Namco - 1983 - Arcade
Pac & Pal is the 3rd official Pac-Man game release by Namco. The game play still follows the basic Pac-Man formula, with a style closer to that of Super Pac-Man. In it, you still collect all the on screen items while avoiding ghosts, but the layout of the map is more similar to Super Pac-Man, with a return to the locked hallways containing the items. The game also introduces several new features, most noticeably the addition of the ghost Miru. Miru isn’t harmful to you (she is the titular Pal it seems) but her actions are suspect; taking relieved items back to the ghost nest never to be seen again.
Like I mentioned above, the overall game play is more similar to Super Pac-Man then the original. Like Super Pac, the maze is full of food items instead of dots and the food is hidden behind locked walls that you must open by flipping over orange cards (that operate the same as the keys in Super Pac) that open specific doors in the maze. One major difference is that instead of the power pills, Pac & Pal has a variety of items that power you up. The power up items still turn you invulnerable and the ghosts blue, but unlike in the previous games, you can’t eat them. Instead you use the attack button to blast a wave out of your mouth that temporarily stuns the ghosts. The best part of this is that if you are fast enough, you can hit each ghost or even just one twice per item, which offers you huge point bonuses. Like I mentioned before, the games main addition is Miru. Miru is a little green ghost that wanders the maze. She doesn’t hurt you, but once you open a maze door, she will immediately go to that area and try and get the item before you. Once she has it she will try to take it back to the ghost nest. If she takes it in, you loose that item and your chance for the bonus awarded for gathering all the items. Luckily, you can retrieve the item by touching her. She’s a very neutral character, definitely not a Pal. While sometimes annoying, she can be used for your benefit though since you can use her to fetch the item for you and bring it to you by waiting for her near the nest area, since she always does a circle around it. If you can work a strategy around her, she will become a welcome ally. There is also a bonus game every few stages where you flip over cards for points. Find Miru, and get a bonus, find Blinky, and the game is over.
All in all, Pac & Pal is a fun addition to the Pac-Man series. The cute graphics and fast game play are still there, and the new additions of Miru and the attack items keep the game fresh while still feeling familiar. While tricky at times, it is definitely one of my favorite arcade titles, and may be my favorite entry in the Pac-Man series ( aside from my all time favorite Ms. Pac-Man), and is one I find myself playing over and over. I would definitely recommend this to Namco fans, and retro games of all types. Just remember to keep you eyes on Miru.