It's been a long four months since we first got word that Namco would be bringing Pac-Man Championship Edition to the iPhone, but at long last, it has arrived.

Pac-Man C.E. title

Pac-Man Championship Edition was developed by the original Pac-Man designer Tōru Iwatani and released for the Xbox 360 through the Xbox Live Arcade in mid-2007, to rave reviews. Joystiq called it "the first true sequel to Pac-Man since Mrs. Pac-Man." The Xbox Live version features high-definition graphics, surround sound, and a wonderful future-retro feel that brings to mind Geometry Wars.

pac-man ce 1Unlike the original Pac-Man, all mazes and playmodes in Pac-Man C.E. are set against a timer. The goal is to score as many points as possible within the allotted time. But there's a balance to be struck in order to unlock consecutive levels and move through the game as the game speeds up the better you are doing. For example, I had a hard time moving past the Challenge level of the game because I was gobbling power-pellets and going too aggressively after ghosts early on. My score jumped so high so fast that the action became too fast to handle and I couldn't actually make it to zero on the clock -- and the only way to unlock the next maze is to successfully ride out the timer.

Each maze is basically divided into two halves, left and right. When you eat all the dots on one half, a bonus item (fruit) appears on the opposite side of the maze. Once eaten, the opposite (empty) side of the maze gets re-filled with dots, and so on. To drive the pace of the action, the arrangement of dots laid down upon eating a fruit, as the timer approaches zero, may change. In fact, the actual layout of the maze on a given side may change, as well.

pac-man ce 2 screenAnd now for the big question: How are the controls? The iPhone with its multitouch display and accelerometer controls presents a unique opportunity for game developers to bring forth wholly new types of games that would be impossible to deliver on other platforms. That's the positive, and we've seen that in many of the better App Store releases. The negative of the iPhone's control systems is the lack of a physical D-pad or stick for classic arcade style games of old. Pac-Man and its derivatives are just those types of games. Happily, I can report that Namco has gone to new lengths in providing a variety of control mechanics that allow Pac-Man C.E. to translate very well to the iPhone platform. Pac-Man C.E. offers four (well, really three -- but I'll get to that in a moment) different control options:

  • Type 1: D-pad -- This mode, which I find to be the best of the lot, presents two virtual D-pads at the bottom of the screen, one for the left thumb and one for the right. This allows for real "twitch" style control of our yellow dot-eating friend. A single D-pad is one thing, but dual D-pads are the key to the beauty of this control mechanic. This allows players to divide the direction controls between two fingers in the most comfortable particular fashion for each individual. For instance, I find myself using my left thumb to trigger motion to the left while my right thumb controls up, down, and right motion. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once it's familiar, it offers superb control.
  • Type 2: Directional buttons -- This mode, which is the most awkward of all the control modes in my opinion, sections off large regions of the screen as directional buttons. The majority of the upper portion of the screen, in this mode, is an "up" button, while the lower, center area is a "down button," with the lower left and right corners being "left" and "right" buttons. I can't imagine most getting too comfortable with this mode, honestly.
  • Type 3 and Type 4: Thumb swipe and Pointer-finger swipe -- These "two" modes are represented differently as far as the on-screen control graphics, but are, in fact, the same. This is the same control mode we were favored in Namco's earlier, classic Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man release, where a swipe anywhere on the screen sends Pac-Man in the desired direction. This mode, in my opinion, is bested by the D-pad mode.

Control considerations are a key point in this iPhone adaptation, and I can tell you that all of us here at Touch Arcade are very comfortable with the control options Namco provided in this release and feel that they really could be done no better on the platform and are a non-issue as far as playability is concerned.

pac-man ce 3The sequence and selection options -- as well as pricing -- of the game's various playmodes differ somewhat from the Xbox 360 release. The Xbox 360 version is available for download in a rather limited, free demo version, with activation of the full game available for $10 USD. The iPhone version of Pac-Man C.E. offers 15 Championship mazes, but only five are available in the base version. As well, only a small subset of the game's 120 Mission mazes are available for play in the base version and none of the game's 15 Challenge mazes can be accessed. So what's all this "base version" business? In order to fully unlock the game, the $3.99 DLC Expansion Pack must be purchased. So is Namco asking you to pay $2.99 for a demo and another four bucks for the full game? Pretty much, yes. Is that a rather poor way to present the iPhone version of Pac-Man C.E.? Pretty much, yes.

