Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Pac Comes Back

Lets take a look at Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, a downloadable game available on XBL and PSN.

PMCEDX, whose acronym seems like a stock index, is a follow-up to Pac-Man Championship Edition, released for XBL and PSN, as well as various mobile editions, back in 2007.  It was designed by the legendary Tōru Iwatani, creator of the original Pac-Man arcade game in 1980.  It was also Iwatani's last game for Namco before he retired in 2007.  

Both DX and the original game make a wonderful effort at bringing The Yellow One into modern gaming.  Sure, you still control the little yellow eating machine scarfing up dots in a maze while avoiding deadly ghosts roaming the playfield, but new play-modes and a frenetic, yet manageable pace make the effort much more than just a retro remake.  DX particularly shines, building on the already sturdy foundation of Mr. Iwatani by adding game mechanics that increase the fun and strategy while keeping things just as frantic.  

This is the crux of the game's success: things get insanely fast and furious,  while somehow allowing the player to remain in control of the proceedings.  Progressing through variations of the game modes, which prompt gamers to get total high scores or eat the most blue ghosts in a row,  as the player moves around the mazes, things speed up to an almost impossible tempo.  Clever mechanics keep things in check, such as keeping a subtle glow around Pac so you can keep track of him, or having things slow down a-la bullet time to let you get out of close scrapes.  

This updated version of Pac-Man is a rarity these days: a retro remake that is not made simply to cash in on the memory of a truly classic video game, but a fun and fantastic outing in its own right.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

CivWorld Launches

Legendary game designer Sid Meier's Civilization World has landed on the shores of Facebook and begins its full-frontal assault on your precious time.

While this version is scaled down from the sweeping, epic nature of the Civ series, in the realm of casual Facebook-based games it is a monumental achievement.  Starting with a few building, players must build up their cities by increasing population counts through farming, mining nearby resources for production points, amass an army, foster a blossoming culture, and all the usual Civ-type things.

Where the game breaks out is, naturally for a Facebook game, in the social aspect.  Here players can join others online to form civilizations, pool resources, wage wars, and more.  Providing incentive to spend time in the game are positions in the government to aspire to, granting special abilities and just general bragging rights.

There is always something for you to be doing, ranging from setting up your long-term strategy to chasing around your little denizens real-time to collect production bonuses that appear occasionally over their heads.  It's a bit frustrating to figure out how to do things at first, and what needs to be tackled next, but a tutorial system guides you through the major aspects of the game as you play.

Some might scoff at the thriving casual game market, but even in its current beta form,  CivWorld joins the two hemispheres of casual drop-in drop-out gaming with more hardcore strategy play with typical Meier aplomb.