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Nintendo 3DS Review: Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions

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If I were to sit here and write that the new Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions for the 3DS had the ultimate versions of Pac-Man and Galaga and that you had to, no matter what, play these games, would you actually go out and buy a 3DS to do that?   What if I told you the truth – they’re a decent amount of fun but the idea of plunking down $40 for a few different versions of Pac-Man and Galaga seems like a tough sell.

You already know what Pac-Man is, you already know what Galaga is, both titles have been released an incredible number of times in an incredible number of forms.  The idea of playing old games in a virtual arcade box (which you’re allowed to do here) isn’t new either.  The new title provides two old versions each of Pac-Man and GalagaPac-Man, Championship Pac-Man, Galaga, and Galaga Legions—as well as one new version of each game.

So, let us dispense with the original Pac-Man and Galaga titles quickly.  They are fantastic and everything that made each of the franchises so wonderful.  There is nothing wrong with them (I’ve always found the original Galaga less fun than Space Invaders, but that’s probably a personal thing) and if you don’t have them for the current generation of systems and are happy paying full price for them here, you’ll enjoy what you get. 

Pac-Man Championship Edition and Galaga Legions are both far newer titles than the original entries (the former arrived in 2007 and the latter in 2008).  Both are perfectly enjoyable updates of the games that started the franchises.  In particular, I love Pac-Man CE with pellets that only appear a little at a time on a far expanded game board.  It is the perfect way to update a game without losing all that made the original great.

Far less fun is the new Pac-Man game, Pac-Man Tilt.  Imagine, if you will, Sonic the Hedgehog, but not as fast and with power pellets to pick up everywhere.  The features of the 3DS are incorporated by having the player tilt the device in order to help Pac-Man swing on platforms and pass obstacles.  You will see ghosts and fruit and all the sorts of things you’ve come to expect from a Pac-Man game, except perhaps amusement.  Why exactly Pac-Man has been turned into a generic 2D sidescroller is incredibly unclear, particularly when the title is being created for a 3D device. 

Galaga 3D Impact is more fun than the new Pac-Man, but even it is wholly unconvincing.  The game is a first-person on-rails shooter which asks you to turn the 3DS in order to aim at the little Galaga baddies while you stare out of your cockpit.  You’ll see new, updated, versions of classic baddies here, and it certainly is the best use of the 3D (and overall graphics) in the title.  The idea may be somewhat clever, but it quickly grows old and you’ll soon find yourself longing to play Galaga in its traditional form.

As simple a set of ideas as the original Pac-Man and original Galaga may be, they are both still brilliantly fun and clever.  Both Pac-Man CE and Galaga Legions are the perfect present day updates to those originals.  It is a little hard to imagine how those four titles could be packaged in the same box as these two new games. 

Dimensions was never going to go out and convince people that they need a 3DS, and anyone playing it may actually be convinced that they don’t need one.  The games included here made for the 3DS are the two most distressing and disappointing ones out of the six; they are the ones where the franchises seem to lose their way. There has to be a good way to update Pac-Man and Galaga for the world of 3D, there is certainly life left in those franchises, but what is included in Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is not the way to go about it (and don’t even get me started on the weird Pac-Man cartoon included).

Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
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