That said, is the game worth it? I'd say yes, it is. The iPhone version of Pac-Man C.E. is impressively similar to the excellent original Xbox 360 release. The graphics, though rather scaled down in resolution, are very much on par with the original, and as far as I can tell the audio is taken directly from the Xbox 360 release (though in stereo rather than surround, obviously). Notably absent in the iPhone version, however, is any sort of global high scoring system, so you are left trying to best your own score each time. While Namco seeds the local high score table with presumably attainable goal scores, there isn't even a system to compete on the same device. That means no names recorded with scores or even a pass-and-play two player mode, which does impact long term playability.

Have a look at our gameplay video that demonstrates all control methods and includes a clip of the Xbox 360 version for comparison:

Overall, Pac-Man Championship Edition actually succeeds in making this brilliant arcade formula seem fresh and new once again. And that's a truly impressive feat. So, if you can get past the principle of this pay-for-the-rest-of-the-game packaging, it's really a great game. Namco, however, would have done wonders for their customer satisfaction by just charging the full amount outright than playing the DLC game.

App Store Link: Pac Man Championship Edition, $2.99 (sale) + $3.99 (extra content)

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Adams Immersive

    I like DLC better than a separate lite version, but when the base AND the additions both cost money, that’s a tricky balance to pull off. I’d rather have, say, 1 or 2 levels in a free base version, and then a $7 DLC upgrade to everything. (Or divide that into two packs that total $7.)

    Or, I wouldn’t mind paying $3 and then DLC on top of that, as long as the $3 version was really worth $3 in its own right for those who never upgrade. (Admittedly, $3 isn’t much for even one level of any truly good game, but we do have a race-to-the bottom price situation on the iPhone.)

  • Adams Immersive

    I like DLC better than a separate lite version, but when the base AND the additions both cost money, that’s a tricky balance to pull off. I’d rather have, say, 1 or 2 levels in a free base version, and then a $7 DLC upgrade to everything. (Or divide that into two packs that total $7.)

    Or, I wouldn’t mind paying $3 and then DLC on top of that, as long as the $3 version was really worth $3 in its own right for those who never upgrade. (Admittedly, $3 isn’t much for even one level of any truly good game, but we do have a race-to-the bottom price situation on the iPhone.)

  • http://www.tbenjaminlarsen.com T. Benjamin Larsen

    So, let me get this straight this is actually "Pac Man Championship Edition - base version". Now, I generally don't complain about the price of iPhone games and the total of $7 could be well worth it.

    I do feel however, that by charging $2.99 for the "lite" version (in lack of a better word) a lot of people will feel cheated and that Namco have created something of a PR-nightmare for themselves.

    If it had been $1 + $6 it would have made more sense in a market where people believe anything above $1 is too expensive(!) charging $3 for a limited version seems... well let's say "odd". It feels almost dishonest in a way...

    • belsunce

      EXACTLY how I feel! I was so looking fwd to this, I would have easily paid 6.99 for the full game, but I can't encourage such sleazy sales practices.

      this is looking like a PASS for me. too bad, but the only way we can protest is with our wallets

    • 2kitties1cup

      I loved the game on the xbox360... and looking at this scam.... i'll just play it on the 360 :P

      It has better controls anyways.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    Besides the DLC discussion, this game is a BLAST!
    I absolutely love it. It's 8 AM now in Berlin and I'm still not sleeping just because I couldn't take my hands off this fantastic game! Great review! Good "night" :)

  • http://www.tbenjaminlarsen.com T. Benjamin Larsen

    So, let me get this straight this is actually "Pac Man Championship Edition - base version". Now, I generally don't complain about the price of iPhone games and the total of $7 could be well worth it.

    I do feel however, that by charging $2.99 for the "lite" version (in lack of a better word) a lot of people will feel cheated and that Namco have created something of a PR-nightmare for themselves.

    If it had been $1 + $6 it would have made more sense in a market where people believe anything above $1 is too expensive(!) charging $3 for a limited version seems... well let's say "odd". It feels almost dishonest in a way...

