Pac-Man is one of the first gaming franchises that fans turned into a phenomenon. But these days, the yellow pizza-shaped hero is spending more time chasing other hit games than his own power pellets.
Bandai Namco released Pac-Man: Puzzle Tour for iOS and Android today. It is the publisher’s spin on the megapopular Candy Crush Saga games. Pac-Man must match together three of the same kinds of fruit instead of chasing ghosts through mazes. This is Bandai Namco’s latest crack at the $30 billion mobile market, and the company has once again tried to jump on a trend by leveraging one of its existing properties. Of course, Bandai Namco tried to do something new with Pac-Man last year with the well-received Pac-Man 256 from the studio that created the beloved mobile action hit Crossy Road. But that was an exception to the company’s general strategy that came from its efforts to revive its retro brands from the 1980s by working with indie developers. Puzzle Tour is not the result of that initiative.
Bandai Namco developed Puzzle Tour itself — just like it did with Pac-Man Bounce, Pac-Man Dash, and Tap My Katamari. Those previous apps also cloned mechanics from other, more popular games already on the market. Bounce is similar to the early mobile physics puzzler Cut The Rope. It is a puzzle game where you must fling Pac-Man through elaborately set up stages. Dash is an endless runner, which is one of the few genres more saturated on mobile than match-3. And Tap My Katamari is a mind-numbing take on those clicking games where all you do is tap the screen and buy powerups.
Despite these attempts to tack popular styles of gameplay onto a familiar franchise, Bandai Namco hasn’t had a ton of success on smartphones and tablets. It only has one game, Dragon Ball Z: Dokkan Battle, in the top 200 highest-grossing apps on Google Play in the United States. In Japan, it’s doing better, according to data from industry-tracking firm App Annie. But most of that is coming from modern releases and licenses that primarily appeal to a Japanese audience. And, even then, it has nothing close to the hyper-lucrative Puzzle & Dragons and Monster Strike games that dominate mobile in Bandai Namco’s home territory.
But iOS and Android has too much money for the publisher to ignore, so that’s why we get something like Pac-Man: Puzzle Tour.
I tried Puzzle Tour out for myself, and it’s definitely a game where you match three things. Like everything else in this genre, it is free to download. It has a world map with various levels. It makes you feel like you feel great about almost every move you make by using audio and visual feedback. It also gives you obvious “fun pain,” which is a method of putting you in situations where you had fun making progress and then it threatens to take away the progress because you failed … unless you wanna spend some coins that you can buy for real money.
You can check out some of gameplay for yourself below:
But as derivative as Puzzle Tour is, it doesn’t take away from the original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, or Pac-Man 256. This franchise still has plenty of great games.
And Puzzle Tour isn’t even the most depressing thing attached to the Pac-Man name. That honor goes to Pac-Man powered by Moff: