In May of 1980, the world’s first genuinely marketable video game character made his debut and showed the public that video games were more than just “pew-pew”s and strolls through outer space. Pac-Man was not just a success in the arcades but a hit with the people. He became a global phenomenon seemingly overnight, and it wasn’t long until his face was plastered on anything you could sell at a department store. The past 42 years have seen an insane amount of ports, sequels, spin-offs, and mobile games. When you factor in lost media and re-releases, Pac’s gameography is worthy of its hour-long discussion. While it would be nigh-impossible to cram all of them into one disc or cartridge, Bandai Namco has decided to give us some of the best classic and contemporary Pac Man titles under one digital roof.
The recently released Pac-Man Museum Plus is a vital compilation for many reasons. It’s the first significant compilation from the company to focus solely on Pac-Man. Sure, you could play the arcade original on just about any Namco Museum collection from the past 25 years. However, the many spin-offs were either scattered across different volumes or never got re-released until now. Pac Motos, Pac In Time, Pac ‘n’ Roll Remix, Pac Man Battle Royale, and the Pac Man Arrangement duology are back on HD consoles for the first time since their debut.
Besides providing a great blend of older and modern titles, Pac-Man Museum Plus has something for just about everyone. Generally, people think of the “maze” formula games when they hear the character’s name and not much more. In reality, Pac’s far more prolific, and I think this collection does a great job of capturing that. Pac Land is a 2D sidescrolling platformer that predates Super Mario Bros. by about two years, and Pac ‘n’ Roll Remix is essentially what would happen if Pac-Man and Marble Madness had a baby. Pac Man Championship Edition is a modern reimagining of the arcade original featuring flashy visuals and slick trance-inducing music. (“Pac-Man on crack” is a proper four-word summary).
Sadly, none of the Pac-Man World games are here (nor the kart racing spin-off Pac-Man World Rally), but it’s understandable given the relatively low price point.
That being said…there are some subtle signs that we could very well see ports or (and I’m just dreaming here) a full-on Pac-Man World remastered trilogy in the future. While fooling around in your virtual arcade, it’s worth noting that some of Pac’s animations are borrowed straight from those games (as can also be seen in the shot above). It’s not much, but it’s something, and I’d like to think Bandai Namco is hearing us out after years of clamoring for such a title.
As if the virtual game room weren’t enough, each game in the collection comes with its own set of missions that will allow you to earn coins that you can use to spruce up your digital space with figurines and decorations. Again, this may not be much in the grand scheme of things (it’s the games included that matter the most, after all), but considering how barebones most retro compilations are these days, it’s all a welcome touch.
Purists are undoubtedly upset that Ms. Pac-man isn’t here in any shape or form, and I’ve seen plenty of Twitter stans getting their cherry-patterned undergarments in a twist over it. It’s understandable, but there’s a concrete reason for that. Unfortunately, the current legal situation surrounding the character and her likeness are somewhat convoluted. It’s a shame, but I don’t think the case could have avoided it.
I hope this compilation sells well. It’s been a fair while since a retro collection has gone above and beyond in the way Museum Plus has, and it’s hard to deny that it’s a bargain compared to the upcoming Sonic Origins. Sure, the missus may be absent, but at least you don’t have to fork over more money for what amounts to some extra animations and BGMs from games that aren’t even in the damn collection. I hope other companies will take notes from it because this is how a company should do a celebration of the gaming past in 2022.