    • belsunce

      EXACTLY how I feel! I was so looking fwd to this, I would have easily paid 6.99 for the full game, but I can't encourage such sleazy sales practices.

      this is looking like a PASS for me. too bad, but the only way we can protest is with our wallets

    • 2kitties1cup

      I loved the game on the xbox360... and looking at this scam.... i'll just play it on the 360 :P

      It has better controls anyways.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com Silent Rocco

    Besides the DLC discussion, this game is a BLAST!
    I absolutely love it. It's 8 AM now in Berlin and I'm still not sleeping just because I couldn't take my hands off this fantastic game! Great review! Good "night" :)

  • skamando

    Control styles #3 & #4 are different. #3 only allows for control on top of the imgaes of the joysticks, whereas #4 allows for across the screen control.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      #3 allows for entire screen swipe control as well. Try it.

  • skamando

    Control styles #3 & #4 are different. #3 only allows for control on top of the imgaes of the joysticks, whereas #4 allows for across the screen control.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      #3 allows for entire screen swipe control as well. Try it.

  • http://dokidokigames.com Nic

    Hmmm.... love love love this game on the 360 but this pricing strategy is a massive backfire IMHO.

  • http://dokidokigames.com Nic

    Hmmm.... love love love this game on the 360 but this pricing strategy is a massive backfire IMHO.

  • http://dokidokigames.com Nic

    I'm so weak - gave in an bought it.

  • http://dokidokigames.com Nic

    I'm so weak - gave in an bought it.

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

    I bought it this morning, it doesn't seem to have the main 5 minute challenge of the 360 version. That one was my favourite so I'm disappointed it doesn't seem to be there.

    • arn

      isn't that championship mode?

      arn

      • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

        I don't think so. Or at least level 1 of Championship mode is nothing like the main mode on the 360 version.

  • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

    I bought it this morning, it doesn't seem to have the main 5 minute challenge of the 360 version. That one was my favourite so I'm disappointed it doesn't seem to be there.

    • arn

      isn't that championship mode?

      arn

      • http://twitter.com/BulkSlash Bulk Slash

        I don't think so. Or at least level 1 of Championship mode is nothing like the main mode on the 360 version.

  • Mark

    i just bought this game, and it's not bad, i think even with the base version its sort of decent value for money, however i'm really kranky about the mini-me graphics. the bottom half of the screen is a complete waste of space. especially with swipe controls it is unnecessary to be able to look at the visual representation of a joystick. The game map should be FULL SCREEN.. i really have to squint to see what the hell im doing here, it really frustrates me when big companies make simple oversights like this. It feels like this game was made by a bunch of programmer nerds who dont actually play games and a project manager that has no idea how to deliver a good product. i desperately hope that in a future update to this game they will put in a full screen mode.

  • Mark

    i just bought this game, and it's not bad, i think even with the base version its sort of decent value for money, however i'm really kranky about the mini-me graphics. the bottom half of the screen is a complete waste of space. especially with swipe controls it is unnecessary to be able to look at the visual representation of a joystick. The game map should be FULL SCREEN.. i really have to squint to see what the hell im doing here, it really frustrates me when big companies make simple oversights like this. It feels like this game was made by a bunch of programmer nerds who dont actually play games and a project manager that has no idea how to deliver a good product. i desperately hope that in a future update to this game they will put in a full screen mode.

  • tvzoid

    Great version!
    And yesss...We need a full screen mode!!!

  • tvzoid

    Great version!
    And yesss...We need a full screen mode!!!

  • TKO

    Not sure I like Namco's pricing strategy. Both PacMan and Ms PacMan look like they're priced higher. When they first came out they were priced 'crazy-high' ..now they're just high. I think namco just wants to milk the fans who don't know any better.

  • TKO

    Not sure I like Namco's pricing strategy. Both PacMan and Ms PacMan look like they're priced higher. When they first came out they were priced 'crazy-high' ..now they're just high. I think namco just wants to milk the fans who don't know any better.

  • http://www.scottcolbert.wordpress.com Scott

    Don't like the pricing scheme, and while I love pacman, I'm not supporting Namco's pricing policy on this.

