Namco is celebrating Pac-Man’s 35th birthday in the best possible way, in the form of a new Pac-Man game, and it’s a fantastic addition to the series that’s available now on NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV.
For Pac-Man 256 – Endless Maze, Namco has handed development duties to Hipster Whale, the Australian indie studio responsible for one of the most addictive games of the past year: Crossy Road. In that, the Hipster Whale crew took the classic arcade game, Frogger, and turned it into a compelling endless runner with glorious blocky visuals, and they’ve taken the same approach for Pac-Man 256.
Pac-Man 256, then, plays exactly how you’d expect a Pac-Man game to behave: it’s all about tearing round a maze, eating dots and avoiding the resident ghosts, except now the maze goes on forever and you’re also being chased by the infamous level 256 kill screen glitch.
What’s that? It’s from the original Pac-Man arcade game, where if you get to level 256 (which takes at least six hours) half the screen fills with random characters due to a bug caused by an 8-bit level counter that can’t go above 255. With half the dots on the level erased it’s impossible to complete the level, and it also means that Pac-Man has an absolute highest possible score: 3,333,360 if you have the skills and the patience to play it perfectly.
In Pac-Man 256 the kill screen glitch is alive and mobile, an ever-advancing fog of random characters that consumes everything in its path, so the only option is to keep moving forwards. It also means that in a departure from the usual Pac-Man way of doing things, you don’t have time to eat all the dots; instead you need to concentrate on eating unbroken chains of dots for extra points. If you manage 256 in a row, all the on-screen ghosts get wiped out and you get a points bonus.
It’s not that straightforward; some areas don’t have any dots, so you have to think ahead and still end up abandoning any number of chains to avoid death by ghost. The original Pac-Man ghosts – Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde – are present and correct, and they’ve brought friends with them: Funky, Spunky, Glitchy and Sue.
Each ghost has its own personality; free-roaming Blinky and Clyde are terrors, while Inky follows a set course and Pinky sits still until it can see you, at which point it races in your direction. Learning how the ghosts behave and anticipating their movements is key to survival – and high scores.
Pac-Man 256 – Endless Maze is available to download from Google Play for free.