Namco’s mascot—the original video game mascot—Pac-Man has had an interesting few years. He took a media-focused detour a while back with the Ghostly Adventures spinoff, which spawned an animated series and two games. As kids entertainment these things worked perfectly well, but older fans of the dot-eater always knew that his true home was in the Championship Edition games. The original Pac-Man Championship Edition arrived 11 years ago on XBLA and has seen numerous permutations and a full sequel, which also spawned numerous variations.
Now the latest, and dare I say definitive, version has come to Switch: Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus, a title that would be a mouthful even for Pac-Man himself. Don’t let the long name put you off, though. The game had a fairly favorable reception when it arrived back in 2016, but it comes to Switch with some general improvements, a sizable chunk of fresh content, and a brand new mode exclusive to Switch.
Championship Edition 2 Plus eases you into both of its main game modes with a fun tutorial that acts as a mini challenge mode on its own. It breaks each gameplay element up into individual stages, teaching you the building blocks of the bigger modes in digestible chunks with easy goals. You then graduate to Score Attack mode, where all the upgrades and additions to the original Championship Edition become apparent.
Championship Edition 2 Plus is all about speed, so you don’t necessarily have to eat every Pac-dot or ghost on a map to proceed to the next. Rather, this Score Attack focuses on score combos and getting past as many maps as possible in five minutes. As you race around a maze eating dots, a combo meter fills up and eventually spawns fruit at the start point to the maze. Eat the fruit and you jump to the next maze. Depending on how well you’re playing each maze could take a mere handful of seconds, but there are complications to spice up the gameplay.
For starters the fruit will move around sometimes, necessitating that you chase it down while avoiding ghosts. Running into a ghost doesn’t kill you instantly; instead, you can bump against them a few times before they get aggro and start a concerted effort to hunt you down. As you race through a maze you’ll also wake up small sleeping ghosts, who will warp to the nearest active ghost to start the now-familiar ghost conga lines introduced in the original Championship Edition. Every few levels filling that dot meter will produce a power pellet instead of a fruit, which makes the ghost line turn blue and freak out. Then you can chase them down, predicting their path to get ahead of them and gobble the whole lot for a massive combo.
This makes for an adrenaline-laced and extremely addictive twist on the formula in the arcade original and Ms. Pac-Man, especially as that timer counts down and you’re sure you can make it to just one more board. That said if you get a bit tired of the arcade focus of Score Attack, there’s also an Adventure Mode that adds objectives to a 10-map challenge course. In these maps you collect a stipulated amount of fruit under a specific time limit, and are granted stars for completing staggered difficulty levels. With enough stars you unlock the boss level for that course, where you must complete an additional level with a giant voxel-made ghost in the background, who will occasionally attack the map by launching ghosts that are already pissed off and heading right for you.
Of course both of these modes and their various extras were all available in previous versions of Championship Edition 2; Switch gets an exclusive co-op mode that puts the “Plus” version far and away ahead of all other releases. Gameplay here changes quite a bit to encourage cooperative play, necessitating a number of combo moves that must be coordinated by both players. For example, once both players have gobbled all the dots on a map, the fruit can’t be eaten by just one player. Rather, both players must come at it from opposite angles and “kiss” to jump to the next map. My fiancée and I got a kick out of this, as we basically had to finagle our little Pacs to smooch in order to progress.
Same too for the ghost trains; once one player eats a power pellet the ghosts will always be faster than either co-op partner, so both players will have to trap ghosts in between and munch them from both sides. You also can’t bump ghosts in this mode—touching one will trap you in a death grip, but your partner has a few seconds to race to your rescue and beat the hungry ghost away before it can devour you.
Things get really crazy when you battle one of the co-op mode bosses, which differ entirely from the Score Attack bosses, which merely make the normal gameplay faster and more intense. Co-op bosses are actual giant pixelated ghosts that enter the map and attack you and your partner directly. The boss stages are more like simplified 2D platformer levels rather than mazes, and you and your partner actually have to jump between large maze sections to eat dots and power up. Once you activate that power pellet you can bash into the boss and wear down its health; kill the boss and you advance to another maze and a faster, tougher boss. All the while the impacts will chip off small, normal-sized blue ghosts that can be eaten for a score bonus. Fighting a boss in these insane levels, trying to batter it into submission while the clock ticks down and you desperately try for one more board, is worth the price of admission alone.
Co-op multiplayer vastly expands an already addictive and expertly made arcade tribute game into the definitive version of Pac-Man Championship Edition 2. This is the final package; it has all the modes, levels and customization options from previous editions with a killer new multiplayer mode for good measure. This will make for one hell of a party game and is great for killing time waiting for the bus or for your friends to show up at the theater. At $20 it’s a no brainer. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus belongs in your Switch library.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I've been gaming off and on since I was about three, starting with Star Raiders on the Atari 800 computer. As a kid I played mostly on PC--Doom, Duke Nukem, Dark Forces--but enjoyed the 16-bit console wars vicariously during sleepovers and hangouts with my school friends. In 1997 GoldenEye 007 and the N64 brought me back into the console scene and I've played and owned a wide variety of platforms since, although I still have an affection for Nintendo and Sega.
I started writing for Gaming Nexus back in mid-2005, right before the 7th console generation hit. Since then I've focused mostly on the PC and Nintendo scenes but I also play regularly on Sony and Microsoft consoles. My favorite series include Metroid, Deus Ex, Zelda, Metal Gear and Far Cry. I'm also something of an amateur retro collector. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my fiancee and our cat, who sits so close to the TV I'd swear she loves Zelda more than we do.View Profile