  • http://www.scottcolbert.wordpress.com Scott

    Don't like the pricing scheme, and while I love pacman, I'm not supporting Namco's pricing policy on this.

  • MrMuesli

    I have no problem paying this money. Fantastic game. The first enjoyable Pacman on the iDevice imo. To me 120 missions seems more than generous enough to keep me busy for the price. And if after munching my way through those levels, I fancy more, then there is more to be had. But most likely by then I will have moved onto the next game by then.
    Honestly, if the game was just pants, then I would be distinctly siding against this price plan, but with this quality of game play/presentation/implementation, then I have no qualms about this at all.

  • MrMuesli

    I have no problem paying this money. Fantastic game. The first enjoyable Pacman on the iDevice imo. To me 120 missions seems more than generous enough to keep me busy for the price. And if after munching my way through those levels, I fancy more, then there is more to be had. But most likely by then I will have moved onto the next game by then.
    Honestly, if the game was just pants, then I would be distinctly siding against this price plan, but with this quality of game play/presentation/implementation, then I have no qualms about this at all.

  • ziggyonice

    The game is awesome, but...
    We've got to get a full screen mode in there.
    Feel free to send 'em an email at developer@namcowireless.com.

    • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

      I'm absolutely agains the full screen!
      They made a wise choice. Since you need to see EVERY bit of the map when the game ramps up speed, what is happening very quickly. I don't want to die below my thumb. That's why it's perfect the way it is.

      • The Theory

        I don't think people are suggesting an update to make the game ONLY full screen... just that there would be an option for those who prefer that.

      • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

        Agreed, I don't want my thumbs over the action. That wouldn't work.

      • br1an

        In swipe mode (4), you can swipe your thumb/finger anywhere you want on the screen, so if you cover-up the action, it's no one's fault but your own.

        I've never found this mode to get-in-the-way of the game screen.

      • MrMuesli

        I'm for the full screen, as long as you it still somehow retains the visual aid of a joystick, so you can see which direction you are set to. I find that really helpful.

  • ziggyonice

    The game is awesome, but...
    We've got to get a full screen mode in there.
    Feel free to send 'em an email at developer@namcowireless.com.

    • http://www.yourpersonalrobot.com your personal robot

      I'm absolutely agains the full screen!
      They made a wise choice. Since you need to see EVERY bit of the map when the game ramps up speed, what is happening very quickly. I don't want to die below my thumb. That's why it's perfect the way it is.

      • The Theory

        I don't think people are suggesting an update to make the game ONLY full screen... just that there would be an option for those who prefer that.

      • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

        Agreed, I don't want my thumbs over the action. That wouldn't work.

      • br1an

        In swipe mode (4), you can swipe your thumb/finger anywhere you want on the screen, so if you cover-up the action, it's no one's fault but your own.

        I've never found this mode to get-in-the-way of the game screen.

      • MrMuesli

        I'm for the full screen, as long as you it still somehow retains the visual aid of a joystick, so you can see which direction you are set to. I find that really helpful.

  • Xytraguptorh

    Since this is probably my favorite 360 game ever, I'm thrilled to get this on the iphone. I need one main game to play on my breaks at work. Doom Resurrection was that game this summer thanks to its awesome update with challenge modes. More recently it has been Meteor Crash, and I finally finished all six worlds in Arcade mode on Monday. So this game came out just in time. If it's even half as good as the 360 version, it'll keep me occupied on my breaks for a couple of months.

  • Xytraguptorh

    Since this is probably my favorite 360 game ever, I'm thrilled to get this on the iphone. I need one main game to play on my breaks at work. Doom Resurrection was that game this summer thanks to its awesome update with challenge modes. More recently it has been Meteor Crash, and I finally finished all six worlds in Arcade mode on Monday. So this game came out just in time. If it's even half as good as the 360 version, it'll keep me occupied on my breaks for a couple of months.

  • http://www.extreme-mods.com JWM2

    Personally i think buying just the base version is fine. Theres plenty of content and the extra content only unlocks a game mode i don't want and adds 100 challenges to the challenge mode, which imo its hard enough to get past the 100 that are already there. I'm only past the first 15 or levels on challenge mode and its getting pretty tough already, i can't even imagine what it'll be like 5-10 levels further let alone levels 90-100, and you need 100 more on top of that? I just can't fathom being able to get that far. I love pac man as much as anyone, its great to play on the atari 2600 and on my arcade machine, but to have a portable version this good is just icing on the cake imo.

