Pac-Man For iOS Will Munch Up Your Time [Review]

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More than 30 years old as a concept, and one of the very first iOS games to be released in the App Store back in the day, Pac-Man is a genuine O.G. of the gaming world.

Pac-Man by Namco Bandai Games
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: Free (currently) w/ in-app purchases

With Apple currently giving it away for a limited time as part of its “App of the Week” promotion, we at Cult of Mac thought the time was right to pay homage by revisiting one of the all-time-greats.

So how does it measure up here in 2014?

Explaining what Pac-Man entails is a little bit like beginning a new iPhone model review by telling you about Alexander Graham Bell’s breakthrough technology, and how it enables you to speak with people in a different physical location to yourself. While I don’t have the data to back this up, Pac-Man must surely be among the most reproduced games in history: with versions on just about every major (and minor) platform spanning the last the last four decades.

Stripped of a physical joystick, the challenge with porting the crazily addictive game to iOS devices was always going to be how it would translate to a touchscreen interface. The answer is: just about okay.

There are a two ways of controlling Pac-Man: swipe and joystick mode (a third control set involving the accelerometer seems to have been ditched somewhere between the game’s original iPhone release and now). Of these, “swipe” is the best, although there really is very little to distinguish between them. Swipe mode lets you swipe anywhere on the screen to change your character’s direction, while joystick mode gives you a virtual joystick that you control by, well, swiping.

Neither mode feels entirely intuitive, it must be said, and there is the kind of infuriating nano-second delay when changing direction that will only begin to grate after you’ve been playing for a while. However, like a repetitive high pitched sound playing in the background (that would be the game’s soundtrack, then) you do get used to it after a while.

The challenge of [Pac-Man on iOS] was always going be how the game would translate to a touchscreen interface.

When Pac-Man first appeared on the iPhone, it included just the one maze and cost $10. By comparison, this version comes with eight new mazes in addition to the classic one — and three difficulty settings to boot. It’s also ostensibly free thanks to Apple’s aforementioned special offer — although it doesn’t take long to realize that Pac-Man is less free than it is “freemium.”

The days of pounding coin after coin of your hard-earned pocket money into a physical arcade unit may be a thing of the past, but this game does a fairly good impression of the money-grabbing arcade owner: constantly bombarding you with adverts for other coins, or the option of buying new lives, or permanently unlocking new mazes.

It’s a bit cheeky and overly cheap (the iTunes description is a bit misleading in this way) but — hey — at least it feels authentic.

Now all you really need to complete the arcade experience is to play the game next to two teenagers making out with each other. Or perhaps to discover that a piece of someone else’s gum has been left stuck to your iPhone.

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Game Name: Pac-Man
The Good: A coin-op arcade classic fit snugly into the form factor of an iOS device. What could be better than that?
The Bad: Well, better controls for one thing. And less demands for our money.
The Verdict: It’s currently free, so all you’ve got to lose is time. This isn’t the best version of Pac-Man ever released (or even in the top 10), but it’s still an all-time great game, and is easy to while away an hour with. Or five.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 3/5

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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