First Tetris, then super Mario, and now Pac Man: Nintendo Switch continues its series of “retro battle royale” video games this week by asking a remarkably strange question. What would Pac Man be as if 99 people played the game at the same time, and only one pellet muncher was victorious?
The new game, titled Creative Pac-Man 99, arrives on Wednesday, March 7, as a free download for paying subscribers to the Nintendo Switch Online service. The resemblance to the 2019 century Tetris 99 and the 2020s Super Mario 35 is no coincidence, since it is designed with the same “NintendoWare Bezel Engine” used in the other games – and that framework seems to juggle smart while competing with competitive Pac Man.
Jammers, ghost trains and boost
As can be seen from the game’s surprise revealed Tuesday night, Pac-Man 99The standard online mode is similar to the oldest school version of Pac Man, when it comes to chasing ghosts and chomping yellow dots on the series’ earliest black-and-blue maze. As Tetris 99 before, Pac-Man 99 plays much like the traditional source material, only with fields of online players interfering with each other’s progress. You send attacks to other players’ fields (visible on the edges of the screen as smaller windows) by eating power pellets and then devouring vulnerable ghosts. They do the same to you.
The game’s twist is a new idea for the series. Your attacks send waves of “sorry Pac-Men” to the opponent’s field (visible on the edges of the screen as smaller windows), but they do not cause direct Damage. Instead, these transparent Pac shadows throw the game’s mazes like speed bumps, and players must maneuver Pac-Man through the lumps of quicksand to make them disappear. One or two paper jams are tolerable; six or more seems like a real headache, especially when Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde hug you in a corner.
Thus success in Pac-Man 99 will partly depend on planning your maze movement in a way that allows you to safely remove paper jams and keep the speed high. Sending attacks to other players, meanwhile, requires creating “ghost trains”, which are lifted from Pac-Man Championship Edition series. Set up these screen-filled series of ghosts without accidentally bumping into them, then eat a power pellet so you can devour dozens of ghosts in neatly arranged rows.
Players also get access to three selectable “boost” modes, called “strength”, “speed” and “train”, and although they seem self-explanatory enough, we have not yet seen when and how they switch in games or if they do the basic act of joking-dodging more fun or not.
Ninten-does not quite Stadia
Strangely, this is not the only thing online Pac Man concept to launch in the last year. Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle debuted on Google Stadia in October 2020, but the 64-player recording is about much larger fields with dots where players can bump into each other. In my testing experience, Mega Tunnel Battle can prove to be lame and bouncy when other online players’ connections deteriorate for some reason. Since Pac-Man 99 keeping each player in their own isolated playing field, it can pass such problems nicely.
I have previously praised Tetris 99 as an ingenious, challenging boost to the known Tetris formula. While we were not necessarily as hot on Super Mario 35similar twist the following year, it was a fun lark – albeit a temporary one, since Nintendo shut down the game’s servers on March 31, the same day it was canceled Super Mario 3D All-Stars. (We barely knew you, Mario.) Pac-Man 99 looks like it’s chopping closer Tetris 99 side of things, which bodes well for the free-with-subscription game that launches later today.
Entry image of Nintendo / Bandai Namco