  • http://www.extreme-mods.com JWM2

    Personally i think buying just the base version is fine. Theres plenty of content and the extra content only unlocks a game mode i don't want and adds 100 challenges to the challenge mode, which imo its hard enough to get past the 100 that are already there. I'm only past the first 15 or levels on challenge mode and its getting pretty tough already, i can't even imagine what it'll be like 5-10 levels further let alone levels 90-100, and you need 100 more on top of that? I just can't fathom being able to get that far. I love pac man as much as anyone, its great to play on the atari 2600 and on my arcade machine, but to have a portable version this good is just icing on the cake imo.

  • Tyketto

    I really enjoy this. I don't see the problem with the pricing. It's way more than a typical lite version I've picked up. Best Pac Man I can remember. The goals really add a nice element tithe game.

  • Tyketto

    I really enjoy this. I don't see the problem with the pricing. It's way more than a typical lite version I've picked up. Best Pac Man I can remember. The goals really add a nice element tithe game.

  • Mgabrys

    Too small to see. Finger swipe full screen is fine, I don't need all that wasted space at the bottom. Can't imagine playing again until an update. Too bad looked like fun at first. Perhaps on an apple-tablet, but until then forget this squinty mess.

  • Mgabrys

    Too small to see. Finger swipe full screen is fine, I don't need all that wasted space at the bottom. Can't imagine playing again until an update. Too bad looked like fun at first. Perhaps on an apple-tablet, but until then forget this squinty mess.

  • SteveJ

    This is a very good game and I'm OK with the pricing (I haven't bought the expansion yet). However, I can't say that the controls work all that well when the speed of the game gets faster, and this game gets very fast. So far I haven't any of the control schemes to be adequate when the speed is high. Swipe controls worked well for me for a long time in Ms. Pac-Man, but here you get to a very fast game before long and then the swipe controls fall apart. I haven't been able to get a handle on the dual d-pad controls much at all - it's too easy for your fingers to stray, which is always the problem with a virtual d-pad, and is much more of a problem once the game gets fast. I actually think that the weird buttons control scheme, or whatever it's called, might actually be the only one up to the task... IF you can get use to them. I can only say this theoretically because I haven't gotten use to them, but it's inherently the case that the large button area would make for less of a problem with finger-straying. Having said all that, even with the somewhat problematic controls, there is definitely plenty of fun to be had here. I'm happy with the purchase, just wish the iPhone had physical controls too.

  • SteveJ

    This is a very good game and I'm OK with the pricing (I haven't bought the expansion yet). However, I can't say that the controls work all that well when the speed of the game gets faster, and this game gets very fast. So far I haven't any of the control schemes to be adequate when the speed is high. Swipe controls worked well for me for a long time in Ms. Pac-Man, but here you get to a very fast game before long and then the swipe controls fall apart. I haven't been able to get a handle on the dual d-pad controls much at all - it's too easy for your fingers to stray, which is always the problem with a virtual d-pad, and is much more of a problem once the game gets fast. I actually think that the weird buttons control scheme, or whatever it's called, might actually be the only one up to the task... IF you can get use to them. I can only say this theoretically because I haven't gotten use to them, but it's inherently the case that the large button area would make for less of a problem with finger-straying. Having said all that, even with the somewhat problematic controls, there is definitely plenty of fun to be had here. I'm happy with the purchase, just wish the iPhone had physical controls too.

  • icekat

    finger swipe works well for me, except for a too sensitive pause button area, and the retry button being triggered by basically the same spot.. twice now I've lost a round in the last 60 seconds to that problem :(

  • icekat

    finger swipe works well for me, except for a too sensitive pause button area, and the retry button being triggered by basically the same spot.. twice now I've lost a round in the last 60 seconds to that problem :(

  • slikkwon

    licks

  • slikkwon

    licks

  • http://iphoneandyou.wordpress.com mmh

    Nice game... brings back memories from two decades ago

  • http://iphoneandyou.wordpress.com mmh

    Nice game... brings back memories from two decades ago