Kalisto/Namco - 1994 - SNES
Pac-In-Time is a puzzle platformer developed by Kalisto, and published by Namco for the Snes. Pac-In-Time acts as a sequel of sorts to Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures (Hello! Pac-Man in Japan). In the game, Pac-Man’s nemesis, the Ghost Witch, has sent you back in time, to when you were a younger Pac Boy. To return home, you must navigate the game’s 51 levels, and defeat the games boss, the Gum Monster.
While it follows the story line of the previous Pac-Man game (bringing back the Ghost Witch, and Gum Monster plot) the gameplay is very different from Pac-Man 2. Instead of controlling Pac via a slingshot, you now get to take full control of his movements. You also get to use 4 different abilities to help you navigate each level. Each of these 4 abilities can be acquired by leaping through one of the 4 colored rings that are scattered throughout each of the levels. The Yellow Rings give you a pellet gun, allowing you to fire Pac-dots at enemies; the Green Rings give you a rope, that can be used to swing on ceilings, the Red Rings give you a hammer attack, that can be used against enemies or to break walls and floors, and the Blue Rings allow Pac-Man to swim underwater, and also allow him to shoot a bubble jet from his mouth that can damage underwater enemies. Some levels begin with 1 or all of these abilities, but you often have to gather them to proceed. These 4 abilities are vital to help you collect the Pac-dots spread throughout the levels. The only way to open the exit door and move on to the next level is to gather all the Pac-dots in each level, indicated by the counter in the lower left of the screen.
When it comes to the actual gameplay, that’s where we run into some problems.
To put it lightly; the game is broken. It starts off with a boring 4 minute cut scene and then throws you right into the game. The game offers you little explanation of what to do (the occasional arrow points you where to go in the first level) or what each Ability does, (it took me almost 30 levels before I knew Pac-Man could pull items with the Rope Ability) and each level is full of glitchy design problems. If you walk against any wall in the game, you will stick to it, the swinging mechanic feels so odd and makes it extremely difficult to build any momentum, and the game is littered with poor level design and 1 hit kills, via: boulders, acid water and moving platforms (if even one pixel touches the top of you, its instant death) The game also has the normal Pac-Man ghosts, which are often hovering around waiting to attack you. The only way to damage these ghosts is to find a power pellet, and then jump into them. The problem is, once you grab a power pellet, they will often fly away, and out of your reach, returning once the power pellet effect wears off, to attack you again. It doesn’t help that each hit from them takes away 1/4th of your life. The game does have fruit and other foods scattered throughout the level that can restore your health, but are often clustered in one big pile, and put far away from the dangers of the game.
One other big annoyance is that you sometimes have to find secret passages to activate switches or gain abilities needed to proceed. The problem is, once you find one of these secret areas, you have to find your way out completely blind, because the game doesn’t let you see the hidden path once you enter it (most games will make these areas transparent once you walk into them, so you can SEE WHERE THE HELL YOU’RE GOING!). This often leads to 5 minutes of jumping around, hidden behind screen, trying to find you way through, or back out. All of these glitches and poor levels designs don’t only make the game longer then it needs to be, but just make it tedious and no fun to play.
As much as I wanted to like Pac In Time, I just couldn’t. Pac in Time is another one of those games that had interesting ideas, and the potential to be a good game, but just completely pissed it down their leg when it came to development. This was another one of those games that I ended up beating out of pure spite, rather than enjoyment. It’s always hard to take a game character and throw them into a new genera, and it can often end very badly. Pac-Man has had an especially hard time making these leaps; with Pac-Man 2 not being a very popular game either, and the Pac-Man World games often falling short. I will always be a big fan of the Pac-Man franchise, but I think when it comes to gaming, Pac should stick close to the maze. It’s a scary world out there for him, and I just don’t think he is tough enough to handle it.