Review: Hungry Hungry Ms. Pac-Man!
A wise man once said (actually it was British comedian Marcus Brigstocke): ?If Pac-Man had affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music.? This, in a nutshell, is a perfect description of the arcade classic Ms. Pac-Man.
Little is changed for the Xbox Live Arcade edition of Ms. Pac-Man. In fact, nothing was changed as Namco-Bandai took the original arcade game and dropped it right on the XBLA. Of course, this being a 360 game, there are plenty of Achievements and a nice Leaderboard option. There is also a very colorful backdrop when playing in widescreen mode. And you get all of this for the low low price of 400 Microsoft Points (or five American human dollars). Since 400 is as low as game prices get, I'd say it's a fair price.
But aside from those minor additions, Ms. Pac-Man retains all of the maze running, dot eating, ghost chomping fun of the original. The gameplay is so classic, that it's actually easy to forget just how hard Ms. Pac-Man really was. The variety of mazes present in Ms. Pac-Man's game make for a fantastic challenge compared to the lone iconic image that Mr. Pac-Man had to run through. This is achieved by making the ghosts speed up enough that you think "I can beat this" and then... they're much too fast for you. One hundred hour quests in polygon-pushing 3D have nothing on the challenge of the eighth board (out of 256) of Ms. Pac-Man!
The original music and sound effects (waka waka waka!) are also included and unchanged. As it should be.
So Ms. Pac-Man for the Live Arcade is as close to the real thing as you can without erecting a giant wooden cabinet in your living room. But what is the one thing that separates it from every other version that came before it? The Xbox 360 controller.
Simply put, the 360 pad was not designed to handle the tight turns taken by Ms. Pac-Man. It's very easy to zig when you want to zag and barrel straight into a ghost. The analog stick doesn't work much better. I can't really explain it well, but the control pad feels like it doesn't rock right in the cradle. Street Fighter II fans will know what I'm talking about. Basically, it doesn't seamlessly roll like the classic Nintendo "plus" pad. Maybe a third party pad will one day fix this problem because it's frustrating and mars what should be one of the easiest games to control, period. Try tracking down the old PC collection Return of Arcade to see what properly laid out digital directional arrows do for the Ms. Pac-Man experience.