Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus review for Nintendo Switch

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

Here’s Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus on the Switch, and also my first time playing the sequel to back when Pac-Man CE reimagined the series. If you’re as old as I am and remember playing Pac-Man back in the arcades then you probably felt that the CE games are closest to capturing the feeling of playing this series back when it was new. Pure arcadey goodness.

I guess it won’t surprise you to know that I really loved Championship Edition on the Xbox 360. It’s since had a lot of new versions, but a sequel is always a bigger deal than remasters or ports. All this is to say that when Bandai Namco approached us with an offer to review, I was really excited to even discover that there was a sequel at all! Where have I been?! What other sequels are there that I’m missing?

So a follow-up is either good news or bad news. Sometimes the developers want to change everything and it’s for the worse, and with Pac-Man CE2 I’m somewhere in the middle. What good stuff they brought over is the Championship Edition concept where the game screen keeps things loose and focuses on speed instead of punishing you with enemy placement. What I don’t know if I care for is that the ghosts can now be woken up and will form a conga line kind of train that occupies the course.

At first this is all well and good, but the problems for me are partly due to how touching ghosts no longer kills you but causes you to bounce backwards. Unlike hitting a wall where you just stop, this can throw off your groove. As the ghost trains grow, it becomes harder to avoid them and their ever-lengthening tails.

For old people like me who have poor reflexes, the game gives you some abilities to use in situations like this. You can now detonate a bomb which will jump you to the starting position on a level. You also have the ability to use brakes and stop in your track. This is all well and good, but with Pac-Man it’s almost enough to think about just to follow a path of dots without steering into a wall. For me it’s a lot to think about, but maybe you’re young and quick!

The other problem which I don’t know is exclusive to the Switch is that there’s not a stable framerate. This always seems to happen at the worst time, where the game will drop a couple frames as you’re going a hundred miles an hour. It has a similar consequence as bumping into ghosts, where the turn you were just about to make is thrown off. Now I’m turning into a wall and all the enemies are just laughing at how uncoordinated they think I am.

I thought this might just be a problem that happened in portable mode, but it’s still there when you have the Switch docked. Maybe it could be patched, but knowing that games like Mario Kart 8 run buttery smooth makes me wonder why this little title struggles at all.

What the Switch version does feature is co-op play. It’s the “Plus” in Pac-Man CE 2 Plus! I thought this was actually a lot of fun, and if you don’t have any friends you can play with a CPU who’s not totally stupid. The stages are made to compliment this style of gameplay, where the dot patterns are pretty much mirrored, and in order to advance both players are required to smash into each other which pops a bubble containing the level’s item. I guess Pac-Man doesn’t really mind this since he’s spent a lot of time flying straight into walls.

It’s fun to coordinate with a second player, and honestly this adds a twist on co-op play that seems way more fresh than the ghost train idea. This is a great feature for the Switch too, since it has a big focus on local multiplayer.

Overall I had a good time with Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 Plus, but even without performance issues I think I prefer how the original game played more.  How I feel about the gameplay is just a matter of taste though, and the unique type of co-op is definitely worth a look. There’s also a good challenge within the single-player offerings here, and they’ll have you hooked on getting a complete grade. Other than that, it’s more like a different version of Pac-Man CE than a true sequel, so it might be worth a look if any of this sounds interesting to you.

Grade: B