Jun 14, 2010

PAC-MAN Championship Edition

Namco is one of my favorite game companies. The realization of this occurred when I had the original Playstation and they released such greats as Ridge Racer (probably the game that sold me on the system), Air Combat, and 5 volumes worth of the Namco Museum series which included a picture perfect rendition of Galaga and several other games, such as Assault, which I grew to love.

This week saw the release of PAC-MAN Championship Edition (or PMCE) at an eye popping price of $6.99. I suppose that's not that big of a surprise considering PAC-MAN is $6.99. I think I got too used to Apple App Store prices where PMCE is $2.99 and went on sale for $.99 last month. But I don't think anyone minds paying $6.99 if they're going to get their money's worth which in my book would be several hours worth of enjoyment (based on the price of other entertainment mediums).

PMCE is a variation on the original that adds different mazes that don't all fit on screen at once so that they have to scroll back and forth. The bigger difference, however, is that you're juggling the left and right sides of the maze by clearing them, eating the fruit that appears on the other size which then repopulates the maze with new eats. The game also adds a timer and flashier graphics with a hypnotic maze pattern when you've eaten a power pill, sparks as you anticipate turning a corner (and sparking for a second is an achievement), and ghosts that get faster as you eat more (and slow down once they've got you). When all is said and done the game is enjoyable, but I'm not really convinced that this is an improvement over the original.

When writing this review I was initially concerned based on some of the Market feedback claiming the game is a lousy port of the iPhone version. After trying it for myself I have to agree that this game does have problems and I don't even understand why. PMCE can't be that taxing of a game on system resources... not compared to a game like Heavy Gunner. And then we've got HyperDevBox making games that run as smooth as silk on the Android without any excuses. In a nutshell, PMCE has slow down problems... yes, the same old problem that plagues way too many Android games and is why I can't consider the Android to be on par with the iPhone for gaming even when ignoring the quantity of game titles. In PMCE that are little lags, but I also had a few big lags when the game just slowed to a crawl and wouldn't recover... and this problem occurred JUST in the game... I could pause and view menus just fine. I also trying killing all of my tasks before playing to see if that would make a difference and after waiting for apps that auto-restart (such as my news app) to start back up I still saw the same performance issues. Not a crowd pleaser for a $6.99 game.

In summary, Namco... you're still a favorite, just not on the Android. You need prices more in line with the competition and quality in line with what you should be capable of. PMCE is not junk... it's like a delicious dessert minus the sugar and now that you know it's missing your answer should be "no thanks"... at least not until these issues are fixed. I'm also wondering why these issues exist (as they're not just Namco issues). Are these games tested on a fresh device without any other software on that's plugging away in the background on our multi-tasking phones? And then they hit the real world? What? As for PMCE it's 3/5 stars and my recommendation is to wait for the sugar.

I also have an issue that Namco has NO mention of the Android on their website. They have several Android games and they have a separate iPhone section on their website. I guess we're second class citizens to them... second class citizens that want to pay triple for the priviledge of having Namco games. (Heck, I can't even find Namco's Android games in their Mobile section.)

And I'm really getting plagued by these slow down issues on so many games. I played with my old iPod Touch over the weekend and no such problems exist. In fact I'd say it's the ultimate mobile gaming platform right now due to it's size, price, and the abundance of quality freebies on the system nevermind all the great paid ones. I'd start thinking these problems are caused by some app I put on my Droid, but I haven't changed things in months and some apps like the HyperDevBox and Polarbit ones are smooth as silk. It's got to be a programming issue... it just has to be... I'm also wondering if Froyo's supposed speed improvements will help. And that's coming out when?

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