

Re-Pac feels a lot smoother to play now, with far more accurate controls for movement and an improved boost of momentum off the butt bounce — especially when bouncing from bounce pad to bounce pad to navigate through a stage. Quality of life improvements include taking away the mandatory requirement to find everyone of Pac-Man’s family that has been taken away — but keeping it as an optional objective for those who want to explore the area. The PACMAN letter collection is intact as well, but only serves to help for a completion bonus and isn’t something you have to worry about doing unless you want to.

There’s so much freedom within the structure and it’s great to be able to either choose to keep going with 3D platforming after completing a stage or just play a round or two of an overhead maze stage to mix things up. There’s a ton of gameplay variety here and a lot of visual variety to enjoy too. The original game was colorful, but the remake builds upon it with a more vibrant color palette and a lot more life being added to the animation. Pac-Man himself is so broad with his facial expressions and mannerisms that it’s hard not to smile when he’s flailing his arms around near an edge or just has this giant grin on his face. The shift to a widescreen aspect ratio helps the remake out a lot too and allows so much more of the in-game world to be seen that it makes longer platforming sections easier to plan out. It’s a great-looking game and should play on just about any PC made in the last five or so years — on both a Steam Deck and an older PC with an i7 and integrated graphics, it still ran great.

The audio is solid and the soundtrack is a blast. It’s light and cheery while keeping some classic Pac-Man tunes intact in both original and remixed formats. The sound effect work is tremendous as well, with things like the bounce off of enemies and objects changing depending on what surface it’s on. There’s also a big shift in just a basic bounce on top of something to a full-on butt bounce that has a lot more impact because it’s a straight-down movement. As with a regular Pac-Man adventure, getting a power pellet and being able to gobble up ghosts still results in the classic tune playing and then eating up the enemies with the classic sound effects being used.

Closing Comments:

Pac-Man World: Re-Pac takes an already-great game on PS1 and makes it even better. This is low-key one of the most diverse and enjoyable 3D platformers on the market and should be enjoyed by everyone who missed out on it in its time. It plays better now than it did before thanks to smart improvements in play control and has some of the most fun classic Pac-Man-style mazes on the market. There’s a lot to enjoy here and if you enjoy 3D platforming or Pac-Man games, you need to give Pac-Man World Re-Pac a shot.

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