If you ever wanted a Pac-Man with lasers, bombs, freezers, traps, tornadoes, huge-ification, and the like, your wish is granted. And if you didn’t wish for it before, you will after you see how fun they make the board.

Pac-Man 256

Above: Playing in portrait mode: not recommended.

Image Credit: Bandai Namco

What you won’t like

Play in landscape, at least to start

The early board design is quite wide, and if you play in portrait mode, it clips the edges. Even later, the portrait mode makes it difficult to see what’s happening on the opposite side of the board. That’s important when you’re using the occasional warp tunnels that pop up at the edge, teleporting you across the board (as in the original game.)

This game definitely works best in a widescreen view, but that limits your capability to react to the oncoming board, so it’s a compromise.

Yeah, it’s still Pac-Man

This game works exceptionally well on the mobile platform, where you’re likely to pick it up and put it down with some frequency. If you’re looking to play it for hours at a time … this may not grab you. The power-ups are tremendous, and the new ghosts are piles of fun, but the gameplay still remains simple, and after long gameplay sessions, it eventually got a little tedious.

Pac-Man 256

Above: Move too slowly and the glitch board will get you — forcing you to spend another credit.

Image Credit: Bandai Namco

You’ll eventually pay-to-play

As with most free-to-play games, you’ll find slowdowns built-in, and there are some bonus packs you can buy to help boost your gameplay. You’ll start with six credits — lives, as in the original coin-op game — and they accrue at one per 10 minutes to a maximum of six. You can watch annoying videos if you’d like to play longer.

If you’re as bad as I was starting out, you’ll burn through those six credits quickly. The saving grace is the buy option: For $8, you can purchase unlimited credits and play forever. How I wish more free-to-play games offered that option. That said, you’re not going to play for long if you don’t opt for some kind of purchase (unless you’re a Pac-Man rock god.)

Conclusion

I’ve played quite a few spins on the Pac-Man franchise over the years (and I was pretty competent with the original arcade games.) This is the best since Ms. Pac-Man first hit the screen. The endless-runner platform gives the game an edge the original lacked, and the different ghosts and power-ups add strategy to what was a rote memorization game.

The light swipes of the controls can take a gentle touch, and you’ll definitely want to just buy the unlimited credits rather than put up with the freemium annoyances. It won’t entertain you for day-long stints. But if you like Pac-Man, this version is a must for your phone.

Score: 85/100

Pac-Man 256 is available now from Bandai Namco on iOS and Android.