Pac 'n Pal


Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 7

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Remember those damn "darken in the bubble with your number two pencil" tests, like the SATs or Iowa Standardized Brain Busters? Okay, okay, we all hated being run through that maze like the proverbial lemur, but remember 'em? They always had analogy questions on them that went a little something like this:

Ms. Pac-Man is to Junior Pac-Man as Super Pac-Man is to______________?

A) Super Breakout

B) Superman

C) Pac-Man Plus

D) Pac & Pal

E) Baby Pac-Man

Well? Remember to completely fill in the circle that corresponds to the best answer, and make no stray marks on your answer sheet! Didja get that one right? If so, chalk up a coupla hundred VAT (Videogame Aptitude Test) points for yourself and read on!

My favorite Pac-Man game has always been, and always will be, Super Pac-Man. Pac & Pal is a direct descendent of Super Pac-Man, a spinoff if you will, not unlike Mork and Mindy or The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour. It's a game decidedly similar to its Super parent, but, is different enough to not only warrant its own title, but, plays great and adds more than a few nice new twists to the gameplay. For example, while playing this game, your laundry automatically sorts, washes, and dries itself. It really does.

Hang on to your hats, here's the plot: you're Pac-Man! In a maze reminiscent of the Super version sans side-doors, you are once again chased by those wacky monsters, but, wait - something new has been added: "Pal." Pal turns out to be much more of a nuisance than an actual ally, a Dennis the Menace of the Pac set. She (see, here's the "Girls, Girls, Girls" tie in) runs around the maze and trys to steal Pac-Man's goodies by grabbing them and delivering them to the monsters' hideout. Not THOSE goodies. Get yer head out of the sewer! We ARE still talking about Pac-Man here...jeeeze!

Pac-Man's goal is to eat all of the goodies (keys, lemons, strawberries, etc.) on the screen, which must be unlocked this time around NOT by eating a key, but instead, by turning over a playing card. Only three targets can be unlocked simultaneously, so it's a good idea to eat them asap in order to keep turnin' those cards over. Once a card is flipped over, its corresponding target is ripe for the eating, or, in Pal's case, for the stealing. Pal can grab the targets, but Pac-Man can retaliate by heading her off at the pass and taking his prize back. Isn't that just like a woman? Taking away what you worked so hard to obtain with nary a second thought or any feelings of guilt? Man. Hey, now don't start in on me, I was just remembering the opening of "The Jetsons" where George takes a bill out of his wallet to give to Jane (his wife) and instead of taking the bill, she grabs his whole wallet. Remember? Television is to blame for that remark! It's television's fault I tell's ya! Anyway, if she manages to steal the goodies and get them into the monsters' lair, that's it - they're gone. Bonus points are tallied up at the end of each round, and a flawless round yields several thousand points instead of a few hundred for a less than perfect performance.

Pac & Pal is devoid of the entertaining intermissions we're fond of, and another Pac-standard is conspicuously absent as well: power pills. There aren't any. None. Instead, there are two targets that will bestow the power of another of Namco's great games upon our beloved little Pac-Man - what a cool idea! (I REALLY dig cross-game tie ins like this one.) For example, in the first two rounds, two of the targets are Galaxians first seen in Galaxian, and later in Galaga where they use their tractor beam to capture the player's ship. Here, when Pac-Man manages to chomp one down, HE turns blue (O'Henry would be proud) instead of the monsters, and he can now blast 'em with, you guessed it, the Galaga beam. I find this concept way too cool for words, but, well, it could just be me - I also happen to like renting awful movies like "This Island Earth," or "Elves," starring everyone's favorite narcotics abusing actor, Dan Haggerty of "Grizzly Adams" fame. Successive rounds include the Rally-X car, which gives Pac the power to blind the monsters with smokescreens (isn't that a Thomas Dolby song?) and a trumpet which blasts the monsters with musical notes.

Every couple of rounds, you're treated to a free for all romp (rest) around a maze full of nothing but cards. They reveal one of three things: a dollar sign, Pal, or the red monster. Pal doubles the bonus value while the monster, naturally, ends the round. It's tough to turn them all over, but it is do-able. The problem is that the three objects are randomly placed - as of press time, I haven't discovered any reliable method of determining where to begin and where to go next in order to grab all of the bonus points - anyone?

Pac & Pal has the typical, bold Pac-graphics that we've all come to know and love, and wonderfully whimsical music that rivals even the most grandiose Disney animated short. If you're good at Super Pac-Man, then you'll likely be burning up the high score tables on this one in no time.

Girlie gaming gauge: though one of the characters is a female, that's about it in this one, kiddies. This game is a hit with the ladies though, and while I still give Super Pac-Man the coveted "best in series" title, the women prefer this one over Super Pac-Man by a two to one margin. Let's face it, any game with Pac-Man in it is minimally a good game - this one's a definite winner.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:30 PM