Review: Pac-Man Museum+ (Switch)

It’s 2022. By now, you’d think that video game companies would have learned that consumers love having easy access to their classic titles. But no — instead, you’ve got companies like Nintendo drip-feeding Nintendo 64 games to their Nintendo Switch Online subscribers and companies like Sega charging $40 for a package of decades-old remasters. It’s sort of a breath of fresh air, then, that Namco’s latest Pac-Man collection includes tons of games at a fairly reasonable price. In fact, it’s the perfect example of a classic compilation done right. It’s certainly not perfect, but what’s on offer here is quite generous.

A Long and Storied History

Pac-Man’s first appearance was in 1980. Serving as the star of the arcade hit of the same name, Pac-Man went on to appear in many genres of games afterward. The original game aimed to appeal to women in a market that – at the time – was heavily geared towards men. This all-inclusive approach and universal appeal eventually led to an incredible success that cemented Pac-Man’s status as one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world. Along the way, a company named General Computer Corporation created a spin-off of sorts called Ms. Pac-Man, which was later published by Midway in the United States. Unfortunately, due to legal reasons, Ms. Pac-Man does not appear anywhere in this collection. We’ll go into the reason why later on.

Pac-Man Museum+ includes fourteen titles, and their release dates span from 1980 to 2015. If you’re not a huge fan of Pac-Man (and if I’m being completely honest), several of these games won’t hook your attention for more than a few minutes. That’s okay, though — as far as game compilations go, you’re likely going to prefer focusing on two or three specific titles. You’ll almost certainly be able to narrow them down if you give them all a try. With all of that being said, let’s move along to each of the individual games available here.

Not Your Average Collection

Most game compilations allow players to select the title they want to play from a simple menu. That’s fine and all, but Pac-Man Museum+ takes this a step further by allowing players to create and customize their own arcade (as shown above) with furniture and cabinets! You then access the games via their respective arcade cabinets, which adds a touch of authenticity to the overall package. You can collect more items for your arcade via tokens, which are this game’s form of currency. Fortunately, obtaining tokens has nothing to do with microtransactions. You’ll earn them just by playing the individual games. And here they are:

  • Pac-Man
  • Super Pac-Man
  • Pac & Pal
  • Pac-Land
  • Pac-Mania
  • Pac-Attack
  • Pac-In-Time
  • Pac-Man Arrangement
  • Pac-Man Arrangement (2005)
  • Pac-Man Championship Edition
  • Pac ‘n Roll Remix
  • Pac-Motos
  • Pac-Man Battle Royale
  • Pac-Man 256

Games listed in italics have their own unique arcade cabinets you can place and require one token per gameplay session. The rest of the games don’t require any tokens to play and are accessed via a single game console item. Requiring tokens to play certain games is a strange decision in theory, but in practice it’s virtually impossible to run out. Additionally, earning tokens is incredibly easy — read our guide for more info!

The overworld arcade has its drawbacks, though, and the main one you’ll notice is its frame rate. It’s tough to estimate exactly how many frames per second it’s displaying, but I’d guess somewhere around 30 with occasional dips. It doesn’t detract much from the experience, as the actual games run at their original frame rate with no significant hiccups. It’s just that the low frame rate makes the arcade feel the slightest bit cheap, though I suppose that checks out given the game’s low asking price of $20 USD.

Games, Both Good and Bad

As I mentioned before, not every game included in Pac-Man Museum+ is worth your time. Of course, many of the titles here originally appeared in arcades, which means you’ll essentially be repeating the same round over and over again in search of a high score. My absolute favorite game was the arcade version of Pac-Man Arrangement, which was originally released in 1995. It’s bright, colorful, and has some of the smoothest gameplay in the whole collection.

On the other hand, plenty of games here aren’t all that interesting. Pac-In-Time feels clunky and unfair, while Pac-Motos and Pac ‘n Roll Remix feel forgettable and generic. On the positive side, the original arcade versions of Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, and Pac-Mania still hold up today. It’s fun to play a round of them in between playthroughs of other Switch games to clear your head.

To reiterate, each of these games runs well. There is one problem I noticed, though — certain titles suffer from crackly audio issues if you pause or view the HOME Menu at the wrong time. These issues persist until you return to the arcade room, and I often found myself turning the volume down a bit so I wouldn’t have to hear the crackling sound effects. It’s a minor issue that doesn’t occur very often, but it’s an issue nonetheless.

Missions, Figures, and Character Revamps

Each of the games included in Pac-Man Museum+ has its own list of missions you can complete to earn new items for your arcade room. Most of these missions aren’t terribly difficult. Some of them require you to earn a certain score; for example, racking up at least 50,000 points in the original Pac-Man. This becomes much easier, however, when you save scum the games. Let’s say you’re at 45,000 points in Pac-Man, but you lose your last life. Normally, that’d be game over, but if you quickly return to the arcade room, your progress before your game over is saved. Next time you open up Pac-Man, you’ll be able to give that level another shot with your score intact. This trivializes many of the missions, and it’s the reason why the game’s online leaderboards have crazy-high scores saved. Whether or not you utilize this technique is up to you.

In addition to furniture items you can place around the arcade, you can also earn and place figurines of characters from the Pac-Man franchise. You’ll immediately notice that many iconic (and not-so-iconic) characters from the series are nowhere to be found. As shown above, Ms. Pac-Man looks a little different! A few games in Pac-Man Museum+ included Ms. Pac-Man in their original release. These have now been swapped out with the new character Pac-Mom instead. Likewise, Jr. Pac-Man is now Pac-Boy, Pac-Baby is now Pac-Sis, and Chomp Chomp is now Pac-Buddy.

At the time of writing, Ms. Pac-Man (and the other characters listed above) are in something of a legal purgatory. Namco can’t use any of the characters in their games without paying royalties, which is why they’ve opted to rename the characters instead. This creates a problem, though; Ms. Pac-Man is a huge part of the series’ history, and it feels wrong that this collection completely ignores her existence in every way. As a result, key games like Ms. Pac-Man, Jr. Pac-Man, Pac-Man World, and Pac-Man World 2 are missing. I’d love to see all of these added as potential DLC games, but I’m not holding my breath.

A Solid Collection With Minor Issues

Overall, Pac-Man Museum+ is in a great spot. It’s a celebration of some of the series’ history, and it includes more than enough games to be worth its $20 price tag. Some disappointing game exclusions and occasional audio issues do bring the collection down a peg, but there’s still plenty on offer here for Pac-Man fans. It’s also entirely possible that the game goes on sale at some point down the line, in which case it becomes even easier to recommend.

It’s difficult to tell exactly where the Pac-Man franchise will go from this point onward, as the yellow ghost muncher doesn’t get much in terms of new games these days. Still, we can at least hope for some sort of DLC for this collection. It’s important to note that the previous Pac-Man Museum title released in 2014 did include Ms. Pac-Man as paid DLC, so perhaps that’s a possibility here. Even without additional content, though, the collection is well worth your time, and it’s a great palette cleanser to play between sessions of other Switch games.

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